其他的独立智能投顾公司也存在这一问题。一旦收费过低，就很难达到盈利所需的规模。有个问题问得好：为什么Wealthfront、Betterment等公司起初的收费标准是25个基本点呢？北美金融服务咨询公司西蒙顾和（Simon Kucher & Partners）负责人Wei Ki告诉我们，经过多方打听，业内没人能回答这个问题。
Independent robo-advisor Wealthfront is in the news again, this time for doing an about-face on a fee change that upset its customers.
The Redwood City, California-based firm is cutting in half, to 25 basis points, the expense ratio on its two-month old risk parity fund. The fund’s February rollout caused a backlash because of its relatively high 50-basis-point cost, and the fact that it was added to customers’ portfolios unless they opted out.
“In hindsight, we should have delivered it at 0.25% to begin with,” Wealthfront chief Andy Rachleff told Bloomberg. The firm mistakenly believed customers would compare the new fund’s cost to that of other risk-parity strategies, instead of the usual 25-beep cost for accounts over $10,000, he explained.
Wealthfront, which has more than $10 billion of assets under management, made news a month ago after its valuation fell to around $500 million, down by about a third from its 2014 level. This appears to reflect stiff competition from discount brokerages and wirehouses that now have their own robos, as well as the difficult road the indies face in trying to achieve profitability.
Part of the problem, which is shared by the other independent robos, is that if you charge a pittance, it’s really hard to achieve the scale to make that profitable. A good question is why Wealthfront, Betterment and others decided to charge 25 basis points in the first place. Wei Ki, who heads North American financial services for consulting firm Simon Kucher & Partners, told me the firm has asked around, but “nobody in the industry could tell us why it was 25 basis points.”
“Robos were an innovative proposition, but the fee model was a random shot on the dartboard,” he said. “The monetization strategy wasn’t thought through; they just wanted market share.”
It’s proving harder to grow that market share, especially since giants like Vanguard ($101 billion of assets) and Charles Schwab ($27 billion) jumped in. The independent robos “are a presence felt by everybody,” says Ki, “but at the same time they haven’t fundamentally disrupted the wealth management space way they were initially envisioned to do.”