Who has most to gain from the rise of the robots?

The people investing in robotics are the ones with the most to gain, says Merryn Somerset Webb – old people and women.


Women and the elderly have the most to gain from robotics

We are often asked about the best ways to invest in the rise of the robots (you can read past articles on the matter here, and watch my last interview with Jim Mellon with his top suggestions).

But just as interesting as how to invest in robotics is who is investing (which we could see as a proxy for who has the highest hopes for the sector).

There's a fascinating article in today's FT which tells us about the Nikko Asset Management Global Robotics Fund, which was launched in Japan last August. At the time, the fund's creators expected that their investors would be young men. Not so. Instead, their distributors are telling them that the money is coming from "women and older investors." He doesn't go on to speculate why. But it makes perfect sense to me.

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Japan is a fast-ageing society (although the fertility rate there has risen slightly recently) and one of the great hopes of the robotics sector is that it will soonbe able to completely transform the experience of old age. Robots will help people walk, stop them falling out of bed, get them out of bed, exercise with them and even keep loneliness at bay. So why wouldn't Japan's old people want to hurry things along?

The same goes for women. In Japan, care for the elderly still falls very much on women, as does housework of all kinds. So why wouldn't they too be hoping for not just the Walk Assist robot, but also the further rise of the domestic robot?

And as for young men, if the current scare stories about robots causing mass unemployment across the world have any grains of truth in them they are among the groups that will suffer the most in Japan. Presumably that's not something they would want to hurry along.

For a lot more on this sort of thing, click here to read our free report on investing in robotics and start receiving our free Exponential Investor email.

Merryn Somerset Webb

Merryn Somerset Webb started her career in Tokyo at public broadcaster NHK before becoming a Japanese equity broker at what was then Warburgs. She went on to work at SBC and UBS without moving from her desk in Kamiyacho (it was the age of mergers).

After five years in Japan she returned to work in the UK at Paribas. This soon became BNP Paribas. Again, no desk move was required. On leaving the City, Merryn helped The Week magazine with its City pages before becoming the launch editor of MoneyWeek in 2000 and taking on columns first in the Sunday Times and then in 2009 in the Financial Times

Twenty years on, MoneyWeek is the best-selling financial magazine in the UK. Merryn was its Editor in Chief until 2022. She is now a senior columnist at Bloomberg and host of the Merryn Talks Money podcast -  but still writes for Moneyweek monthly. 

Merryn is also is a non executive director of two investment trusts – BlackRock Throgmorton, and the Murray Income Investment Trust.