Max Grigoryev
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Max Grigoryev in Fundamentality,

Alternative Investment Opportunities: Millennials Will Come

There is no doubt that we've witnessed an imminent rise of robo-advisors and the whole market of robo investments has made a huge step forward since 2008 when Betterment was born. Nowadays if you look through any wealth management reports from the top research companies - you may have noticed that more and more robotic investment platforms appear each year. There are so many advantages of such platforms, but at the same time the core audience of these platforms is very diverse and it's always searching for other opportunities to play with small amount of money.

Core audience of such applications and platforms is millennials and as far as millennials are always trying to test new applications - we should keep in mind that the second wave of investing into alternative assets may be even greater than the first one. Personally I've tested a few of such platforms and I think that this hype is somewhere around the corner.

Millennials Are Moving Fast

Your robo-advisor solution may be brilliant, you may save and earn lots of money for your customers - but you may be missing one important factor, the new generation is completely different to previous one. This is obvious, so why do you think they'll keep using your platform for a while? Let me give you some numbers. One of the robo-advising platforms has 1M+ while the total AUM (Assets Under Management is slightly below $250M) which means that the average account size is about $230-250. This platform helps you to invest by rounding up all your transactions on your bank account - quite an interesting model. At the same time, users of this platform pay at least 5% annual fee which is, eventually, a huge management fee. 

And millennials know it and they still give this platform a try just because it's something new, it helps to play with small amount of money. Another robo-advising startup has increased the number of account from 0 to 500k within 8 months from the start. Quite a good pace, isn't it? Different wealth management platforms are coming to the market each month and they get their market share - it proves the hypothesis of fast moving millennials. 

Alternative Investments Are More Favorable

There are some well-established players in the market of alternative investments, such as Lending Club (LC), Prosper and others, they've been around for a while. And the most important issue with all of those platforms - they're outdated. Their design, their user interface, user experience - everything is very laid back. Those platforms are from another era - people running those platforms think that they should educate people, show them all of the advantages of investing with them.

They're missing an important fact - millennials do NOT want to spend time for educating themselves in something they're not interested in. They just want to invest, they definitely have some money and they just want to see a nice picture of asset allocation and nice yield curve. 

Let's get back to the numbers again. Robo advisors keep telling you that they outperform the major market indexes which in fact is mis-leading sometimes. My subjective opinion is that all such robo advisors are significantly underperforming. The best performing app I have now (I'm actively using 3 of them) shows 1.1% yield while at the same time my own ETFs portfolio has grown by 2.3% within the same time frame. 

So the main reason for searching for alternative investment opportunities is underperforming of current wealth management advisors. When you sign up on some alternative investment platforms, they give you the range of your potential return when the lowest number is way higher then you can get from investing with robo advisors. 

When millennials start using some tools that help them to earn more money or do anything else - they expect this platform to be a bit more engaging than current robo advisors are. The options of customizing your portfolio are limited to asset allocation or sometimes you just need to pick up a strategy with the choice of 4 or 5. Again, this is a very subjective opinion, but such robo advisors have a lack of engagement. Alternative investment platforms have other people behind the investment - those who borrow money. So this might potentially be more engaging and more social to invest in real people and get a higher return.

What Alternative Investment Platforms Should Do

To be more specific, let me outline the major changes that I would implement to make alternative investment platforms 'better':

  • User Interface - just make it simple, get rid of internal note numbers, different types of ids. Show the asset allocation and the curve of my portfolio performance;
  • Mobile experience - make it usable, now major platforms have pretty good design inside the apps, but the whole user flow is messed up starting from authorization to the blocks inside the platform. For example, Prosper's mobile app is an e-wallet while you can expect it to be an investment platform. That's pretty disgusting; 
  • Promotion - focus on partnerships with e-wallets, take the most from the current hype. 

Second Wave For Alternative Investments

I believe that such alternative investment platforms as Lending Club (LC), OnDeck (ONDK) and others have a significant upside potential, but they should focus on right points leveraging their knowledge, risk management and current market trends. In my opinion, millennials are looking for alternative investment opportunities now, but there is a lack of high-quality products focused exactly on this audience.