Danske Bank's wealth management robot now has 11,500 clients

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(Bloomberg) -- In just over half a year, Danske Bank A/S has attracted 11,500 clients to an investment service provided by a robot. Denmark’s biggest financial firm now hopes the project will help it expand its wealth management operations.

The robot is called June. It targets retail clients and small businesses that normally wouldn’t have the resources to work out what to do with their surplus cash. And with Denmark holding the world record in negative rates -- the country’s been below zero since 2012, longer than any other place on Earth -- the bank argues it makes sense to redirect deposits now earning nothing.

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Customers encountering June for the first time are asked how much they want to invest (the limit is 1 million kroner, or about $160,000 per person). They then need to choose a risk category. If they’re not sure, Danske provides a short test. That’s followed by questions on a preferred investing time horizon, as well as income, spending, assets and liabilities. Then June provides a recommendation on which of five funds to invest in, based on an algorithm. The whole process takes about 10 minutes.

“The idea with June is basically to help democratize investment,” Jakob Beck Thomsen, Danske’s product chief for June in Copenhagen, said in a phone interview. He also notes that “more than half the people using June are below 40. Normally, with our more conventional investing services, the average age is above 60.”

Clients are offered access to exchange-traded funds, with varying distributions of stocks and bonds, and different geographic spreads, depending on their risk appetite.

Thomsen says a lot of clients are now joining Danske via June. He also says the robot “is not a job killer. We’re basically looking to expand our wealth business and this is a complement to our existing business.”

But the kind of automation June offers is set to spread throughout Danske. Thomsen says that “in terms of the technology, a lot of the things you see in June, you’ll start seeing across other areas of the bank as well.”

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