UBS Wealth Management Americas has invested a small stake in SigFig, a San-Francisco based robo-adviser, whose automated platform will be integrated later this year and deployed to all of the firm's more than 7,000 advisers next year.
The two have formed a "strategic alliance," which includes customizing the digital advice platform, forming an adviser technology research and innovation lab, as well as UBS making an undisclosed but small equity investment in the robo-adviser, Mike Sha, SigFig chief executive said. It is not a major stake in the robo, which will remain independent, he said.
The global firm, which manages $2 trillion in assets — about $1 trillion of which is in the Americas, is betting on SigFig because its management and technology put humans at the forefront of what it does.
“Mike is somebody, who while a technologist, he shares our belief that people are the key to the wealth management process,” said Robert J. McCann, chairman of UBS Americas. SigFig's technology will allow UBS to offer financial advisers better tools to serve their clients more effectively and efficiently, he said.
The pair's joint endeavor, Advisor Technology Research and Innovation Lab, highlights this. It will conduct research and work with UBS advisers and technologists to design and create new tools for advisers and clients.
“We have always over the years had advisers reach out to us wanting to use our technology,” Mr. Sha said. “What the research lab will do is it will allow us to tap into a pool of some of the best advisers in the world.”
UBS has a leading brokerage unit in the industry, and focuses on high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients. As of its first quarter results, advisers managed about $147 million of assets, up 1% from the previous three-month period.
SigFig, which was founded in 2011, is a business-to-business platform, and has already struck deals with other institutions. Last month, Boston-based Cambridge Savings Bank partnered with the robo.
There are many more digital advice companies jumping into the business-to-business pool, however. BlackRock, for example, has been making a splash with FutureAdvisor, the robo it acquired last August. Since then it has partnered with LPL, RBC and BBVA Compass.
“Clearly we are entering a world where having technology available to employees but also available to your clients is an important part of how you are going to have to do business going forward,” Mr. McCann said.