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Fund managers team up with robots in automation charm offensive

Increasing numbers of asset managers are combining robo-advice with human interaction to help retail customers become more comfortable with investing their hard-earned money through robots, according to a European fund manager.

Jamie Hammond, European CEO of AllianceBernstein told CNBC on the sidelines of FundForum in Berlin that the latest trend is asset managers using robo-advice technology to cut down on costs as well as deliver products to those who don't want to pay for financial advice.

"What we are seeing is reluctance for people to part with their hard-earned money without actually speaking to somebody. So the model seems to be a combination of robo-advice and technology to reduce the cost of delivery coupled with human interaction to give people the confidence to part with their hard-earned money."


The robo-advice market is becoming popular by the day. According to financial research firm MyPrivateBanking, the robo-advice market will grow to £168 billion ($115.2 billion) by the year 2020. While the market is a lot more established in the U.S. with over $19 billion managed by robo-advisers according to another financial research firm, Corporate Insight, AllianceBernstein's Hammond told CNBC a growing number of asset managers in Europe have started looking at their digital strategy on how to use robo-advice. This is not just to deliver guidance to investors who don't want to see advisers but also to help the financial adviser community be more efficient on how they can service their clients better.

"You will see two types of robo-advice play out: end investor product delivery and more digital efficiency to the adviser."

Robo-advice platforms are very similar to a traditional adviser model, the only difference is an online interaction as opposed to a face-to-face one. However, they are still a very small proportion of the market when compared to the traditional adviser model. They aim to provide a hand-holding approach to investors with guidance and advice on financial goals and a new range of products. They started to gain popularity in the U.K. after the pensions freedom reforms were announced in April last year that gave retirees the freedom to access their entire pension pot.


Artificial intelligence robots
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A number of asset management firms launched various platforms to help investors invest their money better. Another area that received a boost was multi-asset funds, portfolios with exposure to various asset classes in order to minimize risk and maximize profits. AllianceBernstein's Hammond told CNBC that multi-asset funds are seeing large inflows in Italy, U.K and Spain.

"If you look at it in the last three years, it is only growing I think year on year. Major markets that have taken multi-asset in a big way, I think Italy was the largest in terms of flows and I think U.K. and Spain (is) also very large in terms of multi-asset investing as people seek that combination of acceptable level of income and acceptable level of risk."


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