Robo-advice 

UBS closes robo-advice business

UBS closes robo-advice business

UBS has closed its robo-advice business to new customers after selling it to a California-based fintech business.

The UBS SmartWealth service was launched in 2016, with the UK intended to be the first of many countries it was rolled out to, but the Swiss bank has now decided the short-term potential of the business is "limited".

The service has been bought by SigFig, an American robo-advice business launched in 2007 in which UBS has an equity stake.

In a statement UBS said: "We are proud of the award-winning technology we have developed and were satisfied with the initial commercial progress of UBS SmartWealth.

"Having conducted a thorough assessment, however, at this time we believe the near-term potential is limited and have therefore decided to close our digital-only offering in the UK.

"We are confident that SigFig is best placed to accelerate and broaden the commercial prospects of the intellectual property behind UBS SmartWealth.

"We believe the decision serves the best interests of the business and will allow us to invest further in other client-facing improvements, whilst sharing in the future success of the IP we have created via our equity holding and ongoing partnership with SigFig."

UBS SmartWealth was aimed at a wealthier market than most robo-advisers, with a minimum investment of £15,000.

According to analysis by the Lang Cat, it was one of the most expensive robo-advisers on the market, charging up to 1.29 per cent for investments at the lowest end of portfolio size compared with the 0.48 per cent charged by Evestor for portfolios of a similar size.

But one of the reasons for this was that it used actively managed investments and discretionary management teams unlike other robo-advisers which are entirely passive.

Speaking ahead of the launch of UBS SmartWealth in 2016, it's co-head Nick Middleton said: "We want to get into our potential future high-net worth clients’ lives much earlier.

"Our target marketplace is probably people who have got around £100,000 of investable wealth but they are probably unlikely to put all of it with us."

As part of the deal it is understood multiple members of UBS staff will join SigFig.

Shane Williams, Mr Middleton's colleague as co-head of UBS SmartWealth, joined investment management business AQR Capital Management as head of client technology earlier this month.

damian.fantato@ft.com

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