What is Robo- advisor?

Robo-advisors as the name says are the financial advisors that provide financial advicewith a very little human intervention online. They provide digital investment management advice based on mathematical rules. These algorithms or the mathematical rules are executed by the software and there is no requirement of human advisor. The software utilises and uses the algorithms and automatically allocates, manages and optimises clients’ assets. There are more 100 robo-advisory services in the world. Investment management robo-advise is considered to bring services to a broader audience with a very low cost as compared to traditional human advisory services. Robo-advisors allocates client’s assets on the basis of risk preferences and the target return. It also has the capability of allocating client assets in different investment products like stocks, bonds, commodities, futures, real estate etc. Clients have to choose between offerings with passive or active asset allocation techniques or management styles.

What does Robo-advisors do?

Robo-advisors collects information from clients related to their financial situation and future goals. It is through an online survey and then the data is used to offer advice and it automatically invests in client assets. Robo-advisor was first launched in 2008, Betterment, in the year of the Great Recession. The initial purpose was to rebalance assets within the target date funds. It was a way for investors to manage passive assets by buying and holding investments through an online interface. Human wealth managers have used the automated portfolio allocation software since the year 2000. This technology was nothing new.

Robo-Advisors - the challenges involved in compliance

Now the modern robo-advisors has changed the narration by delivering the service directly to the consumers. After the development, robo-advisors are now capable of handling more of sophisticated tasks like tax-loss harvesting, investment selection and retirement planning.

The robo-advisors are also designated or called by the names ofautomated investment advisors, automated investment management and digital advice platforms. These are all referred to the same consumer towards using fintech which means financial technology. It is the application for investment management.

When these automatic advisors can do so much work in just a few seconds- the question is: how will it wield?


Robo-advisors have become the technological trend in the financial industry. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a joint warning for scrutiny and regulatory action. These services often make assumptions regarding faulty or wrong information, that has no bearing on the client. It is also said that the questionnaires these platforms use can be incomplete, ambiguous and even misleading. It can also be designed to lead the user to solutions with the use of proprietary investments like specific funds or any other investment company.

The economic assumptions or circumstances that are built into these models may also be faulty or misleading. The range of investment options to choose from lacked in different areas.

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is already aware of the platform that robo-advisors lack the ability to conduct human judgements in the asset management algorithms. This leads to poor portfolio performance in some of the instances. The affiliation of robs-advisors with banks, broker-dealers, custodians and financial entities that offer products through digital portals. Now they incorporate them into the investment and portfolio recommendations or informations for the users. These affiliations usually limits the robo-advisor’s ability to provide unbiased or contradictory advise at a low cost. Many of these platforms are unable to provide their services at a reduced cost. Some of them charge about the same amount as they would pay for C-share mutual funds.

FINRA is now asking who can sponsor these services a list of the questionnaire pertaining to how the sponsors record the data that is input into these programs. They are also asking for the kind of advice that is given and the client’s ability to access and even update their profiles.

FINRA now wants ultimately to find out how the robos are verifying and assessing risk tolerance and the ability to tell consumers about more risk involved. It is believed that these programs are able to discern when their services are not appropriate for a specific client.

According to Calonge, sponsors should follow up with the clients who change their profiles to find out why they have done so. They should also have strict procedures to interact with customers who give irrational or contradictory answers to the questionnaires.

The robo-advisor market is now in its infancy, but FINRA and other regulators are taking notice of this trend.

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