In December 2018, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) settled an enforcement action with Wealthfront, one of the industry’s leading robo advisors. This came after Wealthfront made false statements about its software’s ability to implement a ‘tax-loss harvesting’ strategy. Wealthfront failed to properly execute the strategy, resulting in losses to a significant number of clients. Wealthfront ultimately agreed to pay a $US 250,000 penalty.Read More
By Jim Bulling and Tiarna Meka
A recent report by Forbes Insights and Temenos suggests that wealth managers must embrace the development in Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology in order to sustain a long-term future. The use of AI technology allows financial advisors to provide high quality, customised client advice.
There has been a significant rise in the attitudes of wealth managers towards AI since 2016 with global statistics showing that 52% of wealth managers now view AI as essential in their business operations. In Asia-Pacific, this statistic is substantially higher with 70% of wealth managers viewing AI as essential and 80% deploying or testing AI.
By Jim Bulling and Felix Charlesworth
On 15 August 2017, the Australian Prudential Regulating Authority (APRA) published a discussion paper entitled ‘Licensing: A phased approach to authorising new entrants to the banking industry‘. The Discussion Paper proposes changes to APRA’s licensing framework with the introduction of a new restricted ADI licences regime.
This phased approach enables entrants who require time to build resources and capabilities, such as fintech start-ups, to conduct banking related business by reducing conventional barriers to entry such as the requirement to hold at least $50 million in start-up capital.
On 29 March, a large asset manager announced a strategic overhaul of portions of its active equity management approach, focusing on the use of quantitative modeling over “traditional” human active management. Click here for a copy of the press release.
Just a couple of weeks ago, our Pittsburgh office hosted its inaugural artificial intelligence program, The Artificial Intelligence Gateway For the Investment and Business Community that featured keynote speakers and panel discussions regarding the increasing awareness of artificial intelligence (AI) across all industries and the impact this new form of technology will have on business. It was fascinating to hear from our keynote speakers about how AI actually works, how AI is used in self-driving cars, and future use of AI in various industries, from manufacturing to financial services. In addition, one of the panels, focused on robo-advice and AI, where we discussed technological growth and how AI might be used in the investment management industry and some of the related regulatory and fiduciary issues.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission’s staff has published information and guidance for investors and the financial services industry on the fast-growing use of “robo-advisers,” a catch-all term for investment advisers that use computer algorithms to provide investment advisory services online, often with limited human interaction. In light of the unique issues raised by robo-advisers, the SEC’s Division of Investment Management issued a Guidance Update on 23 February 2017 for investment advisers with suggestions on how robo-advisers can best comply with disclosure, suitability and compliance obligations imposed by the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. A second publication, an Investor Bulletin issued by the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy, provides individual investors with information they may need to make informed decisions if they consider using robo-advisers.
Recently, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) presented its views on regulating digital advice at a Financial Services Council event. The discussion provided an overview of the regulator’s priorities in this space. Below are a few key takeaways relevant to those currently providing or seeking to provide digital advice:
- Clear disclosure: ASIC would like to see clear disclosure in relation to the services and advice a consumer may expect to receive and express statements regarding advice that the consumer will not receive. Consumers need to be able to easily identify what advice will and will not be provided to them.
- Testing consumer knowledge: ASIC suggests ‘testing’ potential consumers in the following ways:
- With respect to consumer protection – implementing methods to test consumer understanding of the scope of advice provided – that is, what advice will and will not be provided. Such protocols may alleviate any risk that a potential consumer is unaware of the scope of advice to be provided.
- With respect to better understanding your client, implementing ‘quizzes’ to gauge the consumer’s level of knowledge regarding different products, which may be offered. This could give the digital advice provider an idea of the level of knowledge and understanding that the consumer may possess in relation to complex products.
- Record keeping: Companies providing digital advice should have appropriate and robust algorithm record keeping systems. Ideally, the systems in place should control, monitor, review and effectively record any changes made to the algorithms. Digital advice providers should be able to substantiate the reasons for updating the algorithm, which underpins the advice given. Some examples of possible record keeping measures relating to algorithms include automated reports which can be downloaded and provided to ASIC if requested or snap shots in time.
In Australia, robo-advisers providing personal financial product advice must comply with the statutory fiduciary duty to act in the client’s best interests. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has made it clear that the duty is technology neutral and applies to robo-advisers as well as traditional advisers. ASIC also clearly stated its position that robo-advisers are able to comply with the duty (Regulatory Guide 255)
Robo-advisers in the US do not currently have the same clarity as their Australian counterparts. US advisors are subject to fiduciary duties from a number of sources depending on the type of advice given and the type of adviser giving it. The Massachusetts Securities Division (MSD) has stated that robo-advisers and traditional advisers have the same fiduciary duty. However, MSD and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have raised questions over robo-advisers’ ability to comply with the duty and hold themselves out to be fiduciaries. MSD is particularly concerned that from its research it appeared to be usual for robo-advisers not to perform any significant due diligence on their client’s circumstances which is needed to make appropriate investment decisions. The SEC is currently working on a fiduciary rule for advisers with plans to release the proposal in April 2017.
In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has developed the Principles for Businesses (PRIN) which includes the requirement to pay due regard to the interests of customers and treat them fairly. The FCA has stated that the PRIN applies to all regulated firms including robo-advisers. The FCA established an Advice Unit to provide particular guidance to robo-advisers in June 2016.
By C. Todd Gibson and Tyler Kirk
Over the last two years, it has been difficult to attend any asset management-related event or seminar without hearing the term “FinTech,” and in particular, “robo-advice” and “blockchain.” What is apparent, though, is that many industry participants have little understanding of what blockchain technology is and how it works. This understanding is important in order to identify creative ways of leveraging this technology to increase efficiency.
In the October 2016 edition of The Investment Lawyer, K&L Gates partner Todd Gibson and associate Tyler Kirk published an article intended to give those with a limited understanding of blockchain a baseline of knowledge and to provide an update on current trends with respect to the use of blockchain by fund managers and their service providers. In case you missed it, the full article can be found here.
By Daniel Knight and Claire De Koeyer
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) this week released Regulatory Guide 255: Providing digital financial product advice to retail clients (RG). The RG clarifies how financial product advice obligations apply to providers of digital advice.
ASIC supports the development of a healthy and robust ‘digital advice’ or ‘robo-advice’ market in Australia, while recognising the need to protect consumers.
As with other advice providers, robo-advisers will need to hold an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL) or be authorised by an AFSL holder and will be subject to a range of duties, including the duty to act in the best interests of their clients.
By Cameron Abbott and Rebecca Murray
The Commonwealth Bank, Stockland, Australian Technology Network of Universities and University of Technology Sydney have partnered to invest in research and development of social robotics. This partnership will contribute to the field of global research in social robotics by identifying opportunities and limitations in human-robot interaction and exploring commercial applications of social robotics across a number of industries. Presumably this takes the humble ATM into the new century! Read more here.