Monday, July 17, 2017

Robot advisers to rock investment world; Govts must invest in 4th industrial revolution; Federer's 8th Wimbledon crown

1 Robot advisers to rock investment world (Goh Eng Yeow in Straits Times) Robo advisers may prove the biggest game changer in the world of investing, playing a key role in shaping people's financial future.

Robo advisers (robos for short) offer a cheap, automatic version of the services provided by an expensive financial adviser to pick the stocks and bonds you invest your savings in. They are able to do so by using a computer which can perform a much more sophisticated job than its human equivalent - at the touch of a button.

And if they become a part of our lives, we will find that rather than try to figure out by ourselves which stocks to buy or sell, we can use robos to get a diversified exposure to thousands of global stocks and bonds - and if all goes well, end up financially better as well.

So far, robos are largely confined to much larger markets such as the USs where start-ups are beginning to assert themselves - disrupting the space now occupied by the traditional fund management industry.

In a recent article, Business Insider observed that the global assets managed by robos reached $200 billion last year and may hit as much as $600 billion this year. The journal also estimated that if this pace of growth continues unabated, robos will grow their assets to a whopping $8.1 trillion by 2020.

2 Govts must invest in 4th industrial revolution (Larry Elliott in The Guardian) The first industrial revolution was about water and steam. The second was about electricity and mass production. The third harnessed electronics and information technology to automate production. Now it is the turn of artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, 3D printing and quantum computing to transform the global economy.

“The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent”, the WEF said. “When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace.”

But if this really is the dawning of a new age, it seems somebody forgot to tell the people with the power to turn ideas into products. The multinational companies that bankroll the WEF’s annual meeting in Davos are awash with cash. Profits are strong. The return on capital is the best it has been for the best part of two decades. Yet investment is weak. Companies would rather save their cash or hand it back to shareholders than put it to work.

One possible explanation for this corporate caution is that businesses think bad times are just around the corner. If innovation is going on apace (which it is) and companies have cash in the bank (which they do), one solution is simply to wait for the moment when entrepreneurs rediscover what Keynes called their animal spirits.

Another would be for governments to say enough is enough. If, despite the lowest ever borrowing costs and repeated cuts in corporate taxation, the private sector won’t invest in the fourth industrial 
revolution, the public sector will. 

3 Federer’s 8th Wimbledon (Martyn Herman in Johannesburg Times) Ruthless Roger Federer thrashed suffering Croat Marin Cilic 6-3 6-1 6-4 to become the first man to win eight Wimbledon singles crowns on Sunday, five years after landing his seventh.

The Swiss maestro, appearing in his 11th Wimbledon final, was challenged early on but once he broke a nervous Cilic in the fifth game of the opening set the match became a no-contest. Not that Federer was concerned as, 23 days before his 36th birthday, the father of four became the oldest men's singles champion at Wimbledon in the professional era -- doing so without dropping a set throughout a glorious fortnight.

For Cilic, his first final on Centre Court became a nightmare broadcast to hundreds of millions around the globe. After a reasonably solid start he became discombobulated and after falling 3-0 behind in the second set he slumped on his courtside chair and could be seen sobbing as a physio and tournament referee attended him.

For a moment it looked as though the final might end in a retirement for the first time since 1911. Given sympathetic cheers by the Federer-favouring 15,000 crowd, the 28-year-old managed to regain his composure but there was no chance of Federer letting up as he accelerated towards a record-extending 19th grand slam title.

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