Incumbent Robo-advice platforms, software, products: A look through Morgan Stanley’s WealthDesk platform
As I review a UBS Global Insights report (What’s on Investor’s minds, Vol.2, 2018) it struck me that Investing is lagging big time in the Shift in Values that is affecting other areas of our life. UBS looks at how our personal values (I would say, the shift in the hierarchy of our personal values) is driving major decisions in our lives. Their statistics show clearly that the Sustainability theme is driving our spending decisions, our willingness to pay a premium, our donations to charity, and even our choice of employment.
Source: UBS Global Insights report
Sustainability, however, factors considerably less (below 40%) in our investment decisions.
Sustainability investing varies considerably by market. The number of investors with more than 1% allocation to sustainable investments in Singapore and Switzerland are only 35% and China, Brazil, and the UAE + Italy, are in the 50s% and 60s% (probably more investors with smaller amounts).
Source: UBS Global Insights report
The expectation for growth is also very different. In the US and the UK, there are weak signs of a sustainable investment momentum. Whereas investors in the UAE and China, are largely convinced that this is the way to invest.
In Brazil, which has also a high sustainable investing adoption, there is a strong expectation that returns will outperform traditional investments.
Looking into the UBS report, it is clear that there is a lot of interest that is sitting on the sidelines and that advisors and influencers can play a major role in tipping these non-adopters over. We need to invest in converting these non-adopters because we cannot afford to continue borrowing from the future.
Join me, as I will be moderating a panel on Sustainable Finance at the Fintech+ event on October 1, in Zurich. I will be discussing with Sabine Döbeli, CEO of Swiss Sustainable Finance, Oliver Marchand, founder and CEO of CARBON DELTA, Anna Stünzi, researcher and co-lead of the foraus programme „Environment, Energy and Transportation“, and Rochus Mommartz head of Responsibility Investments. Come to participate in this exciting discussion, as I will be asking some tough questions around this topic that touches on a much broader issue:
Shift in values and technology
 A major topic that is worthy of a longer interactive discussion.
The lemming effect has been frequently highlighted in the investment behavior of managers and is a behavioral reality that we like to ignore. The robo-advisory segment will have to demonstrate that it is not plagued by the Lemming effect. Lest gove it more time.
Wealthfront has already responded to client demand to omit buying securities from indices in sectors from four main categories: fossil fuels, deforestation, weapons and tobacco. So clients can click on which categories to omit instead of buying the whole index. That way, a client doesn’t loose the diversification benefit of an index and at the same, is not in conflict with his or her values.
Direct Indexing is part of PassivePlus®, Wealthefront signature suite of investment features which allows investors to optimize tax harvesting from moves of individual stocks. Since summer 2017, Wealthfront clients are able to build their portfolios in a Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) style.
Morgan Stanley Access Investing, the new robo-advisor launched at the end of 2017 already allows investing in thematic startegies that include gender diversity, climate action and other sustainability themes. This new offering is priced at 35bps annually. Clients can choose from indexed ETFs, mutual funds, and thematic strategies.
Betterment has showed genuine concern around the limitations of existing SRI financial products and for now, is using the iShares MSCI KLD 400 Social Fund, which tracks the MSCI KLD 400 Social Index and has large-cap stock exposure. Companies involved in tobacco, military weapons, nuclear power, adult entertainment, and genetically modified crops are screened out. And the iShares MSCI USA ESG Select Fund for tax-harvesting purposes. Both these ETFs have high fees of 50bos compared the average of 9bps for Betterment’s core portfolio.
Personal Capital, the third largest US standalone robo advisor in terms of AUM and with a hybrid approach from the start, is also listening to the increasing interest and demand from clients. For no extra charge to clients, Personal Capital will screen U.S. equities on environmental, social and governance factors. The analytics are provided from Sustainalytics, a provider of ESG research and analytics, to determine best-in-class companies in each domestic peer group.
With this ESG offering, Personal Capital may also be drawing more attention to its hybrid advice model. It is the human advice service of Personal Capital that is a paid service. Increased engagement around ESG investments with clients may increase the conversion from the free service to the paid service.
WealthSimple, the Canadian robo-advsior that opened doors recently in the UK, has also included SRI capabilities in their offering. “We always look to our clients for feedback on which features they want to see next, and SRI has been requested from the first day we launched in the UK,’ said Toby Triebel , CEO Europe to Citywire. It isn’t clear which specific funds have been include but the focus is on investments in cleantech innovation, fair labour standards or low carbon emissions.
Two standalone digital investment platforms that are 100% dedicated to sustainable investing, are OpenInvest and Earthfolio. OpenInvest is a YCombinator and Andreessen Horowitz-backed startup focused on the under-served markets in customized ESG asset management. They offer their services for 50bps flat fee. They have also designed a proxy voting app that just makes it easy to exercise your rights as a shareholder; with a swipe. Earthfolio is approaching sustainable investing with a thorough screening approach on multiple factors.
“Keep winning me.
Pay attention to my values.
Lets show the world that ESG and SRI investing, is good business”