Swiss banking and financial services behemoth UBS has become the latest to enter the automated advice space by announcing the launch of a new platform as part of a $1bn investment drive to attract younger clients; due to open to customers in November, UBS SmartWealth aims to help ‘a new audience achieve their life goals’.


The world’s largest wealth manager, with over $2 trillion of client assets, believes the launch will shake up the investment advice market by offering services previously restricted to the very wealthy.

The minimum investment of £15,000 for the new service is a fraction of the £2m usually required to open a UBS private bank account, and pitches it directly against platforms such as Hargreaves Lansdown and Fidelity and also the raft of start-ups that are staking a claim in this exciting and fast evolving market.

COO of UBS Wealth management Dirk Klee said: ‘robo-advice represents the democratisation of wealth management.’

UBS joins other ‘big-beasts’ such as BlackRock, Vanguard and Goldman Sachs which have also recently developed online investment services, threatening to disrupt the role of the traditional adviser in recommending mutual funds.

SmartWealth will charge an all inclusive fee of 1% for investors to buy a portfolio of passive index tracking funds, which includes charges for investment advice, platform administration and the management fees charged by the underlying funds.

‘robo-advice represents the democratisation of wealth management.’

Mr Klee said UBS was not planning to compete purely on price with other robo-advisers but to offer a more sophisticated interactive service to help clients invest for the future. The new service is intended to ‘help to close the advice gap’ that has opened as a result of the substantial decline in the number of human advisers working in the market.

SmartWealth will initially be made available to a small number of clients, but subject to a successful roll-out in the UK, UBS says it plans to extend its new service globally, moving into Europe and Asia next year, as part of a broader strategic push by the bank to save costs and improve its services to clients.

The launch of SmartWealth is described as a ‘strategically important move’ said Mr Klee that will help it win over new customers.

SmartWealth is one of a large number of ‘robo-advisors’ that replace traditional advisors with automated advice and investment management.

With companies such as Wealthfront and Betterment well established in the US, companies including Scalable Capital and Money Farm have recently joined a movement that was kicked off in 2012 in the UK by Nutmeg.

‘technology is changing the way financial services are delivered’

These next-gen wealth managers automate much of the process, bringing the cost of investment management way down and making it accessible to a new market.

SmartWealth has been built entirely in-house and UBS says it has been working for a year on the platform in London and Zurich.

In a statement Mr Klee continued: ‘Technology is changing the way financial services are delivered. The launch of UBS SmartWealth shows that digital innovation is not the sole reserve of start-ups. Large market-leading institutions have the resources to research, test and build transformative new products and services.

‘This launch is an example of how we can blend the best of UBS with the best of start-up thinking and agility, meaning clients can access new innovations alongside the insight of worldwide investment and wealth planning experts.’

UBS believes that the UK is the ideal market to launch into on the basis that it has developed a reputation for technology-led innovation in financial services and regulation is progressive, actively encouraging innovation.

According to Bloomberg, the 1% of assets fee applies to a passive investment strategy and an active option will be charged at 1.7%; fees fall as the amount invested rises.

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