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Zacks Rolls Out Actively Managed Robo-Advisor

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Zacks Investment Management has launched an actively managed robo-advisor that uses the Zacks’ own research, ETFs and a technology platform developed by Charles Schwab.

The Zacks Advantage program targets investors with $100,000 and up to invest; these accounts have a 0.35% fee. But accounts can be opened with as little as $5,000 with a 0.5% fee.

The company currently offers new clients a 30% discount on these fees for the life of the account as part of the rollout, according to Scott Schneider, the platform’s president.

“Zacks may be the newest entrant to the digital-advice marketplace, [but] it is no stranger to investors,” Schneider said in an interview.

Zacks Investment Management, which went into business as an RIA in 1992, has some $3.3 billion in asset under management. Its investment models are used to manage another $1 billion at the wirehouses and other firms.

The typical Zacks Advantage portfolio will include about a dozen ETFs picked by from about 450 exchange-traded funds in 14 asset classes that are tracked by the research firm.

“We will speak to managers on a quarterly basis and discuss the ETFs in the portfolios and compare them using Zacks’ rating to see which are best for the portfolios,” explained Schneider. “We will rely on our proprietary forecast model to guide asset allocation. That is our biggest differentiator in terms of portfolio performance.”

The firm doesn’t aim to “churn the portfolio a lot” due to the impact this can have on portfolio costs and taxes, he added.

“We really offer high-net-worth investors the best of both worlds—in terms of wealth management and automated ETF-based, low-cost investment option,” Schneider said. “Many high-net-worth individuals want a low-cost ETF [portfolio] but are wary about using a tech platform that doesn’t have much service.”

Zacks Advantage is “designed to be a full-service platform for clients, which focuses as much on the active-management side as the automation,” Schneider said.  

“We have much higher interest and assets than we expected from the Aug. 1 launch,” he added.

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