How millennial investors are digitizing the wealth management industry
Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) isn’t buying completely into the robot uprising -- at least not yet.
While the lender’s own robo-advisory platform, RBC InvestEase, has been in place since November, such automated online investing tools have proven to have limited appeal so far, according to wealth-management head Doug Guzman. The reason, he said, is that only a small portion of the population is comfortable with the idea.
“We have built InvestEase and it looks and acts like the best robos out there,” Guzman said in an interview Wednesday at the bank’s Toronto headquarters. “We haven’t seen Canadians run to it,” he said of the robo-advisory industry.
Robo-advisers emerged in the U.S. about a decade ago with startups such as Betterment LLC and Wealthfront Corp. threatening to challenge banks and upend the investment industry. The technology spread to Canada in 2014 with the emergence of Wealthsimple and other firms before larger rivals unveiled their own offerings, with Bank of Montreal becoming the first of the nation’s big banks to offer a product in January 2016.
“The Betterments of the world in the U.S., the Wealthsimples in Canada have proven that maybe it’s not as big a proportion of humanity as we once thought,” Guzman said, adding that robo-advisers have spent a lot of money and time trying to attract retail clients. “They need to get to scale to make it work.”
Still, within five years, Wealthsimple has attracted 150,000 customers in Canada, the U.S. and U.K., and now manages more than C$4.5 billion ($3.4 billion). Royal Bank doesn’t disclose how much InvestEase oversees. Guzman compared predictions about the success of robo-advisory startups to the emergence of direct investing in the late 1990s, “when people said that Ameritrade and similar were going to take down the entire wealth business.”