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Digitalization: The Future of Investing is Now!

Financial inclusion means that individuals have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs. — The World Bank

I am eager to discuss how modern financial tools are democratizing the world of investing. Financial services are now squarely in the crosshairs of disruption, undergoing inevitable metamorphosis. The industry is on the cusp where all socioeconomic classes may have unfettered access to global financial markets, enabling them to invest their capital and have it constantly working for them. Digital technologies that automate the process of money management are now available at low cost with account opening minimums of just $1. The stage is being set to enable the masses to invest like the classes.

Commerce is transforming from an immobile brick and mortar existence to one that is in flow and encompassing everything digital. Advanced software coding is revolutionizing the entire economic landscape in ways that I sense will make the world a better place for all. Structural changes that took years to unfold in the past are occurring in months and days at breakneck speed, “What’s next?” “What’s different?” and “What now?” are commonplace. We are living in the future! Vast communication networks are connecting billions of people everywhere to the internet; users have instant access to endless amounts of information, products, services, and people. Critics maintain that digitalization of everything has positives and negatives. Digitalization brings more competition than ever before, which ultimately raises product quality while shrinking prices of goods and services, thus benefiting consumers. Simultaneously, it also squeezes out less equipped market participants and puts them out of business altogether. Merchants such as Amazon and Walmart compete in a perennial dogfight to provide the best customer experiences at the lowest costs. This dynamic duo has set a new standard for all companies.

I became a stockbroker the day I graduated from college in 1984. From the beginning, I was singularly focused on making money for clients and myself. As an investment professional serving both retail and institutional customers, my focus remains constant. I have advised and navigated investors through the ’87 Market Crash, ’90 Kuwait Invasion, ’00 Tech Bubble, and the ’08-’09 Financial Crisis; the S&P 500 fell 34%, 20%, 49%, and 57%, respectively, during these bear markets. I have guided clients through three recessions, six interest rate tightening cycles, five presidential terms, and twelve market corrections (declines ranging from minus 10% to minus 19.9%). I’ve witnessed front and center corporate accounting scandals, unconscionable greed, corruption, fraud, Ponzi-schemes, wars, and global terror. I have been there for my clients throughout it all, answering the phone whenever they called for counseling, consoling, opportunities, setbacks, gains, or losses. I didn’t always have the answers; no one does.

I have learned that ultimately trust matters most. In the world of investing, just as in life, relationships are born on compatibility and forged by trust. Getting the client-advisor relationship right is about good old TLC → trustworthiness, likability, and capability. People need an advisor to be honest, friendly, and intelligent about their financial dealings; they want a partner!

When it comes to making money, I firmly believe everyone needs a partner! How would you like to have a partner that was in many ways a mirror image of yourself? A partner that you could count on each step of the way. A partner who would be there working with you and for you, to earn money 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. A partner that would always be at work on time and was loyal, faithful, reliable, and constant.  Do you believe a money-making partner of this description exists? Capital is that partner!

Over the past decade, our economy has profited from an unusually prolonged expansionary period, mostly benefiting those with money. Working folks trying to get ahead haven’t been so lucky. Many working people are anxious about their circumstances of limited wage growth, burdensome student loans, consumer debt obligations, rising healthcare costs, and unaffordable housing. Families often feel trapped and are concerned that they are not saving enough or at all for their futures. Is there a way out of this predicament, or is this just how it is? Has the age-old idea of the American Dream to financial freedom faded into more of a ruse than a reality? Let’s hope not.

I was born in November 1961. If I had been able to invest $1 a day, an average of $30.42 each month, into the Standard & Poor’s 500 (an index of 500 of the largest U.S. companies) every day of my life for a total investment of $21,020.22, and I reinvested the dividends, according to the S&P 500 calculator available on DQYDJ.com, my investment would have grown to over one million dollars (excluding taxes and expenses) by May 2019. And some say a dollar a day doesn’t go very far! One cannot invest directly in the S&P 500 Index; the investment would need to be made in vehicles, such as Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) or Mutual Funds, comprised of S&P 500 companies. There are no guarantees that the history of the S&P 500 will repeat itself; only time will tell.

My primary purpose at this stage of my career is to assist people from all walks of life, both young and old, in their quest to achieve and sustain financial well-being. For starting and seasoned investors alike, I am advocating investing a set amount of your savings, preferably 20% or more, regularly into indices comprising leading stocks, bonds, and real estate around the world. I recommend investing into passive indices such as the S&P 500 that include companies such as Amazon, Google, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Apple, Facebook, and many other globally recognized brands known for the quality of their goods and services. Additionally, I suggest diversifying into properties via real estate investment trusts, such as the Dow Jones U.S. Index and ex-U.S. Select REIT Index ETFs. These ETFs contain holdings in residential, office, retail, healthcare, industrial, and resort properties around the world. Investing into these types of real estate vehicles enables investors to have their money liberally dispersed ranging from Manhattan real estate to property in Shanghai, as well as oceanfront hotels in Hawaii, to public storage facilities in every state.

To balance ongoing and inevitable market volatility, I advise clients to apportion a certain percentage of their funds into fixed assets such as U.S. Treasuries for their safety and government guarantees, and a cross-section of corporate bonds according to their credit ratings. I recommend varying fixed-income durations to lessen the effects of interest rate changes and event risks. Lastly, investors may want to keep a certain amount of cash on hand to smooth out any unexpected expenditures or to capitalize on investment opportunities.

This brings us back to our talking point. What is a Digital Advisor in the first place? Robos, or Digital Advisors, are names used interchangeably to identify offerings in the investment advisory space. A Robo Advisor is an automated investment management solution provided by broker-dealers and registered investment advisors, which is built on advanced software that uses computerized algorithms to allocate client funds into selected model portfolios. Up until now, the traditional client-advisor arrangement typically required customers to be serviced either face-to-face with their advisor or called by phone. This process of engagement can be inefficient, ineffective, time-consuming, demanding, and expensive.  Robos, on the other hand, can invest and manage money for investors with or without any human interaction.

This is how the process works at our firm, 1DB.COM. 1DB’s digital advisory offering, ROBO, utilizes a hybrid approach to investing and wealth management. ROBO is the acronym 1DB uses to summarize key elements to our digital advisory initiative. Our platform blends human insight, ingenuity, and know-how with advanced computerized algorithms to efficiently allocate capital according to each person’s goals and preferences.

Initially, each customer goes online and clicks on the link to begin the user-friendly onboarding process. It takes a person just minutes to complete their application profile and risk-tolerance questionnaire.  Shortly after a customer’s identity has been verified and the account is opened, a confirmation affirming the completed status will be sent via email. The next step is to link their bank account to their ROBO account. At this point, each client will decide how much money they want to invest into their ROBO Advisor account and at what frequency. Once money has been deposited into the account, the funds will be allocated into selected investment models based on each client’s investment goal, risk profile, and time-frame. At any instance, clients may choose to add funds to their account automatically or manually.

When asked my opinion on how often or at what frequency a customer should invest, I tell them that I have my ROBO set to automatically invest my allotted savings weekly; this technique is called dollar-cost averaging. By investing smaller sums frequently, I can optimize the timing of my purchases as securities markets ebb and flow. From this point forward, each customer’s portfolio will be intermittently rebalanced, so their desired asset mix remains aligned with their goals and objectives.

1DB’s digital advisory initiative is riding the crest of today’s everything digital wave. ROBO enables clients to invest their hard-earned money into well-diversified asset classes such as equities, bonds, and real estate by way of low-cost exchange-traded funds. 1DB’s ROBO platform tracks all account activity, portfolio holdings, and performance results. Although past performance is no guarantee of future results, using history as a guide, I am confident that sound investments will profit and grow over the long term. The world is embarking on a new age of wealth creation. 1DB’s ROBO investment minimum for regular accounts is just $1. In the past, professional asset management required upwards to six figures or more. So, whether you are investing large sums or just beginning to save small amounts, ROBO will optimize and allocate your money according to your personal preferences. 1DB authored, and embodies, the 3Ps to Prosperity – People, Price, and Performance; at 1DB, People always come first, Price matters most, and Performance counts constantly. As Founder and CEO, our company’s aim is to add more value to investors and savers than ever before.

In closing, this project has been a 100% team effort. RobustWealth and Apex Clearing have been guiding lights and like-minded visionaries from concept to reality. RobustWealth, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor, who is 1DB’s online digital advisory platform service provider, architected and engineered 1DB’s ROBO. Apex Clearing, a Member of FINRA who provides clearing services for both 1DB and RobustWealth, built the APIs, provided infrastructure, and is the custodian of 1DB’s customer assets. Their collective intellect and steadfastness were crucial in developing and bringing this potentially game-changing investment solution to the world.  1st Discount Brokerage, Inc., Apex Clearing Corporation, and RobustWealth are not affiliated entities.

I envision a world of financial inclusion for everyone!

William Corley

Disclosure: Any views, thoughts, and opinions pertaining to the subject matter presented in this post are solely the author’s subjective opinions, and do not reflect the official policy or position of 1st Discount Brokerage, Inc. (1DB.COM). Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Any examples, outcomes, or assumptions expressed within this article are only hypothetical illustrations and should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Dollar-cost averaging, diversification, and rebalancing strategies do not assure a profit or protect against losses in declining markets. Asset allocation and diversification do not ensure or guarantee better performance and cannot eliminate the risk of investment losses. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of 1st Discount Brokerage, Inc. nor its personnel. 1st Discount Brokerage, Inc. is a licensed FINRA broker-dealer and Registered Investment Advisor. Securities and products offered through 1st Discount Brokerage, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC