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Fund Giant Vanguard to Open Tech Lab in 2017

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Vanguard says it plans to improve its digital operations by opening an innovation center in Philadelphia in the second quarter of 2017.

The fund group, which has some $3.8 trillion in global assets, works with over 20 million investors worldwide. It says that about 90% of its interaction with clients take place digitally.

“We are in the midst of a great technological revolution – from self-driving cars and package-delivering drones to smartphones and 3D-printers – that is changing the way we live, work and, in Vanguard’s realm, invest. With a centralized, and centrally located, Innovation Center, Vanguard seeks to harness emerging technologies and new processes to create value for our clients by improving their investing experience and their investment outcomes,” explained CEO Bill McNabb in a statement.

The fund giant points to Vanguard Personal Advisor Services, which it says combines virtual engagement, customized financial planning and complex computer modeling of robo-advisors “with the judgment and behavioral coaching of a human financial advisor.”

It launched the offering in May 2015, and the platform currently manages $47 billion in assets.

Scope of Innovation Center

Vanguard says that it plans to have 20 employees at the tech center focused on “new ideas and solutions.” The team also will look at potential partnerships with other businesses and universities, including sharing technology research and applications with industries outside the financial-services sector.

“Innovation is woven into Vanguard’s DNA, from our unique mutual ownership structure to bringing the first index mutual fund to market for individual investors,” added McNabb. “The Innovation Center is a tangible commitment that we’ll continue our strong track record of building capabilities that we believe give our clients the best chance for investment success, and we’re pleased to take this significant next step in Philadelphia.”

The firm’s headquarters are located in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, about 25 miles away.

Vanguard’s news comes nearly six months after UBS Wealth Management Americas said it was forming an alliance with SigFig, a San-Francisco-based technology. SigFig is working on digital tools and services for UBS WMA, and the two firms are jointly creating the Advisor Technology Research and Innovation Lab.

UBS advisors in the Americas help manage more than $1 trillion in client assets, while SigFig’s Enterprise Digital Wealth Management platforms serve investors with about $400 billion in assets.

— Read 5 Best Asset Managers for Tech-Minded Advisors on ThinkAdvisor’s TechCenter.