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Century-Old TIAA Ventures Into Robo Advising in Main Street Push

TIAA's acquisition of EverBank Financial and MyVest helped accelerate the robo advisor's launch.

By Julie Verhage and Katherine Chiglinsky

(Bloomberg) --TIAA, the nearly 100-year-old retirement and insurance company, is starting an online robo-adviser this week, making it the latest firm to use automated advice to win customers in a rapidly changing asset-management industry.

The new offering will offer passive index and exchange-traded funds that track markets as well as active ones that seek to outperform benchmarks, according to a statement from the company Tuesday. It will also include a strategy that invests with socially responsible criteria. Like other digital-advice platforms in the industry, TIAA’s allows customers to input their financial objectives and risk tolerance within minutes and receive portfolio recommendations.

“It’s a natural next step in our journey to support the financial well-being of many more people,” Kathie Andrade, head of TIAA’s retail financial services business, said in an interview before the announcement.

Chief Executive Officer Roger Ferguson, a former Federal Reserve vice chairman, has been trying to expand the customer base of TIAA, which is known for offering retirement products to teachers, and making acquisitions to reach more retail investors. Last year, he agreed to a $2.5 billion deal to acquire EverBank Financial Corp., primarily an online bank. And he bought MyVest, a San Francisco-based technology firm that specializes in wealth management and assisting broker-dealers and banks, which the firm said helped accelerate the launch of the new robo-adviser.

Robo-advisers, or automated investment advice, use algorithms to do some of what flesh-and-blood financial advisers do, but at a far lower cost. They originally came to the fore when startups such as Betterment LLC and Wealthfront Inc. were created shortly after the 2008 financial crisis. While large firms like JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. had been dismissive of the strategy in the past, they are increasingly adopting the strategies to reach younger customers, in particular, who trust technology. The new offering will include funds from TIAA as well as other firms, such as BlackRock’s iShares and USAA Investment Management Co.

Much of the growth in the industry is now grabbed by traditional giants in money management including mutual fund firms Vanguard Group and Charles Schwab Corp. Robo-advisers in U.S. ended last year with $83 billion in assets, according to an estimate from Cerulli Associates, a Boston-based consulting firm.

“When you think about the divergence that’s occurring between digital delivery and people delivery, I don’t think we know exactly what that convergence is going to be. What we do know is that there is a huge need for in-person or people to deliver advice for those that have more complex needs,” Andrade concluded.

TIAA’s robo-adviser requires a minimum account balance of $5,000 and charges an annual advisory fee of 0.3 percent, according to the statement.

To contact the reporters on this story: Julie Verhage in New York at [email protected] ;Katherine Chiglinsky in New York at [email protected] To contact the editors responsible for this story: Margaret Collins at [email protected] Dan Kraut

TAGS: Industry
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