RBC partners with BlackRock's FutureAdvisor for robo-adviser pilot program

Half a dozen markets will test the new platform before potential approval nationwide

Feb 2, 2016 @ 1:21 pm

By Alessandra Malito

RBC Wealth Management has rolled out a robo-adviser for its top advisers in a half dozen teams within the United States as part of a pilot program, said John Taft, chief executive of RBC's wealth management unit.

The brokerage has partnered with FutureAdvisor, the robo that BlackRock acquired last summer, which was integrated on RBC's adviser dashboard and will be tested for the next six months. It is strictly a business-to-business platform, and not direct to consumers, Mr. Taft said.

"What we are trying to do with this FutureAdvisor pilot is to digitally augment the advice we have traditionally delivered through financial advisers," Mr. Taft said. "It is not a brave new world, but we are still pioneering here."

The program is in response to RBC advisers who have asked for this technology. He said advisers are interested to see if this platform can reach prospective clients and cater to smaller accounts without enough assets for full service. It may also prove to be a strategic move if the Department of Labor's fiduciary rule is passed.

"We believe our joint venture with FutureAdvisor might provide a very interesting solution for smaller accounts to be managed pursuant to fiduciary requirements in the DOL rule," he said.

If the firm and its advisers approve of the robo, Mr. Taft, who is retiring at the end of May, said it will be rolled out across the country in six months.

RBC, like other firms, are starting to catch on to the fact that robo-adviser platforms can serve as an additional tool for their advisers. Mr. Taft and Bo Lu, chief executive of FutureAdvisor, said this announcement has been a long time in the making.

Mr. Lu added that his robo is pushing the business-to-business model out to the rest of the industry. Last month the robo teamed up with bank BBVA Compass.

"It has been the robo-adviser versus human adviser storyline for a little too long," Mr. Lu said.

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