UBS slashes investment minimum for robo-advice

As it continues to see strong flows of client assets in its zero-fee separately managed accounts, UBS Financial Services said at the end of last month it was dropping the minimum investment in its hybrid roboadvice product, dubbed UBS Advice Advantage, from $10,000 to $5,000.

This change brings UBS more in line with competitors like Merrill Lynch, which has a similar account minimum for its robo-adviser. And over the summer, Fidelity Investments said that it was dropping its annual advisory fee for its robo-adviser to zero on accounts with less than $10,000.

Giant firms like UBS are trying to open the door to younger clients who may be related to a wealthier, more established investor, or those potential clients reassessing how they are investing during the COVID-19 era, one analyst said.

“UBS has had a higher minimum, so this is positive for clients and their kids,” said Sophie Schmitt, senior analyst with the Aite Group. “The trend has been for the big institutions to offer younger potential customers various banking or savings accounts. The big firms are looking to the next generation of investors, and reducing minimums is a good move, especially during a time when many are stuck at home and weighing options.”

For decades, large firms have been pushing advisers away from working with small accounts and instead have been paying them to chase the largest and most profitable clients. This alienated many advisers, and a technology platform that includes a robo-adviser appears to be a solution to that problem.

UBS Financial Services Inc. made the disclosure in an update to its Form ADV filed on October 30. In that filing, UBS said that its UBS Managed Portfolio program was closing to new accounts, and those investors already in the program will be moved to another program, called Access, and managed by UBS Asset Management.

About a year ago, UBS said it was eliminating management fees on select separately managed accounts, including portfolios in both the ACCESS and Managed Portfolio programs. Clients have typically paid a 1% management fee for such separately managed accounts.

UBS has seen strong asset flows this year. Its UBS Asset Management zero-fee, separately managed account pricing initiative in the United States totaled $8 billion of net new money in the third quarter, and a total of $35 billion of inflows since its inception in the final quarter of last year, according to the company.

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