Plenty of 'opportunities' for investors in robotics, Credit Suisse portfolio manager says

Key Points
  • The barriers to entry in the robotics industry are coming down, opening up many untapped investment opportunities in that space, according to Angus Muirhead, senior portfolio manager for robotics at Credit Suisse.
  • It's easier for companies to build robotic automation systems today than it was before, making those products cheaper and smarter, he said.
  • Muirhead said the Swiss investment bank has a so-called "pure play approach" when it comes to investing in robotics.
Pepper, a humanoid robot developed by SoftBank Group Corp., moves around on its own to guide passengers at sushi shop in Tokyo, Japan.
Hitoshi Yamada | NurPhoto | Getty Images

The barriers to entry in the robotics industry are coming down, opening up many untapped investment opportunities in that space, according to Credit Suisse.

It's easier for companies to build robotic automation systems today than it was before, making those products cheaper and smarter, Angus Muirhead, senior portfolio manager for robotics at the Swiss multinational investment bank, said on Tuesday.

"We see a lot of greenfield opportunities for robotics," he told CNBC's Nancy Hungerford and Emily Tan at the Credit Suisse Asian Investment Conference in Hong Kong.

Muirhead said the bank has a so-called "pure play approach" when it comes to investing in robotics.

The Credit Suisse (Lux) Global Robotics Equity Fund, which Muirhead co-manages, invests in companies with at least 50 percent of sales that can be attributed to robotics, automation, artificial intelligence or security, according to its brochure.

The fund focuses on three high-growth sub-themes: companies working to improve productivity, improve quality of life and perform dangerous tasks.

"So, if someone's investing in a robotics fund, we would like to deliver as pure exposure to robotics as possible," he said.

While automation itself is not a new technological concept, machines are set to overtake humans in terms of performing more tasks at the workplace over the next few years — particularly low-skilled, repetitive jobs. Robotics and automation are becoming ubiquitous in offices, factories, shops, restaurants, hospitals, transportation and even inside homes.

A record number of robots were put to work across North America in 2018, according to a recent report by the Robotic Industries Association. Meanwhile in Japan, some companies are running trials to have humanless warehouses that are run only by robots.

The replacement of certain jobs by machines have become a cause for concern, but Muirhead said it wasn't a new phenomenon.

"We've seen this for the last hundred, two hundred years," he said, referring to the fact that the types of jobs available have evolved over time, alongside the development of new technologies.

"I think governments need to be aware, and companies, that people will need retraining in some industries. In a lot of other industries, though, we're really viewing these robotic systems as a tool to allow you to do a better job," Muirhead said.