The Digitalization of Financial Advisors: the trend of robo-advisors

Robo-advisors are digital advice platforms that provide automated, algorithm-driven investment services without any human supervision. They are often very inexpensive and require very low opening balances compared to human wealth managers.

Since the technology behind robo-advisors is not new, given the fact that automated portfolio allocation existed in the early 2000s already, the innovation lies in the fact that they do not require intermediation from any traditional financial advisors anymore. 

You are probably wondering how robo-advisors work. They first ask information about the client’s financial situation, risk-profiling and investment goals through an online survey and then use data to offer advice and to invest the client’s assets. Specifically, many of them offer a variety of investment-related services that can be considered as an improvement from traditional investment banking, such as an easy account setup, attentive customer service, comprehensive education, and most importantly low fees.

In order to develop a profitable robo-advisor is crucial to think of an efficient revenue model, which basically indicates how the digital advice platform is going to make money. The main source of revenues is the management “wrap” fee based on assets under management (AUM), which is usually lower if compared to traditional advisors.  Apart from it, robo-advisors can make money also through the interest earned on cash balances, which becomes a significant source only if there are many users, through payments for order flow and by marketing targeted financial products and services to their clients.

There are many examples of robo-advisors that can be mentioned. However, the best-in-class robo advisors nowadays are Betterment and Wealthfront that have the significant competitive upside of having respectively no and low ($500) account minimums if compared to other competitors. Whereas in terms of AUM, the major player is Vanguard Personal Advisor Services, with an amount of assets under management equal to $170 Bn. 

The main advantages of these digital financial advisors are the fact that they are more accessible and efficient then traditional human advisors. Users can access their services 24/7, as long as they have an Internet connection and can operate on their balance within a few clicks in the comfort of their home. Furthermore, by eliminating human labor, they also represent a low-cost alternative to traditional advisors. They offer the same services at a fraction of the cost, charging an annual flat fee that ranges from 0.2% to 0.5% of clients’ total account balances. This fee is definitely convenient especially if compared to the typical rate of 1% to 2% charged by a human financial advisor. Finally, robo-advisors require significantly less capital to get started, from hundreds to thousand depending on the users’ needs and on which digital advisor they decide to opt for. This represents a huge incentive for potential users to access their services considering the fact that human advisors typically require an initial minimum capital of $100,000 to invest.

However, robo-advisors have their downsides as well. Given the newness of this phenomenon, they have been often criticized for lacking in sophistication and empathy. Moreover, they limit the options that you can make as an individual investor since users cannot purchase individual stocks or bonds nor choose which mutual funds or EFTs they invest in.

Robo-advisors are becoming increasingly popular among investors, but only the future will tell whether this is a temporary phenomenon or if it is a trend that is going to stay.

Importance Of Assistive Tech Innovations

In the past decade there have been many new advances in assistive technology. A staggering one billion people are benefiting from an assistive technology! Assistive technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that improves the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities. China, United States, Germany, Japan and South Korea are the five main origins of innovation in assistive technology as patent data filings show. 

Some well-known examples of such technology include workSmart gloves, driverless cars, and robotic arms. One particular revolutionary assistive technology that should be highlighted is eSight! It consists of electronic glasses that were recently released and allow the visually impared to “see”. Visually impaired students traditionally use a combination of braille, audio books, and talking calculators as assistive devices in the classroom but eSight is hoping to add their revolutionary glasses to that list of solutions. eSight claims that the electronic glasses let the legally blind actually see, without the need for any surgery. In particular the glasses contain a high-speed, high-definition camera that captures everything the user is looking at, and then algorithms enhance the video feed and display it on two OLED screens in front of the user’s eyes, in a format that is palatable for the eye.

 This could obviously revolutionize the classroom experience for visually impaired students. Thanks to advances in assistive tech, these students can now view the board from any seat, easily read from books, tablets, and computers, move independently between classes, and participate in on and off campus events, which is truly remarkable! 

Soon we will hopefully see more integrated technology and  hopefully a more inclusive and better world be realised.

Innovative New Social Networking App: Clubhouse


The latest must-have social networking app is called Clubhouse. It’s an iPhone-only app and it is described as a “new type of network based on voice”. It recently exploded in popularity after Tesla CEO Elon Musk appeared on the app, by joining the Good Time show, to talk about Mars, memes, and becoming a multiplanet species.

Since it’s voice-only and doesn’t use your camera, Clubhouse hopes you won’t worry about “eye contact, what you’re wearing, or where you are”. It seems like a dream for all the people that want to do other things in the meantime, but looking just around the corner there is a trick: you have to be invited to join by an existing member. Real world elitism, but make it virtual.


In order to join, an existing Clubhouse user has to send an invite from their app giving you access to set up an account. If you are invited, you’ll see a link texted to your phone number, directing you to a sign-up page in the app.

Clubhouse users can’t just send an invite to anyone who wants to join, however. Existing users only have two invites available at first.

The conversation room is just like a conference call, but with some people on the call talking, and most listening in. And, just like a phone call, once the conversation is over, the room is closed. Unlike Twitch – where live streamed videos stay on the platform for people to return to and watch – the live audio-chats had in conversation rooms disappear. 

When you join, you select topics of interest, like tech, books, business or health. The more information you give the app about your interests, the more conversation rooms and individuals the app will recommend you follow or join.

You can join the room by tapping on it – they’re all open for you to hop in or out. Clubhouse wants users to explore different conversations. You enter each room as an audience member. If you want to talk, you “raise your hand”, and then the speakers can choose to invite you up. Clubhouse rooms are often hosted by experts, celebrities, venture capitalists, journalists, and so on. You can also create a room of your own.


While censorship, suppression and government control is rife in China, Clubhouse managed to fly under the radar of China’s firewall for several months, unlike other social media networks Instagram and Facebook. 

It became very popular, attracting large numbers of Chinese users and giving them a rare chance to “binge free expression”, and engage in discussion on topics that are usually blocked on the mainland, including Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

In other words, Chinese users, largely tech investors and professionals, are using the space to talk about topics that would otherwise be censored back home, such as democracy.”

The New Age of Fashion: Sustainability in the Fashion Industry

As more attention has been recently drawn to sustainability issues, the fashion industry has come under the spotlight. The industry of fashion represents one of the largest consumer industries and yet it is heavily polluting, creating concern around its practices. Its negative impact on the planet is mainly caused by extensive water use, emissions, use of chemicals and generation and disposal of waste. The fast fashion industry, in particular, creates a lot of waste due to its business model characterized by quicker turnaround of styles, increased number of collections and lower prices. 

During the event “The New Age of Fashion” that was held on the 17th of February organized by BSI and Green Light for Business, the topics of sustainable fashion and greenwashing were discussed. The presence of three guests made us understand better what sustainability in fashion really means and how sustainable brands are created and operate in the fashion sector. 

Armadioverde – Francesco Minghini

The first guest was Francesco Minghini, head of Marketing and Sales for Europe at Armadioverde, the number one fashion recommerce in Italy. Armadioverde was founded in 2015 by two parents as a solution to the concern that their baby was growing faster than his clothes. They opened physical retail shops with the aim of swapping kids garments but they soon noticed that their business model was not scalable. They then transformed Armadioverde to an online platform, today present in Italy and France. The idea behind the fast-growing business is simple but effective. They collect clothes that are not used anymore free of charge and they separate those that are in optimal conditions, which are meant to be sold on their website, to those that are damaged, which are donated to ONG Humana. In exchange, they grant digital “stars”, which can be used to purchase other people’s second-hand clothes on their website. 

Armadioverde is an example of a Circular Economy-based platform that provides an innovative, sustainable alternative that reduces the consumption and environmental impact of fast fashion. As a matter of fact, this industry generates excessive waste since a large amount of clothes is being disposed of before ever being worn out. Armadioverde provides a solution to close the loop and give a second life to used garments and therefore can be considered as an excellent example of business in the sustainable fashion industry. 

Mila.Vert – Tina Logar Bauchmüller

Tina Logar Bauchmüller is the founder and designer of Mila.Vert, a fashion brand that produces timeless and sustainable women’s garments. Tina created the business in 2015 in Slovenia with the aim of making desirable clothing and avoiding the ethical and environmental issues that the fashion industry represents. Her brand is a symbol of empowerment, passion and kindness, which are the values embodied in both the design and production of clothes. As a matter of fact, Mila.Vert produces clothing in collaboration with two family-owned sewing companies and a knitting studio, all located in Slovenia. In this way, they ensure a transparent supply chain that guarantees both ethical and quality standards.

Tina has explained us that their design process is slow and intended to make timeless and quality clothes. They use environmentally friendly fabrics, and they have a limited supply chain. Some garments are partially handmade and all of them are made-to-order, which increases production times (5 to 15 days) but ensures a more sustainable approach to fashion. Other best practices of Mila.Vert include the use of organic cotton that reduces the usage of water, having a custom-fit production to customer’s measurements and producing 100% cruelty-free and PETA-approved clothes. Finally, she has expressed her will to use fabric leftovers to substitute plastic-based packaging.

Wråd – Matteo Ward 

Our last guest was Matteo Ward, Bocconi alumnus and co-founder of Wråd, an innovative start-up and design company dedicated to sustainable innovation and social change. Before co-founding Wråd, Matteo had experience in the world of fashion as District Manager at Abercrombie&Fitch. He is a sustainability advocate in the fashion industry: he is member of an advisory board at United Nations and member of Fashion Revolution Education team and Fashion Revolution Italy. Moreover, he is also a Ted and Keynote speaker.

Matteo has talked about greenwashing, which is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are environmentally sound. Greenwashing deceives consumers into thinking that a company’s products are environmentally friendly or that follow sustainable standards. Nowadays greenwashing has become common practice in many companies, and for this reason it is important to understand the red flags that indicate greenwashing. In particular, some signals might be vagueness in language and wording, having too many visuals that refer extremely to greenery, promoting lies and unsubstantiated environmental claims and trading off benefits against some other bad practices. Although improvements in sustainability in fashion, Matteo believes that there is still a long way to go until the fashion industry can finally claim the sustainability card.

The Sustainable Age

As the long-used industrial model of “take, make and waste” based on linearity is no longer viable because of natural resources scarcity and increase in industrial waste, a new solution has to be found in the fashion industry. New models based on circularity have started to emerge and reusing and recycling garments is becoming a widespread practice. Moreover, consumers need to be reeducated to reduce consumption and source more ethical clothes. Fashion claims for a new age: the sustainable age.


On July 29th the leaders of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google (namely Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai) were summoned to Washington to testify at the US House of Representatives’ Antitrust Subcommittee. There, Democrats and Republicans confronted the executives for using their market power to crush competitors and to gain sky-high profits, data and customers.

The main goal of the hearing was to determine whether the companies have too much market power. To do so, the subcommittee members presented millions of documents, including some once private messages and emails of the CEOs, which highlight how the tech companies have become too big and powerful, how they threaten rivals, consumers and, in some cases, even democracy itself.

The heads of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google weren’t completely prepared for serious, on-topic questions about their operations. Let’s see more in detail which questions were asked to each CEO.


Apple CEO Tim Cook was accused of using data collected on the AppStore to see which are the most downloaded apps. After doing so, Apple creates a new app which is nearly identical and eventually, deletes the competitor app from the AppStore to get more downloads.


Among the several questions asked to Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, the most relevant ones regard the manipulation of the research results on Google. Google is accused of showing Google’s partners’ websites as first results. Furthermore, Google was said to be guilty of stealing content from other websites. This is what happened with Yelp, whose restaurant reviews were ”stolen” from Google. As soon as Yelp complained, Google threatened to no longer show Yelp in its search results.

Sundar Pichai was also asked about the control that users have over the use of their information, given the fact that users have no choice in sharing their personal data, just like with Facebook.


The main allegation to Amazon is having so much market share (47% of US e-commerce) to force any seller to sell through its portal. Thanks to its power, Amazon can force small suppliers out of businesses by making similar products cheaper than they could. Bezos said that this behavior is against Amazon’s policy, but he also said he could not guarantee that the policy had not been violated.


Mark Zuckerberg was questioned about its apparent support of disinformation as a way to make money, but the main line of attack against Facebook was highlighting the wat it has bought rivals to secure market dominance, for example WhatsApp and Instagram.

The ultimate goal of the House Subcommittee on Antitrust is producing new antitrust legislation, which is obviously not good news for the tech giants. The hearing marked a significant milestone for the House’s investigation, but we are still far from the finale. The next step will probably be the Subcommittee’s final report, which will be released sometime in August or September. 

Do you think Big Tech companies have become too powerful and should be broken up? Let us know in the comments.

Martina Mascaro

Micro mobility and sharing economy – Google updates that you might find helpful

Living in a big city can be quite stressful as population grows at a faster rate and the need to move residents through existing transportation networks becomes more pressing. 

In this dynamic world, micro mobility and sharing services have the potential to better connect people with public transit, reduce reliance on private cars, all while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the first companies who has recognized this potential is Google. In fact it has launched a new feature within the navigation app that is very helpful when choosing the right combination of transport to get to a place as quickly as possible.

The new feature allows users to combine several modes of transport, including ridesharing and cycling.

When using Google Maps, you’ll see how to reach your destination by only using public transportation just like before, but you’ll also see options that add in ridesharing and biking in a Mixed Modes section. If you pick a ridesharing route, you will also be given information about the cost of the ride, traffic and expected waiting time. You can also choose your favorite provider.

If you prefer biking, the app can suggest specific cycling routes or the closest bus stop that you can reach by bike to save time. 

Google maps also has an option for people who prefer scooters. One year ago, Lime and google Maps teamed up extending the reach of micro mobility to one of the world’s most popular GPS mapping services. In cities where Lime operates, riders are able to locate nearby Lime scooters, pedal bikes and e-assist bikes directly from Google Maps.

The group who will benefit the most from this update is commuters: data reports that in big cities the use of electric scooters reduces commuting time by more than 10 minutes.

Another important feature is the one displaying crowdedness predictions, which is extremely relevant since keeping distance is very important nowadays and excessive crowdedness might prevent us from being able to use public transportation. 

Further possibilities that are likely to become reality in the future are options based on speed, price and carbon footprint.

Google is not the only company trying to appeal transit riders: Uber, Bolt and Citymapper are other tech giants involved in the same activity. However Google is strategically well positioned, even though it is not a transport operator, thanks to the data and the resources it disposes of.

The new features are constantly being updated in order to face the society’s developing need for convenient, quick and environmentally friendly ways of taking journeys across city centers. The increasing visibility of scooters alongside cycling and other transit options in Google Maps will certainly encourage more active and sustainable ways to travel and shows how society is rapidly shifting its preferences on transportation.

Martina Mascaro