ETF fund manager bets on the robot boom

Robots 2.0, Automation Implications

Artificial intelligence isn’t just a hot topic in Hollywood.

While horror robot movie “M3gan” racks up millions at the winter box office, the ETF industry is seeing opportunities from the controversial technology.

According to ROBO Global CIO William Studebaker, the economic benefits could be staggering.

“You’re going to see a tsunami effect in terms of prices coming down as a result of deflationary pressures from these technologies,” he told CNBC’s “ETF Edge” on Wednesday. “It’s in industrial manufacturing, health care, AG [agriculture], security and surveillance … and others.”

Studebaker manages the ROBO Global Robotics and Automation Index ETF, which is up 12% so far this year. The exchange-traded fund’s holdings include IPG Photonic, Zebra Technologies, Rockwell Automation and Teradyne.

“I have high confidence this is going to be very additive to our economies globally, and importantly, just generating new growth,” he added.

Rise of the robots and jobs

There’s widespread concern AI will come at the expense of jobs. But Studebaker contends that risk is overblown.

“If you look at the companies and countries that have the highest utilization of automation — Guess what? They have the lowest unemployment rates,” he noted.

The International Federation of Robotics reported a milestone last year. It found a record number of robots were installed over the course of a year, which is a 22% increase from the pre-pandemic record set in 2018.

Studebaker suggests the robot boom is still in its early innings.

“If you think about the number of data scientists and people that are trained in AI globally, it’s a de minimis figure,” Studebaker said. “[The AI surge is] going to take a long time for this to happen.”

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