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UBS to Buy Wealthfront for $1.4B

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UBS Group AG agreed to buy U.S. robo adviser Wealthfront for $1.4 billion in cash, the first major acquisition of a fintech company under Chief Executive Officer Ralph Hamers.

The deal will add more than $27 billion in assets under management and over 470,000 clients in the U.S., Switzerland’s biggest bank said in a statement late Wednesday. The transaction is expected to close in the second half of this year.

“Adding Wealthfront’s capabilities and client base to our global investment ecosystem will significantly boost our ability to grow our business in the U.S.,” Hamers said in the statement.

It “will enhance our long-term ambition to deliver a scalable, digital-led wealth management solution to affluent investors.”

Hamers, a former ING Groep NV executive, has pledged to use more technology to win more clients and streamline services to the world’s rich.

Started in 2008, Wealthfront was one of the first so-called robo-advisers, or wealth managers that rely on apps that charge low fees and use algorithms to make trading decisions.

These upstarts have upended the wealth and asset-management industries by displacing active managers, who rely on their own expertise to place money. Investment giants such as Charles Schwab Corp. and brokerages including Morgan Stanley have since branched into the space.

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