Robo advisor Betterment works with Fidelity in RIA push

If you can't beat the robots, join them.

That's what Betterment—the ultra-low cost, computer-driven personal portfolio service—hopes financial professionals will do with its new institutionally focused "robo-advisor" offering. Launched Wednesday, Betterment Institutional lets registered investment advisors, or RIAs, use a product that is seen by some as a threat to their relatively expensive and outdated money-management services.

Betterment's core retail product has gained attention recently as awareness of low-cost, passive money management—also called "digital" advising for its automatic allocations to exchange traded funds based on investor goals—has gained popularity with entrants such as Wealthfront and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services. Launched in 2010, Betterment now has 49,000 individual customers with $875 million invested as of Tuesday.

According to Betterment and its partners, the service will help advisors by eliminating or combining many traditionally cumbersome tasks, including a paper-based sign-up process; using multiple software programs for asset allocation and tax efficiency; going between separate brokerage and custodian vendors; and using multiple tools for tax and return reporting. The end result, they say, will be saved time and money.