Wells Fargo to roll out pilot robo adviser in first half of 2017

A Wells Fargo sign is seen outside a banking branch in New York July 13, 2012. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wells Fargo & Co’s wealth management business plans to roll out a pilot version of a robo adviser service during the first half of 2017, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

Robo advisers are computer software programs that manage client money using algorithms and computer-generated portfolios rather than traditional human brokers. They are popular with investors who want to pay lower fees or prefer digital options.

Wells Fargo Advisors spokeswoman Rachelle Rowe said the bank has not decided whether it will build the technology in-house or partner with a third-party robo adviser. But, she said, Wells aims to have a pilot version available for a small number of clients around the end of the first quarter next year.

Reuters reported in May that the bank would announce an investment and strategic partnership tied to a robo adviser product for its clients in the second quarter, which ended in June.

Rowe said she could not provide a timeline on when a model for the service would be announced.

Wells Fargo released a study on Wednesday that showed less than half of investors have heard of the term robo adviser, and just 5 percent have used one.

News of the bank’s plan to release the service was reported earlier Wednesday by Bloomberg.

Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts; Editing by Alan Crosby