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UBS Americas wealth unit partners with robo-adviser SigFig

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UBS Group AG's Americas wealth unit is partnering with online financial advisor SigFig Wealth Management to develop technology and investment tools for the Swiss bank, UBS said on Monday.

[NEW YORK] UBS Group AG's Americas wealth unit is partnering with online financial advisor SigFig Wealth Management to develop technology and investment tools for the Swiss bank, UBS said on Monday.

UBS said it has also bought an undisclosed stake in SigFig, a so-called robo-adviser which provides investment advice online at a lower cost than traditional brokerages which rely more heavily on human advisers.

The firms will form a research lab to collaborate on new wealth management tools as part of the venture, UBS said in a press release.

Wall Street banks and investment firms are increasingly building or buying robo-advisers to add business while cutting costs. Morgan Stanley and Bank of America Corp are building their own technologies, while BlackRock acquired FutureAdvisor last August.

UBS has shifted its business model in recent years to focus more on wealth management, which is typically more stable than businesses like trading. The Americas wealth unit, which has around 7,000 financial advisors, had net inflows of US$13.6 billion during the first quarter.

UBS started exploring ways it could partner with financial technology companies under former UBS Americas Wealth Chief Executive Bob McCann, his successor Tom Naratil said in an interview.

McCann led a delegation including UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti to Silicon Valley last year where the bankers met with a number of robo-adviser, including SigFig.

Naratil, who took over McCann's role in January, said UBS ultimately decided against buying a robo-adviser.

"Our fear was that we would turn a technology firm like SigFig into us," he said. "They're not us ... we want them to continue to be very creative and innovative." Naratil said UBS would roll out the technology to a small group of investment advisers later this year and complete a full launch in 2017.

REUTERS