研究公司Backend Benchmarking数据表明，智能投顾平台负责的资产已超过2000亿美元，但这个有利可图的行业自十几年前刚开始发展时就已开始整合。面对Vanguard Group和Fidelity Investments等更大规模的竞争对手的竞争，Wealthfront Inc.或Betterment等独立的智能投顾平台还能够扩大规模，而其他平台要么关闭，要么与其他组织合并。一旦智能投顾平台关闭，他们的客户将会大伤脑筋。
今年夏天，有几家平台的关闭颇受瞩目。8月份，UBS Group AG关闭了自己面向英国客户的智能投顾平台SmartWealth，仅两年时间，该平台受到的关注开始变得有限。客户收到通知，在30至60天的窗口期后，自己的投资将会出售并退款。7月份，另一家智能投顾平台Hedgeable表示将停止接受存款。Hedgeable的用户可以选择转到由Folio Investments Inc.托管的自主账户，或出售自己的投资。Folio也在尝试推出自己的智能投顾服务，但在此之前，Hedgeable的用户只能使用自主账户。
Backend Benchmarking研究分析师David Goldstone表示，智能投顾平台关闭"肯定算不上好的用户体验"，除了被迫出售或接受可能无关的更换服务外，还可能会出现提供商没有解释清楚的意外税收影响。用户如果因为出售的投资组合获益，将需要在当前的纳税年度为这些收益缴税。
What happens when a robo adviser closes?
Lots of investors have had to deal with this question lately, and still more are likely to soon.
A popular product with investors, robo advisers are a mix of algorithms and human planning that match customers with portfolios of inexpensive index and exchange-traded funds. The portfolios are then managed and periodically rebalanced, for low or no fees, by computer programs.
Assets with robos have grown to more than $200 billion, according to the research firm Backend Benchmarking. But consolidation has taken place since this niche industry’s start roughly a decade ago. While some independent robos such as Wealthfront Inc. or Betterment have been able to scale up, others have closed or merged with other organizations in the face of competition from bigger competitors such as Vanguard Group and Fidelity Investments. And when robos close, their customers usually are faced with a big headache.
Some robos that are closing will sell the clients’ investments and refund their money, which can lead to lower overall performance. There can be unexpected tax implications if users realize gains when their portfolios are sold, forcing them to pay taxes on those returns.
In other cases, clients of robos that are closing can be given the option of moving to a self-directed account with the custodian company. But one of the big selling points of a robo adviser is that portfolios are created and managed for you—and that isn’t the case in a self-directed account.
Over the summer, there were a few high-profile closures. In August, UBS Group AG UBS -1.32% closed its SmartWealth platform, a robo adviser for British clients, after just two years, citing limited interest. Customers were given notice that their investments would be sold and refunded over a 30- to 60-day window. In July, another robo, Hedgeable, said it would no longer accept deposits. Hedgeable gave its users the option of moving to a self-directed account at custodian Folio Investments Inc., or selling their investments. Folio is working on launching its own robo-advisory service, but until it is ready for prime time, users from Hedgeable are in self-directed accounts.
Hedgeable’s robo platform was focused on actively managed funds, and the company struggled to compete with powerhouse passive platforms that offer free or low-cost exchange-traded funds. Thus, former Hedgeable users are also confronted with a unique problem—finding another robo that offers active management. Robo platforms that use passive funds are more common, and customers of one that closes shouldn’t have difficulty finding a similar product because there isn’t much difference among the providers with passive portfolios.
When a robo closes, “it’s not a great user experience, that’s for sure,” says Backend Benchmarking research analyst David Goldstone. In addition to being forced to sell or accept a possibly unrelated replacement service, there can be unexpected tax implications that providers don’t always make clear, Mr. Goldstone says. Users who realize gains when their portfolios are sold will have to pay taxes on those returns in the current tax year.
“There is also the potential that these users don’t reinvest if this is their first account, which is not good for anyone,” Mr. Goldstone says.
If a displaced robo-adviser customer learns that the custodian firm is offering a self-directed account as a replacement, it is a good idea to compare the fees with those of similar accounts elsewhere. Would staying with the custodian lower your fees and trading costs compared with opening a different account elsewhere?
Investors should also speak with an accountant about how they might offset any capital gains if they do opt to sell and start over.
For displaced customers of robo advisers who want to try something new, hybrid advisers have become a popular option. Hybrid advisers are a mix of automated investing and wealth planning. Usually there are more investment strategies available than there are with robo advisers, and the staff are there to talk through how you might plan for college savings or retirement.