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Wells Fargo Exec: Fractional Shares Are 'Democratizing' Investing

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Wells Fargo has yet to announce specific plans for fractional shares availability, but a company executive provided nothing but praise for them during a recent webcast.

Related: Fractional Shares Are Helping to Drive Increased Trading

Fractional shares are “democratizing” investing and making it easier for the average person to not only buy higher-priced stocks including Amazon and Tesla, but they are also making it easier for systematic investing by clients, according to Joe Nadreau, managing director and head of Independent Brokerage & Platform Services at Wells Fargo Advisors.

“Obviously, the ability for individuals to buy the high share price stocks” is expanded with fractional share availability, and “that’s going to be a great benefit to folks who might not be able to otherwise afford that” kind of stock, he said during a recent Money Management Institute webcast, “The Evolving Digital End-Client Experience.”

Fractional shares also “helps us lower” the pricing of Wells Fargo separately managed accounts and “for our intuitive investor digital advice platform to be able to lower the minimums” on investment size, Nadreau said.

However, “even more importantly, for me, beyond just the minimums” is that fractional shares also enable systematic investing, he said, explaining: “If I only have $100 a week … I can begin to invest. I can do so and put it into a well-balanced, allocated portfolio.” That, he said, is “very different than what they have available to them today” as investors, he noted.

He also predicted fractional shares are “here to stay” and that they will allow “minimums and systematic investing to occur at levels that have yet to be seen.”

It was possibly the strongest indication yet that Wells Fargo intends to offer fractional shares. However, the company has yet to announce plans including the timing of such shares, and Nadreau stopped short of announcing any specifics.

It remains early days for fractional shares, although that has started to change in recent months.

In May, Charles Schwab said it would soon let retail investor clients buy partial shares of S&P companies’ stock. That news came almost seven months after Schwab said it planned to move into fractional shares. Schwab Stock Slices became available in June for as little as $5 each.

However, Fidelity Investments beat Schwab to the punch, announcing in January that it started rolling out real-time fractional shares trading not just for stocks but for exchange-traded funds to retail customers.

Tech Predictions

Nadreau also predicted that, in the future, “you’re either going to be a broker-dealer or a financial advisor” who shifts “toward the ability to use technology to augment your practice or you’re going to be gone.”

Robo-advisors and other digital advice platforms won’t take over the industry. “It is always going to be a hybrid” of tech and traditional advice going forward, he predicted, adding: “There will always be the need for empathy. There will always be the need to truly understand what motivates a client.” Tech can’t do that.

“But those advisors who don’t embrace technology to use technology to do those things that they themselves can not do as efficiently as technology — they will be left by the wayside,” he predicted.

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