Robo-advisors – I’m sure you’ve heard of them by now, and how they’re supposedly disrupting the investment game, but if you haven’t I’m here to clear up some of the smoke and point you in the right direction when it comes to picking one and getting started.
I don’t want to waffle on with disclaimers and asides, so I’m just going to give my bare opinions and you can do what you will. Just remember that I am not a regulated financial advisor so you’ll need to seek one out if you want detailed investment guidance specific to you.
I can only tell you what I think and what I like. If you end up lurking by nightfall next to McDonald’s drive thru’s waiting to steal people’s chicken nuggets because you thought you could beat the market by remortgaging your house and dumping it all into Uber stocks, that will be your own personal problem.
Speaking of rob-advisors, a more accurate term in my view is online investment advisors. That’s because “Robo advice” is a term from the US where discretionary investment managers are called financial advisors even though there is no actual advice provided. So most robo-advisors aren’t really giving you investment advice. What they do is take down your details, get you to answer some questions and based on that they’ll allocate you to one of their investor profiles which should match your risk appetite.
I’m hoping risk-appetite is self-explanatory. Some people are more comfortable taking slightly bigger risks in the hope of getting bigger rewards. Generally, each risk profile will have a diversified portfolio of different asset classes – so you’ll get some equities, some bonds, commodities, maybe a little cash, and then also Emerging markets stocks and bonds. Each profile will have a different proportion of these assets, so you can expect the riskier ones to have more equities and more exposure to emerging markets, whereas risk-averse profiles will have more bonds and more equity in developed markets.
With that in mind, the TL;DR of this entire article is that if you want the simplest and least fussy way to start investing your savings, go with Nutmeg. That’s it, that’s the show. Now Nutmeg is not paying me to say this – in fact, Nutmeg is NOT even my personal favourite platform.
What I do know, however, is that the vast majority of people I’ve spoken to don’t really want to get into the nitty-gritty of managing their portfolios and considering the merits of different portfolios. I also recognise that a lot of the charts and table and information may be overwhelming for some new investors. So, if that’s you and you’re not super fussed about the details – you just want to start growing your money in the simplest way possible, go with Nutmeg.
I’d still recommend reading the rest of this article because I’m going to go over all the alternatives, as well as my personal favourites.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Nutmeg is not my personal favourite as a platform, but as simple efficiency goes, it’s probably the most effective.
If you want something that is just going to hum away in the corner and get the job done, Nutmeg is it. My personal favourite is still Moneyfarm but I’ve now moved the bulk of my portfolio to Nutmeg because it get the job done.
My main cons are just that it doesn’t give you ALL the data. I’m a bit of a data nut and I like seeing precise breakdowns, all the info, all the factors, etc. Nutmeg doesn’t do that. They have a very simple process where they push you down the conveyor belt, get you on your way, and then bring you the returns. Obviously for most people that’s heaven, and it’s why I’d reccommend it, I just personally would prefer more granular information for no good reason other than to stare at numbers when I’m bored.
Historically Nutmeg outperforms its competitors at the bottom end and also on the top end, so it’s most and least risky profiles will probably get you the best value compared to competitors. However in the mid-range, I think Moneyfarm and Scalable Capital match if not beat it. So that’s one thing to bear in mind if you’re not chasing high returns.
The other great thing about Nutmeg is that it offers both active and passively managed funds. I explained what these are in the last episode but essentially you have the choice of investing passively based on asset allocation, which is what most of the other online advisors do, OR you can give it to Nutmeg’s team who are actively trying to beat the market by reacting to market conditions and making changes on the go. I don’t think many others offer this so if you want it Nutmeg is the one. You will pay a slight premium on fees though if you want it fully managed. However if you’re happy to have the standard passive option the fees are lower than most competitors.
All-in-all, if you’re new to investing and want the simplest way to get started, you’ll like Nutmeg. If you’re chasing high returns and don’t really care about micromanaging and seeing every little detail, you’ll like Nutmeg. It’s as simple as that.
I’ll leave you with a special deal I came across. It’s too late for me to use as I’m already invested, but it might be worth considering that you can earn up to £105.00 cashback from Nutmeg Stocks and Shares ISA with TopCashBack.
Otherwise just get started with this link and pay no fees for your first six months – never say I don’t bless you with the plug!
Let’s talk about Moneyfarm. Now this is my “favourite” – but much of that is down to personal preference. They give you all the useful data and granular information you might want about your investments so you know exactly where your money is going. They also have great customer service. They also have some of the lowest fees around and I’m a real sucker for that.
They also have a nice pretty app, fantastic customer service and solid historic returns. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about them (but even lower fees are always welcome).
That’s literally it for me. Moneyfarm was my first foray into investments of this sort, I started off with just £200 and grew it slowly, and eventually poured the savings from my Cash ISA into it when interest rates hit rock bottom because at that point I might as well have been putting the money under my mattress. That was only a few years ago and my portfolio has grown by a lot since then.
I mentioned that most of my money is with Nutmeg now – well, Nutmeg gave me a great deal to switch and also have slightly better returns on higher risk profiles. I just had to weigh it up. I still think it’s a great first choice, particularly if you know a little about finance or you like to micromanage your money.
Get started with this link and use my referral code ( MF087364 )to get your first £5000 managed free for a year, so if you’re just drip-feeding smaller amounts this works well also!
Wealthifys a great balance between the previous two. You get all the simplicity of Nutmeg and much of the clarity of Moneyfarm. My only problem with Goldilocks is her lack of performance. Overall, having seen the numbers, it looks a little lacklustre. Also, it pretty much shares this Goldilocks role with Wealthsimple which is a little prettier and gives you a little more info. That’s just my personal preference though.
This pick for me is more about being comfy. I wouldn’t come here just for data and I wouldn’t come just for the results. If you’re not concerned with engineering the hell out of your investments, it’s a great middle of the pack pick.
I probably sound more cynical than I should. I’ll put it this way – if I had never used an investment platform before Wealthify, I would be very happy and would have no complaints. The interface is really nice and sleek and they give you access to valuable information, should you need it.
If you want a peaceful balance this is a decent pick. I have an account, but I can tell you now I don’t really use it. However, for those of you that think it’s a great fit for you, I’ve made a “circle” to help you keep your fees low. Circles are the way you invite people to Wealthify. Depending on the number of people in your circle, EVERYONE in the circle will get a certain level of discount on their fees.
Like I said I don’t use it but if you want to, just sign up here, or look for the circle called Thy Daily Edge and if enough of you sign up you’ll get up to 20% off your fees.
The fourth platform I want to touch on is Scalable Capital. This is my best pick for anyone who wants ALL the data. You could be completely new to investing or you could have gone around the roundabout one or two times, but if you want all the info laid out in the simplest way possible, Scalable Capital may be what you’re looking for.
Before I gush too much about this one, you should know that the minimum investment is 10k. If you don’t have that, the other options will do you just as well. If you do have at least £10,000 to put in though, I think this is a solid choice. Keep in mind that you can also transfer in an existing ISA so if you have 10k somewhere else, you can just slide it across.
There are two benefits in my mind. One is the data, which I love. The second is the fact that it’s super honest and transparent. They’re honest about the fact they just use ETF’s, and beyond that they generally use physically replicating ETFs instead of synthetically replicating ones. I won’t bore you by explaining, but in a nutshell it means that your portfolios should track the indexes more accurately. The aim here generally isn’t to outperform the market but to track it. Obviously if you go for higher risk profiles you will expect to enhance your returns, but the peaks and troughs should mirror the market reasonably well.
Scalable Capital have a really thorough risk profile assessment, and they have the biggest number of portfolio choices, which means it’s more likely that you will end up with something more specifically suited to you, rather than a broader umbrella. That’s why I think it’s a great option for beginners with some decent savings already because you know exactly what you’re getting.
One thing I also love about how they balance the risk profiles is that it’s directly based on value at risk. So instead of fluffy words like “balanced” and “adventurous”, they literally just say – this portfolio is 15% VaR. This generally indicates the proportion of your portfolio value you are prepared to risk in any year, but more specifically it means that portfolio only has a chance of underperforming by 15pc or more in one year out of every 20 years. It’s super transparent about that. I don’t know if it’s part of it’s German heritage but everything is very precise and clear. I love it.
The only reason the bulk of my portfolio is in Nutmeg and not here is because I lean towards higher risk and know that Nutmeg’s portfolios have done really well on that end. Obviously past returns are no indication blah blah blah, but that’s the bet I’m personally willing to make in the long run.
If you want to know you’re getting an accurate tech-based tracker with highly specific investor profiles, Scalable Capital could be a great fit. I’m a fan. I think it’s better for anyone who knows a little about finance or stocks etc. though, because otherwise all the numbers and charts will be worthless to you. I’m sure they’re intentional about that though, which explains the £10,000 minimum investment.
I’m not going to spend much time on this one as it’s similar to my feelings with Wealthify. If I’d never tried anything else I’d be completely satisfied. It’s reasonably clean and does the job. But now that I’ve tried others and know I can get clearer information or better returns elsewhere, it wasn’t a serious consideration for me although I did try it briefly. Wealthsimple probably has one of the best onboarding processes I’ve seen. I really like it. It’s really simple and easy to use, and you can start with just £1. They don’t have the best historical returns, but like I said with Wealthify if you just want a safe, comfortable experience, this is it.
And if you can’t pick between Wealthsimple and Wealthify, pick Wealthsimple. It’s that simple. The interface is clearer, simpler, prettier, and easier to use. You couldn’t ask for too much more.
Wealthsimple also has a few very specific perks. Lots of people are trying to get in the ethical investments bag, but I think Wealthsimple has the best options for this so if that’s what you want, maybe check it out. They have ethical options and Halal options as well.
Personally though, I don’t really buy into the ethical investments thing. For the most part, it feels like a sales gimmick because on all the platforms suddenly they’ll hike up the fees. And for what? In my everyday portfolio, there are plenty of companies that are not flogging children or dumping coal in the river, but because the entire purpose of the company isn’t specifically goodwill, it’s not going to count as an “ethical investment”. So for me, that’s a bit pointless. What I did was take a good look at what was inside my funds – a lot of them are similar to or based on Vanguard funds so I can just check the closest equivalent and see what the sustainability rating on Morningstar is. All of my investments are at least 50% so I’m happy with that. If it’s your primary concern though, go right ahead.
If you also happen to be Muslim and want halal or shariah compliant portfolios then this is your bag as well.
This link should give you £5,000 managed free so this is also a great option to save on fees for anyone starting with less than that.
So there you go – that’s a roundup of the most popular online investment platforms covered. Hopefully, that makes it easier to decide where you want to get started. I’m just going to go over one or two extras which do slightly different things and could help grow your investments overall.
This isn’t strictly an investment platform but it’s an app I really like and have used for a few years. It’s mostly for saving, and I’ll talk a lot more about how I use it in the series on budgeting but in essence, it’s a saving tool that allows you to save passively in lots of different ways.
It can take a fixed weekly amount, it can round up all your regular spending and keep the change… it can even save a little bit every time you make a facebook post. It can get that specific.
Stepping beyond that is the fact you can now invest through the platform. The investment options so far are very limited, but this works differently because all their investments are more like ethical investments. You’ve got a fixed rate option where you commit some of your savings for a certain period of time and expect a fixed return of 2.5%, but then you’ve got some other options. You can choose to invest only in companies with LGBT policies, you can invest in companies conserving water, or companies who have a certain percentage of women on their boards, and so on. So this is less for general investors than those who want to put their savings towards a cause and get some returns from it.
I love it personally and have been using it to save for over a year. As far as the investment functionality goes, if you don’t trust yourself not to withdraw your invested funds and don’t mind locking it away for at least a year in a cause you believe in, it’s a great app.
If you’re game, use this link with my referral code ( DED9EMQU ) to get £5 when you sign up.
Moneybox is another great tool for turning your pocket change into investment returns but it’s starting to do a lot more than that. It’s really simple to get started, you get the usual options of dropping in a lump sum or investing monthly, but it’s great that also you have the option to round up your everyday transactions and use the spare change to invest on top of anything you decide to. This probably makes it the best fit for anyone who doesn’t yet have a fixed budget or savings or money set aside to allocate.
On the flipside, my main con is that the process is almost TOO simple. They do a great job of guiding you through all the steps of investing your money, but when it comes to picking an investor profile they didn’t ask any questions about how much I earn or save or how I feel about investing. This may be ideal for you but the only choices you get are cautious, balanced, and adventurous.
So you’re getting a limited number of options and I can see lots of people jumping straight for the adventurous option even though it might not REALLY be for them. To top that, their adventurous profile is 95% equities, which is nuts if you go in thinking you’re getting a well-rounded portfolio. To be fair it says 80% global shares and 15% global property shares, but that 15% is still equity – it’s just concentrated in property developers. You can barely call that diversification. In terms of risk, it’s equivalent to Moneyfarm’s number 6 or Nutmeg’s number 10, but that’s exactly my problem. With Nutmeg, for example, there are TEN profiles – so by the time you’re settling on one, you know that by picking number 10/10 you are picking something right at the end of the risk scale.
WIth moneybox though, if you’re only getting 3 options it’s possibly engineering people to take on more risk than they might be comfortable with. Anyone who feels like they want something a little more than average will probably pick adventure. It sounds nice. They make it sound like you’re going for a gentle hike – or grabbing a cheeky Nandos – or getting a curry with one chilli pepper rating on the menu. Like “ooh, you’re starting to get a little risky” when in reality your toilet is about to turn into a war zone so dangerous UN peacekeepers will start throwing bags of rice through the window.
I can imagine it’s easy to sign up not realising that the middle option already has one chilli, and then if you want something just a little bit spicier suddenly they’re shoving ghost peppers down your throat whether you like it or not.
I think moneybox is a great pick for anyone that doesn’t have a budget, or any idea what the hell is going on inside their wallet. It’s a bit like the Hinge of robo-investors – it’s the investment platform for people who don’t actually want to invest.
If you really cared about actively taking charge of your finances as a whole, in my view, there are better places to put your money. If, however, you aren’t too fussed and want to rumble on with life as usual, having an app that will scrape spare change from under the couch is a great idea.
Am I being overly dramatic? Maybe. Most likely. I’m sorry – you know what, it’s actually a decent pick. They’re really good at hand-holding for beginners and as far as customer experience goes, it’s right up there. They have some robust features too. I just think if you’ve got your finances largely in order and are setting aside money to invest regularly, there are other places to chase returns. The product is nice, the investment itself is just very underwhelming.
All in all, if you like it that’s great. Personally, it’s not my first recommendation because if you really wanted a risky profile, most of the other options have better returns. Nutmeg, Scalable Capital and Moneyfarm will usually outperform it. If you want a really simple experience this might be worth looking at, but again, Nutmeg is simpler. Wealthify is relatively simple also and so is Wealthsimple. The killer feature here is going to be the way it scrapes your change and automatically invests it. That’s what this is for.
UPDATE: Despite my initial scepticism I finally gave in and tried it for myself and I was wrong I’m sorry. It’s even worse than I thought it was. The customer service is happy and cheery until you try to ask for your money then suddenly you wake up in The Matrix. If you’re still 100% sold on it then go ahead, but if you think you may ever need to withdraw your money, hold on to your ankles and prepare for a rough ride.
UPDATE 2: In short, unless ninjas are holding your family hostage and threatening to dismember your firstborn child unless you install the app, I personally would give this a miss. If you like the thrill of fighting with customer support and calling them every morning like an estranged third wife, don’t let me stop you 🙂 .
That just about wraps up everything I wanted to say. If I didn’t mention your favourite or you have any particular thoughts about the ones I mentioned, give us a shout on Twitter @legendofbaba or @thydailyedge with the hashtag #thydailyedge. If you found this article useful please do share it with any family or friends who may be interested in getting started on their investment journey, or just want to weigh up the available options. Catch you on the next one!