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UBS To Sell Online Wealth Management Operation

Robbie Lawther Reporter London 30 August 2018

UBS To Sell Online Wealth Management Operation

The operation was launched in 2016 but it has not reached the heights it had expected.

UBS is to shut the UK robo-advisory service, UBS SmartWealth, which was launched in 2016, and sell the technology to US digital wealth manager SigFig. The sale comes after a review by the firm found that its commercial potential was “limited”.

The Swiss giant launched SmartWealth in an attempt to broaden its appeal among retail consumers. Its minimum investment limit of £15,000 ($19,300) was low compared with UBS’s core wealth management business of high and ultra-high net worth individuals. 

UBS said in a statement:“We are proud of the award-winning technology we have developed and were satisfied with the initial commercial progress of UBS SmartWealth. Having conducted a thorough assessment, however, at this time we believe the near-term potential is limited and have therefore decided to close our digital-only offering in the UK. We are pleased, however, to have entered into an agreement to sell the intellectual property relating to UBS SmartWealth to SigFig – a financial technology firm that we have an equity stake in and with whom we've been working for two years in the US. We are confident that SigFig is best placed to accelerate and broaden the commercial prospects of the IP behind UBS SmartWealth. We believe the decision serves the best interests of the business and will allow us to invest further in other client-facing improvements, whilst sharing in the future success of the IP we have created via our equity holding and ongoing partnership with SigFig.”

It has been working with SigFig for two years on similar offerings in the US. UBS acquired an equity stake in SigFig in 2016.

Recently, the former co-head of SmartWealth, Shane Williams, left UBS to join AQR Capital Management. A UBS spokesman said the sale was not due to Williams’ exit.

Large wealth management firms have been trying to broaden their operations with digital wealth managers that build portfolios of low-cost funds for retail investors. But they face an uphill struggle against established fund managers. Nutmeg, a robo-advisor founded in 2006, surpassed £1 billion in funds under management for the first time in November — but the two largest fund managers, Cofunds and Hargreaves Lansdown, manage £96 billion and £86 bilion, respectively.

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