Investor Interest in Robo-Advisers Soars

Millennials are early adopters, but Gen X is nudging its way into the action.

Nearly one-third (30%) of affluent Americans already use some type of automated investment advice service—also known as a robo-adviser—to manage a portion of their assets, according to the 2015 Investor Brandscape report from Cogent Reports, the syndicated research division of Market Strategies International. Another 22% are thinking about placing money with a robo-adviser in the near future. However, despite increasing comfort with using these products, investors seem uncertain about where to turn for a solution.

Among those expressing interest, only half (51%) can name a would-be provider, leaving the other half (49%), about 10% of all affluent Americans, open to learning about automated investment advice solutions from well-known players and upstarts alike.

Cogent Reports found that 17% of investors are using robo-adviser services from an established provider—such as Fidelity, Vanguard and Charles Schwab—while 10% are using one of nearly two dozen emerging providers, and an additional 7% are unable to name their provider.

The research reveals that three-quarters (76%) of robo-adviser users have less than $500,000 in total investable assets; however, money invested with a robo-adviser typically represents a majority of users’ assets—60% on average. While Millennials (26%) and Gen Xers (31%) make up the majority of current robo-adviser users, four in 10 users are either First Wave (18%) or Second Wave (19%) Baby Boomers.

At this point, saying that robo-advisers have gained traction in the marketplace would be a dramatic understatement, especially when it comes to younger investors, says Linda York, vice president at Market Strategies.

NEXT: Taking a wait-and-see attitude is so last year. 

“With adoption anticipated to increase rapidly, industry leaders are scrambling to figure out how to get into the game,” York says. “Since sitting on the sidelines is not an option, many companies are considering whether to build it or buy it.”

According to Cogent Reports, the vast majority of near-term adoption of robo-advisers will come not from Millennials, but Gen Xers, the oldest of whom turn 50 this year. Not only is this the generation most interested in robo-advisers, it is also the group most likely to name an emerging provider for consideration.

Two factors separate those investors likely to embrace robo-advisers from those who will not, York says. First, a much higher level of concern about the ability to save for and adequately fund retirement, and second, a strong desire for enhanced investment performance. “These priorities coupled with a notably higher risk-profile suggest that many pre-retirees see automated investment service solutions as a good way of getting to their retirement goals,” York says. "Needless to say, this could have huge implications for the IRA rollover marketplace as well as threaten the dominance of traditional target-date funds inside of DC plans.”

The 10 providers Generation X investors are likely to consider are:

  1. Fidelity Investments
  2. Vanguard
  3. Charles Schwab
  4. Motley Fool Wealth Management
  5. Betterment
  6. Wealthfront
  7. AssetBuilder
  8. Hedgeable
  9. Personal Capital
  10. FutureAdvisor

Cogent Reports interviewed 3,889 affluent investors who were recruited from the Research Now, SSI and Usamp online panels. Respondents were required to have at least $100,000 in investable assets (excluding real estate).

More information about the Investor Brandscape Report is on Cogent’s website.