Robot Revolution: Access the global mega-trend with ETFs | BetaShares Insights

Robot Revolution: Is this the great global mega-trend of the 21st century?

BY David Bassanese | 19 September 2018
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Robot Revolution

Thanks to rapid technological advances, the global robotics and artificial intelligence (A.I.) sectors stand poised to significantly boost global economic productivity and redress worker shortages caused by population ageing over coming decades.  As this note will demonstrate, moreover, the robot revolution also offers the growth potential to reward investors who tap into this emerging global investment mega-trend.

The world faces looming labour shortages

Contrary to fears that “robots will take our jobs”, the reality is that the global economy faces labour shortfalls in coming years due to both population ageing and declining birthrates.

According to United Nations projections, for example, the working-age labour force will shrink in several major countries and regions such as Japan, China and Europe over the next decade – and will barely move higher even in the United States.  At the same time, the UN projects that the ratio of older citizens to those of working age will broadly double in many advanced economies – along with China – over the next few decades.

Put simply, without dealing with this demographic challenge, living standards would be threatened.

Robots to the rescue

Thankfully, necessity is often the mother of invention, with rapid advances in the use of robotics (essentially programmable mechanical devices) producing a widening array of goods and services with minimal human input.  A.I.  (otherwise known as “machine learning”) takes these advances even further, by effectively teaching robots to teach themselves, and thereby enabling them to undertake tasks of ever greater complexity.

Indeed, robotics and A.I. technologies are increasingly being used in a broadening array of industries, such as(1):

  • Manufacturing: Companies such as Japan’s FANUC Corp. are producing robots to undertake large scale manufacturing assembly work.  According to The Boston Consulting Group, one quarter of US manufacturing operations will be automated by 2025, compared with only around one tenth in 2015.
  • Defence: Companies such as AeroVironment are developing drones and wheeled robots that can undertake various reconnaissance missions without risk to human life. The US Army estimates the use of robots could allow around a 25% reduction in the required size of combat teams by 2030.
  • Health Care: Companies such as Intuitive Surgical have developed robotic devices that allow surgeons to undertake once difficult operations – in areas such as heart and brain surgery – with greater precision and less patient risk than ever before.
  • Transport: A.I. facilitated self-driving cars promise to revolutionise the transport industry, with some estimates suggesting they could account for 15% of car sales worldwide by 2030.
  • Agriculture: Robotic planting and harvesting machines are also anticipated to transform the agricultural sector.
  • Personal services: In some health care facilities, robots are now providing patients the medicine and care they require on a 24-hour basis.

Demand for robotics and A.I. is growing rapidly

As would be expected, companies engaged in robotics and A.I. have been enjoying a strong upturn in demand that is anticipated to continue for some time to come.   According to Tractica Research, the global robotics industry had sales revenue around US$52 billion in 2017, and is forecast to reach $US500 billion by 2025, implying compound annual growth of 32% p.a.

Additionally, Tractica forecasts revenue from A.I. software will grow from US$0.6 billion in 2016 to US$36.8 billion by 2025, implying compound annual growth over this 9-year period of 56.8%.

Note projections may differ from actual outcomes.

The BetaShares Global Robotics and Artificial Intelligence ETF (ASX Code: RBTZ)

So how can investors tap into this emerging global investment mega-trend?  Thanks to the advent of exchange traded funds (ETFs) on the ASX, it’s never been easier.

The BetaShares Global Robotics and Artificial Intelligence ETF (ASX Code: RBTZ), for example, aims to track the performance of an Index(2) that provides exposure to leading global companies that derive a significant portion of their revenues from robotics and A.I. related activities (3) or demonstrate that these industries are a primary business focus.  Each company must also have a minimum market capitalisation of US $100m.

As seen in the chart below, the Index of companies which the RBTZ ETF aims to track has enjoyed compound annualised growth of 22.1% over the past five years, reflecting the strong underlying demand that has been emerging for robotic and A.I. technologies.

Performance of RBTZ’s Underlying Index: June 2010 to August 2018 

Source: BetaShares, Bloomberg. Index performance based on accumulation index (reinvestment of dividends). Past performance is not an indicator of future performance.

RBTZ: A good source of diversification for Australian investors, especially those already invested in technology

Given the relatively low exposure of Australia’s sharemarket to technology companies, RBTZ provides a handy source of diversification and growth potential for Australian investors’ portfolios.

What’s more, the RBTZ ETF is an especially good complement and source of technology diversification for investors that may already hold a more traditional global technology exposure such as the BetaShares NASDAQ-100 ETF (ASX Code: NDQ), which has a large exposure to US based informational technology companies.  The Index which RBTZ aims to track, by contrast, has only around a 33% exposure to the information technology sector and a larger 47% share to industrials.  It also has a relatively large 43% exposure to Japanese companies, compared to only a 33% share to US companies.

    1. For data sources, see our RBTZ Product Brochure.
    2. Indxx Global Robotics & Artificial Intelligence Thematic Index.
    3. Industrial Robotics and Automation, Non-Industrial Robots, Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Vehicles and Drones.

“Indxx” is a service mark of Indxx LLC and has been licensed for use for certain purposes by the Responsible Entity. The BetaShares Global Robotics and Artificial Intelligence ETF is not sponsored, endorsed, sold or promoted by Indxx. Indxx LLC makes no representation or warranty, express or implied, to the owners of the Fund or any member of the public regarding the advisability of investing in securities generally or in the Fund particularly. Indxx LLC has no obligation to take the needs of the Responsible Entity or the unitholders of the Fund into consideration in determining, composing or calculating the underlying index. Indxx LLC is not responsible for and has not participated in the determination of the timing, amount or pricing of the Fund units to be issued or in the determination or calculation of the equation by which the Fund units are to be converted into cash. Indxx LLC has no obligation or liability in connection with the administration, marketing or trading of the Fund.

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