Robot Advisors in Asia

The integration of cutting-edge technology with financial services has resulted in several innovative methods and tools which use sophisticated technology to serve potential clients better. One such innovation in financial services is the use of Robot Advisors or Automated Software also known as Bots to connect retail customers with the financial institutions. Worldwide, there has been an accelerating trend towards automating much of the transactional as well as high-end advisory services, and this is a phenomenon that is catching up in Asia as well.

Considering the fact that the “New Gold Rush” into Asia wherein transnational banks and global financial institutions are making a beeline to tap the burgeoning Asian retail consumer markets, Robot Advisors dispensing financial advisories and vetting prospective loan and disbursal applications along with providing retail consumers a hassle free way of transacting online, it is natural that Robot Advisors in the world of Asian finance would represent the “Next Convergence” of FinTech or technology used to aid financial services.

What has helped the rise of Robot Advisors in Asia is the mouth-watering prospect of a humungous market of more than a Billion potential consumers along with the rapid penetration of internet and Smartphones. For instance, India and China together account for nearly 500 Million potential customers, and both have internet penetration rates at 20 and 40 percent respectively. Apart from this, many Asian countries such as India have youthful populations with a median age fewer than 30 and given the fact that these consumers take to technology “like Ducks to Water”; the immense potential for “Disruption” of existing models of financial services is indeed a catalysing factor behind the growth of Robot Advisors.

Moreover, Robot Advisors are also growing in Asia because they not only lower the transactional costs but also ensure that consumers need not walk into a real bank for their needs. With physical infrastructure yet to be in place in the hinterland in China and India, the fact that Robot Advisors would “eliminate human intermediaries” in a cost effecient and transparent manner also counts as a signpost to the future. For instance, China’s Tian Hong Asset Management firm has already introduced Robot Advisors in its Money Market funds.

Having said that, it must be kept in mind that banking in Asia is still a human driven service where familiarity with one’s banker or financial advisor in addition to social and cultural attitudes of managing money entrusted to people whom one knows and bonds with means that these barriers have to be surmounted.

However, with the Equity markets attracting retail consumers and even the Money Markets and the Bond Markets opening up to smaller value transactions, Robot Advisors can indeed become the norm at least for those who aspire to a more Western lifestyle and financial practices. Further, Robot Advisors in Asia also enable the financial institutions to scale up as well as lower entry and exit barriers which mean that the efficiencies from the economies of scale and the synergies from automation would drive growth in this respect.

To take an example, the launch and the success of FundSupermart.com which is promoted by iFast Financial is a harbinger of what’s to come. With its operations spanning Singapore, India, Hong Kong, and Malaysia and its membership growing at a scorching pace into the double digits, it is sure to tempt other financial institutions to take the Robot Advisor route to growth.

Finally, with estimated Billion Plus consumers and the internet and mobile subscriber base growing at a scorching pace of thirty percent every year, introducing Robot Advisors in retail and consumer banking would be a safe bet. If all one needs is a bank account and an internet connection or Smartphone to transact and with administrative fees and “loads” under 1%, who among the aspirational Asian consumer classes would not sign up with a “click” and enjoy the “kick” or the “thrill of the till”?


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