Technology is improving and making it easier for us to access all sorts of services. As big data, machine learning, and AI rapidly progress, there are many exciting opportunities on the horizon. One industry that has been shaken up by advances in tech is that of finance.
Cryptocurrencies, challenger banks, and peer-to-peer lending have changed the way we think about banking and investing. One other such newcomer to the market is robo advisers.
What is a Robo Adviser?
Robo adviser or robo advisor? Although the name ‘robo adviser’ sounds like something out of a dodgy 80s sci-fi, it’s actually a fairly new and innovative technology.
Also known as online advisors or automated investing, it’s essentially software and algorithms that manage investment portfolios. The exact scope of this management depends somewhat on the service and provider you choose. However, generally, they’ll take care of selecting investments, rebalancing your account, and placing trades.
…it’s essentially software and algorithms that manage investment portfolios
Once you’ve invested your money using a robo adviser, the intuitive software will then automatically make changes to align it with your targets. This makes them an appealing prospect for those looking for a no-fuss way of getting into investing. Of course, using this method to manage your money means you lose the face-to-face contact of having a human investment adviser.
How do Robo Advisers Work?
There’s no one size fits all approach to robo advising. The various companies that offer such services differ in their approach, how involved they are, and whether there’s a human element or not. However, there are some aspects of robo advisers that are common across most platforms:
You enter details of your current financial situation, goals, how long you want to invest for, and the amount of risk you’re willing to take.
With these details, the algorithms that power the platform will look at various financial products that match your aspirations.
They rely on statistical analysis and key financial figures to come up with a suitable investment strategy that it presents you with.
Many platforms, particularly those based in the US, will base your portfolio on ETF (exchange-traded funds).
Depending on how much autonomy you allow, the robo adviser will then manage aspects of the investment process.
Some services will offer you the chance to get more involved with the decision-making process, while others will take the reins for you. Your choice of robo adviser will largely determine this.
The Pros and Cons of Robo Advisers
As with all types of technology and investing, there are various pros and cons to using robo advisers. We’ve listed out a few below:
Robo adviser pros
They’re convenient. If you’re new to investing or don’t want the hassle of closely managing your finances, robo advisers can make things incredibly easy. Once you’ve set your parameters, they’ll take care of the finer details and make adjustments for you.
It’s easy to diversify. Robo advisers draw on a wide variety of assets from around the globe. They’ll spread your investment across multiple sectors and industries based on what makes financial sense rather than sentiment.
They’re no-nonsense. Most of the popular robo adviser services offer a clear and straightforward user experience. All you need to do is enter your details and goals, and the website or app will take care of the rest.
Robo adviser cons
They’re still in their infancy. This is relatively new technology, and few of the companies that provide the service have established themselves. It can be daunting to invest your savings in such a manner.
The lack the human touch. Many investors like to have the reassurance of someone telling them where their money is going and why. It’s good to be able to ask questions and get feedback on how your investment is going.
There are alternatives. Although the fees charged by robo advisers are comparatively quite low, there are still other cheap options available. Not all advisers charge extortionate prices.
Robo Adviser Performance
Because the technology is relatively new, it’s hard to get a firm grasp on how they perform in the long-term. Additionally, there aren’t that many established platforms in the UK, and each offers slightly different features and services. Finally, there are different levels of risk when it comes to strategy, making it difficult to compare like to like. However, with this in mind, we can look at how some robo advisers performed during 2018 to get some idea.
…many robo adviser portfolios out-performed ready-made ones from fund supermarkets.
According to the Financial Times, investors with the lowest-risk portfolios would have made better gains using a simple cash ISA. Similarly, the best-performing high-risk portfolios performed worse than if you’d invested in a fund tracking the FTSE 100, albeit with less volatility.
Obviously, this seems disappointing on the surface, but it’s hard to gauge such performance in the long-term. And, on the plus side, many robo adviser portfolios out-performed ready-made ones from fund supermarkets.
The Best Robo Advisers of 2020
If you think that a robo adviser might be the right choice for you investing, we’ve put together a list of some of the best services currently available. We look at their pros and cons, and what it is we like about them:
MoneyFarm – Editor’s Choice
Good choice for both pension and ISA investing.
Established since 2011, launched in UK in 2016.
Recently upped their minimum investment from £1 to £500.
Fees for portfolios under £20,000 are 0.7%
Why we like it:
MoneyFarm has established itself as one of Europe’s top robo advisers. Since its launch in Italy in 2011, it has grown to manage large sums of money across the continent. It’s simple to get set up with, offering a straightforward survey which gives you a variety of recommendations for your investment. The service is regulated by the FCA (financial conduct authority) and therefore reviews the suitability of your portfolio and recommends if you need to change. Originally, you could start investing with as little as £1, but the company recently changed this to £500, which is still lower than some.
Diverse range of investments and global ETFs.
Excellent customer service.
Options for managing portfolio.
If you have below £500, you’ll need to contribute at least £100 per month
Why we like it:
Nutmeg was the first robo adviser in the UK and has grown to have a large customer base with over 60,000 customers investing more than £1 billion. They offer a good selection of stocks and shares, as well as general investment accounts and a pension fund. Fees range from 0.25% – 0.45% on fixed allocation portfolios and 0.35% to 0.75% on fully managed portfolios. The company is known for its excellent customer service and easy-to-use interface.
Great service for newcomers to the market, with investments starting from £1.
Backed by some experts in the finance industry.
Option to Skype chat with a human financial adviser.
Fairly new to the market, so difficult to judge performance.
If you’re new to investing and only have small amounts to get you started, Evestor is a really good choice of robo investor. After asking you a series of questions about your financial situation and goals, it will present you with three portfolios to choose from. You can pick from an ISA, SIPP or general investment account, mostly using tracker funds rather than ETFs. The fees are pretty reasonable too; ranging from 0.50% to 0.52% depending on the level of risk.
Gives the option to engage with human financial advisers at any time.
Offers a variety of goals for you to invest towards.
Numerous types of accounts on offer.
Minimum investment of £5000.
No risk profiling.
Why we like it:
Netwealth is a relatively new company to the market, launching in 2016. However, they have some really strong options when it comes to investing. When you open an account, you’ll be asked what kind of investment you want to make, whether it’s saving towards a goal, for a pension, or just general savings. You’re then given a selection of accounts including ISAs, JISAs, and general investment accounts. One of the big draws of Netwealth is that you can also talk to a human adviser at any time. Unfortunately, you’ll need to start off with at least £5000, which makes the service unsuitable for some.
Fully managed service with relatively low fees.
Transparent service with no lock-in period.
No fixed allocation profile option, only fully managed.
Minimum investment of £10,000.
Why we like it:
One of the fastest digital wealth management companies in Europe is Scalable Capital. They offer fully managed and globally diversified portfolios that attempt to maximise returns and reduce risk. With over €100 million in managed assets, they can offer fees as low as 0.75% for a fully managed investment portfolio. The only drawback is that you’ll need to stake at least £10,000 in order to get started.
UK-based company backed by Aviva.
Offers website, app, and phone support.
Investments from just £1.
No lifetime ISA or cash investments.
Why we like it:
Wealthify is another company that gives a straightforward and affordable way to start investing. You can start an account with just £1, and their intuitive platform will provide you with a range of options. You’ll pay a 0.7% annual fee on your balance up to £15,000, and this only drops to 0.4% if you go over £100,000. One of the nice aspects of Wealthify is that you can choose between original and ethical types of investing.