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By Humble Student of the Markets (Reporter)
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Peak robo?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016 14:24
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We all know about how the business model of robo-advisor works. First, determine the appropriate asset mix based on the risk, return, tax regime and other specific needs of the client. Then, build the portfolio and rebalance it on a periodic basis. The typical investment process can be summarized by the following steps:

  1. Determine the target asset mix, which could change depending on market conditions.
  2. Re-balance if:
    • The asset mix weights moves more than a certain percentage, e.g. 10%, from the target weight; or
    • Periodically, such on an annual basis These are all sensible rules that have long been practiced in the investment industry. In essence, the strategy involves taking profits on winning asset classes and averaging down on losers as a form of risk-control discipline

By following these simple rules, a portfolio will get investing decisions similar to what is depicted in the chart below. The top panel shows the price chart of the Dow Jones Global Index and the bottom panel shows the relative price performance of DJ Global against US Treasuries. Depending on the exact rebalancing rules, a fixed-weight portfolio that re-balances periodically will buy stocks near the bottom of the market and sell them near the top.


While the basic business model of the robo-advisor remains unchanged, I can see a couple of competitive threats to the standalone robo model. In fact, these threats may spell a peak of the standalone robo-advisor.

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