Establishment of China's first robo-advisor lab signals the start of an overdue industry reshuffling

Tongji University Robo-Advisor Lab set to guide the sector as it moves into the next stage of development and into what is being termed as the China's financial robo-advisors era

SHANGHAI, June 19, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- The unveiling ceremony for China's first robo-advisor lab, jointly established by the Chinese Academy of Science and Technology Management (CASTM), Tongji University and Shanghai Timeasset Financial Information Service Co., Ltd. ("Timeasset Financial"), was held on May 23. The lab brought together a number of leading industry experts, among them, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and Tongji University vice chancellor Wu Zhiqiang who has been appointed as general advisor, CASTM executive associate dean and Germany-based Bosch chair professor Huo Jiazhen who serves as the director, and Timeasset Financial chairman Li Yangang and founder of the first artificial intelligence (AI)-based investment decision making system in China who serves as the deputy director. Executives from more than 50 financial institutions attended the unveiling ceremony to witness what is being termed as the beginning of China's financial robo-advisors era.

As an advanced form of automation, robo-advisors are part of a new financial service that has arisen over the past two years, which, in a narrow sense, means "a robot can help you allocate assets" and, in a broader sense, "the internet can help you with your asset management", in a way that is, in all respects, at variance with all existing online financial services. Despite what has been considered a late start, China's robo-advisor industry is now here, and the next step is for standards to be put in place, something that is urgently needed.

Professor Huo said at the ceremony that CASTM is a scientific and technological management research platform established within Tongji University under the support and guidance of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China and the Shanghai Municipal Committee of Science and Technology. Its management model is based on the one advocated by the Tongji SEM (School of Economics & Management, Tongji University) and the school itself will provide academic support for the lab. The lab's role is to bring together top-level tech professionals who will promote cooperation at all levels - production, education and research - with the mission of creating China's premier think tank platform for the sector. The professor further explained, "The goal in the establishment of the Robo-Advisor Lab is to cater to China's call to promote the deep integration of the internet-based AI and big data industries."

Speaking of the responsibilities of the lab after its completion, professor Huo said: "As a third-party think tank platform, the Robo-Advisor Lab will periodically publish robo-advisor industry whitepapers and reports after completing the evaluation and dynamic monitoring of industry developments and technology service providers. The lab also provides complete solutions and system integration services customized for the robo-advisor systems at financial institutions, in addition to career and technology training in the field."

Timeasset Financial, as a partner in the creation of the Tongji University Robo-Advisor Lab, has rich experience in the industry. Talking about the original intention of establishing the lab with Tongji University, the Timeasset chairman, Mr. Li, said, "The platform is composed of experts in science, education, research and industry, with the mission of driving industrial innovation and development. As the largest quantitative investment team in China's public offering fund industry, Timeasset Financial's AI investment decision system has moved beyond a traditional quantitative investment approach that relies solely on a single strategy, achieving the technical breakthrough of, what could be termed as, a "quantitative investment strategy in mass production". With the massive surge in AI technology, we should shoulder this mission which calls for innovation and working hand in hand with scientific research institutions with the goal of driving the healthy development of the industry."

At the same time, Mr. Li dissected the roadmap for China's robo-advisor sector. He said that the role of AI in the field of finance manifests itself principally in four fields: intelligent language processing, financial search engines, robo-advisors and intelligent investment decision-making. The robo-advisor business originated in the United States and is already quite mature there. The United States is now moving towards the high-end of AI in terms of investment decision-making, much the same as the road taken by the robo-advisor sector.

In his view, China's robo-advisor industry is in the ascendant, however has meandered in "conceptual hype" and "copycat approaches" for the past two years. When talking about long-term development, AI-driven investment decision-making technology is the industry's core competitiveness and what needs to be focused on if China's investment institutions are to compete with their overseas rivals. The establishment of the Robo-Advisor Lab has already played an important role in enhancing the overall competitiveness of the sector.