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Robo Advisors In Singapore (2020): What You Need To Know Before Investing

Here’s what you need to know before deciding to invest with a robo-advisory platform.


This article was first published on 2 March 2018 and been updated to include the latest information. This article also contains affiliate links. DollarsAndSense may receive a share of the revenue from your sign-ups. You can refer to our editorial policy here.

Today, there are more than 10 robo-advisor platforms in Singapore, offering diverse options to invest our money.

Unlike more traditional investment solutions, robo-advisor platforms excel in providing digital tools enabling a seamless account opening process, low management fees, attentive customer support, as well as understanding our risk appetite to customise our investment advice.

Many of these platforms have also extended their services to offer cash management accounts, a way for us to boost returns from cash savings we have.

Read Also: Complete Guide To Cash Management Accounts In Singapore

Before going into the individual platforms, we should understand some basics about robo-advisor platforms.

Contents

What Is A Robo Advisor?

What Are The Robo Advisor Platforms Available To Singapore Investors?

Investment in Unit Trusts
#1 DBS digiPortfolio
#2 Endowus
#3 MoneyOwl

Investment in ETFs
#4 AutoWealth
#5 StashAway
#6 Syfe
#7 UOBAM Invest
#8 UTrade Robo (UOB Kay Hian)
#9 FSM MAPS

Investment in Individual Stocks and ETFs
#10 Kristal.AI
#11 OCBC RoboInvest

How Do Robo Advisors Work?

Comparison Based On The Amount Invested, And The Fees Charged

Pros And Cons Of Investing With A Robo Advisor

Try A Robo-Advisor For Yourself

 

What Is A Robo Advisor?

Similar to traditional fund management, robo advisor platforms pool together the monies of many smaller investors to make large and diversified investments. This helps smaller investors lower sales charges and achieve diversification even if they only invest a small sum of money.

In addition, investor also get to enjoy taking a passive approach to managing their investments, as well as leverage on digital tools to understand their risk appetite and set goals, and improve their customer experience with the respective platform.

The term “robo advisors” is commonly used to describe digital platforms that utilise automated solutions and algorithms to help us invest and manage our money. By doing this, robo-advisors are able to reduce the number of human advisors they employ, offer more consistent advice, and scale up operations very efficiently.

These platforms are able to do this by collecting our data, such as our unique financial situation, risk tolerance and future goals, and offer us a recommended portfolio based on their investment methodology.

It is important to note that algorithms any robo-advisor platforms use are ultimately programmed by humans based on financial models and follow a set of rules and instructions. These set of rules and instructions can also be tweaked by them from time to time.

However, this also means that robo advisors are participating in the same financial markets and investing in the same asset classes as regular investor, such as stocks, REITs, ETFs, bonds, and unit trusts. Thus, when we understand how a particular robo advisor invests, we can have a realistic expectation on the kind of returns (and risk) we will receive.

 

What Are The Robo Advisor Platforms Available To Singapore Investors?

In Singapore, there are more than 10 main robo-advisory platforms that retail investors can choose to invest our money with.

No. Robo-Advisor Platform Minimum Investment Yearly Advisor Fees
Investments In Funds
1 DBS digiPortfolio $1,000 to US$1,000 0.75%
2 Endowus $10,000 – 0.4% (CPF and SRS portfolio)
– 0.25% to 0.6% (Cash portfolio)
3 MoneyOwl $50 (per month)
$100 (lump sum)
0.5% to 0.6%
Investments In ETFs
4 Autowealth $3,000 – 0.5%
– USD$18 (platform fee)
5 StashAway None 0.2% to 0.8%
6 Syfe None 0.4% to 0.65%
7 UOBAM Invest $1 0.6% to 0.8%
8 UTrade Robo (UOB Kay Hian) $5,000 0.5% to 0.88%
9 FSM MAPS $500 (per month)
$1,000 (lump sum)
– 0.35% (Conservative portfolio)
– 0.5% (Other portfolios)
Investments In Individual Stocks And ETFs
10 Kristal.AI US$100 to US$12,000 – 0% (Under US$50,000)
– 0.3% (Above US$50,000)
Not inclusive of custody and asset operating fee
11 OCBC RoboInvest US$100 to HK$350,000 0.88%

As you can see, even between robo-advisor platforms, there are different investment methodologies, and of course the costs also vary. Below is more detailed information on each of the robo-advisor platforms.

Investments In Funds

#1 DBS digiPortfolio

Minimum Investment Amount: $1,000 to US$1,000
Advisor Fees: 0.75% p.a.

DBS digiPortfolio leverages on DBS’ existing business and proficiencies. It currently provides investors with two main portfolios – Asia Portfolio and Global Portfolio – consisting best funds from DBS’ platform.

As its portfolios may be purchased in SGD and USD, customers are required to also open a Multi-Currency Account with the bank, including the popular DBS Multiplier Account, My Account, eMulti-Currency Autosave (eMCA), eMulti-Currency Autosave Plus (EMCA+) or Multi-Currency Autosave Plus.

The minimum investment amounts and management fees for each of the two DBS digiPortfolio portfolios are:

  • Asia Portfolio – SGD $1,000 minimum investment; 0.75% p.a.
  • Global Portfolio – USD $1,000 minimum investment; 0.75% p.a.

There are no sales charges, platform fees, or switching fees.

For customers wishing to opt for the Global Portfolio, there is an additional hurdle, since it is classified as a Specified Investment Product (SIP). Since it is USD-denominated, investors must also be willing to take on currency risk, and must pass a Customer Account Review.

Read Also: Investors In Singapore: What Is SIP Accreditation And Should You Get It?

 

#2 Endowus

Minimum Investment Amount: $10,000

Advisor Fees:

  • 0.4% p.a. (CPF and SRS Portfolio)
  • 0.25% p.a. to 0.6% p.a. (Cash portfolio)
    • Under $200,000 – 0.6%
    • Above $200,001 to $1,000,000 – 0.5%
    • Above $1,000,001 to $5,000,000 – 0.35%
    • Above $5,000,001 – 0.25%

Endowus is an independent fee-only financial advisor, providing high-quality financial advice and creating personalised asset allocation and portfolio for investors. Endowus believes in a systematic and evidence-based investment approach, driving its motivation to select the best-in-class funds, while building a globally-diversified and low-cost portfolio for investors.

Read Also: Understanding endowus: How This FinTech Investment Advisor Will Help S’pore Investors Access Superior Global Portfolios At Low Cost

It offers retail investors access to institutional share classes, which were never previously within reach, on funds offered by world-renowned global investment management companies, Dimensional Fund Advisory, PIMCO, First State Investments, Eastspring Investments, Vanguard and Shroders.

Besides its cash portfolio, Endowus also offers investments funded by CPF or SRS monies. Recently, Endowus also launched a cash management account, Endowus Cash Smart which you can use as a standalone product, or alongside other Endowus investment portfolios.

Invest Better With Endowus

If you’re interested to start investing with Endowus, you’ll be happy to know that DollarsAndSense readers can have their first $10,000 managed for free for 6 months, which translates to savings of $20 in fees. Sign-up using this link to claim this special offer. Terms & Conditions apply.

 

#3 MoneyOwl

Minimum Investment Amount:

  • $50 (per month)
  • $100 (Lump sum)

Advisor Fees: 0.5% p.a. to 0.6% p.a.

  • 0.6% p.a. (up to $100,000)
  • 0.5% p.a. (Above $100,000)

MoneyOwl is a social enterprise joint venture between NTUC Enterprise and Providend. Recently, MoneyOwl announced that it would permanently reduce its advisory fees for all amounts, permanently absorb all platform fees, and offer a limited-time promotion to waive advisory fees for the first $10,000 invested with them.

MoneyOwl incorporates advice from both humans and robots to deliver low-cost investment solution to its clients. It currently offers 5 investment profiles – Equity, Growth, Balanced, Moderate and Conservative – which are created through different combinations of 3 globally diversified Dimensional equity and bond funds, determined based on investors’ risk appetite.

MoneyOwl doesn’t just provide investment solutions either, offering its own cash management account, as well as comprehensive financial advisory for insurance and wills writing.

Read Also: Investing With MoneyOwl: Here’s What You Need To Know Before You Invest With Them

 

Investments In ETFs

#4 AutoWealth

Minimum Investment Amount: $3,000

Advisor Fees:

  • 0.5% p.a. (Management fee)
  • USD$18 p.a. (Platform fee)

AutoWealth portfolios comprise index-tracking ETFs listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and NASDAQ. AutoWealth also assigns clients a wealth manager who is readily available via whatsapp.

AutoWealth’s fees are also structured slightly differently, with both a management fee of 0.5% p.a. and an annual platform fee of USD$18.

Take AutoWealth For A Test Drive

If you’re interested to give AutoWealth a try, be sure to use the promo code DollarsAndSense to receive a $20 top-up into your account once you fund it with the $3,000 minimum.


Read Also:
Step-By-Step Guide To Opening An AutoWealth Account For New Singapore Investors

 

#5 StashAway

Minimum Investment Amount: None

Advisor Fees: 0.2% p.a. to 0.8% p.a.

  • First $25,000 – 0.8%
  • Additional amount above $25,000 to $50,000 – 0.7%
  • Additional amount above $50,000 to $100,000 – 0.6%
  • Additional amount above $100,000 to $250,000 – 0.5%
  • Additional amount above $250,000 to $500,000 – 0.4%
  • Additional amount above $500,000 to $1,000,000 – 0.3%
  • Additional amount above $1,000,000 – 0.2%

StashAway employs a proprietary investment strategy they call Economic Regime-based Asset Allocation (ERAA), based on the theory of economic cycles. Through monitoring changing economic indicators, they rebalance the asset allocation mix of customers’ portfolios accordingly. It offers 31 risk profiles based on 19 ETFs investments spanning diverse sectors and geographies.

Read Also: Step-By-Step Guide To Opening An Account And Investing Through Singapore-Based Robo-Advisor StashAway

You can also invest your Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) funds via StashAway, as well as invest in its Singapore-focused income portfolio, comprising the STI ETF, Singapore government bonds ETF, corporate bond ETFs, REITs ETFs.

StashAway also launched StashAway Simple, its cash management account. StashAway Simple does not charge a management fee and rebates the trailer fees it receives from the underlying funds. In total, StashAway Simple has a total expense ratio of 0.205% and claims to deliver 1.9% return p.a.

Enjoy 50% Management Fees For 6 Months With StashAway

For those who are interested to try the StashAway platform for yourself, StashAway is giving 50% off in management fees for 6 months, for up to $50,000 in portfolio value.

That makes it perfect for giving StashAway a try and see if it is the robo-advisor for you. You can sign-up for free today to enjoy this exclusive promotion.


Read Also: Supplementary Retirement Scheme – 4 Things You Need To Understand Before Opening An SRS Account

 

#6 Syfe 

Minimum Investment Amount: None

Advisor Fees: 0.4% p.a. to 0.65% p.a.

  • Under $20,000: 0.65% per annum
  • Investment of $20,000 to $99,999: 0.5%
  • Minimum investment of $100,000 and above: 0.4%

Syfe uses an Automated Risk-managed Investments (ARI) strategy, their proprietary investment methodology, which automatically adjusts your portfolio to ensure enhanced risk-adjusted returns by managing your portfolio’s downside risk.

Unlike many other robo advisories on this list, Syfe’s portfolio is diversified into not just equities and bonds, but commodities as well. It does so via ETFs listed on the US stock exchange.

Complementing its Global portfolio, Syfe also has an Equity100 portfolio invested entirely into equities and has also launched Singapore’s first risk-managed REIT portfolio, named Syfe REIT+ to give users more investment choices.

If you are interested to get started on investing with Syfe, DollarsAndSense has an exclusive partnership with Syfe – enjoy 0% management fee for the first $30,000 during the first 6 months after you sign up. Apply here to enjoy the promotion. 


Read Also: Investing With Syfe: 5 Things You Need To Know About Singapore’s Newest Robo-Advisor

 

#7 UOBAM Invest

Minimum Investment Amount: $1

Advisor Fees: 0.6% p.a. to 0.8% p.a.

  • 0.8% p.a. (First $25,000)
  • 0.6% p.a. (Above $25,000)

Launched by UOB Asset Management, UOBAM Invest is the latest robo advisor in the market. UOBAM Invest employs a Glide-path model to gradually allocate funds towards safer assets as investors move closer to their target goal completion date.

Your UOBAM Invest portfolio may comprise ETFs across diversified asset classes including equities, bonds and money markets.

 

#7 UTrade Robo (UOB Kay Hian)

Minimum Investment Amount: $5,000

Advisor Fees: 0.5% p.a. to 0.88% p.a.

  • $50,000 and Below – 0.88%
  • Above $50,000 – 0.68%
  • Above $100,000 – 0.5%

UOB Kay Hian’s UTrade Robo is another recent entry to robo-investing market. UTrade Robo identifies asset classes comprising multi-assets, including stocks, bonds and commodities, as well as globally diversified portfolios. It selects low-cost ETFs listed globally to represent each asset class.

On its website, UTrade Robo states that it utilises the Modern Portfolio Theory to allocate among asset class to determine the maximum expected returns for a given level of risk.

While it has a minimum investment amount of $5,000 per portfolio, subsequent top-ups of investments can be made with a minimum amount of $500.

 

#9 FSM MAPS

Minimum Investment Amount:

  • $1,000 (Lump Sum)
  • $500 (Regular Savings Plan)

Advisor Fees: up to 0.35% p.a. to 0.5% p.a.

  • 0.35% p.a. (Conservative portfolio)
  • 0.5% p.a. (All other portfolios)

FSM Managed Portfolio, or FSM MAPS, doesn’t completely leave the analysis and investment decisions to a predetermined algorithm. Rather, its portfolio managers and research analysts study the markets and products available in the market to gain the exposure they desire.

It offers 10 portfolios straddling either Income or Growth investment objective, varying on five risk profiles, from Conservative to Aggressive.

A management fee of between 0.35% (Conservative Portfolio) to 0.5% (All other portfolios) per year is levied on investments. Investors have to fork out a transactional charge of 0.04% as well as the relevant SGX Clearing and Trading fees, including GST for ETF transactions. Investors have to start with a minimum of $500 for its Regular Savings Plan and $1,000 for a lump sum investment.

Read Also: What Are The Pros And Cons Of Investing Using A Regular Savings Plan (RSP)

 

Investments In Individual Stocks And ETFs

#10 Kristal.AI

Minimum Investment Amount: Approximately US$100 to US$12,000 ($137 to $16,400)

Advisor Fees: up to 0.3% p.a., not inclusive of custody and asset operating fee

  • 0% p.a. (Under $50,000)
  • 0.3% (Above $50,000)

Kristal.AI offers two types of account – i) Kristal Freedom for all investors and ii) Kristal Private Wealth for Accredited Investors only. For Kristal Freedom, portfolios comprise ETFs and ETF baskets. Its Kristal Private Wealth offers solutions for both ETFs and individual stocks.

Kristal recommends a minimum investment of US$5,000, but typically requires a minimum of US$100 to US$12,000 to start investing based on investors’ choice of investments.

Quite uniquely, Kristal charges no fees for investors with under US$50,000 invested, and only starts charging a 0.3% management fee on your account when the value increases to more than US$50,000. Other than management fee, they also charge a custody, asset operating fee and possibly deposit and withdrawal charges in foreign currencies. You can understand the full charges better here.

 

#11 OCBC RoboInvest

Minimum Investment Amount: US$100 to HK$350,000 ($137 to $61,700)

Advisor Fees: 0.88% p.a.

OCBC RoboInvest It offers a diverse selection of 33 thematic portfolios across six risk tolerance levels for its investors. Uniquely, it is one of only two platforms offering the ability to get invested into individual stocks within the themes we select.

Its minimum investment amount starts from US$100 which is offered for several portfolios. However, the minimum investment amount can go up to several thousand dollars, typically under US$5,000, depending on the portfolio investors choose. On a Hong Kong focused portfolio, we found that it required a minimum investment of HK$350,000.

How Robo Advisors In Singapore Typically Work

Each platform has its own unique ways of offering a robo advisor financial service, but the broad overview is the same:

Step 1: Sign-up and answer a detailed questionnaire about your risk appetite and intended investment time horizon.

Step 2: Fund your account, either on a lump sum or monthly basis.

Step 3: Upon receiving your funds, your robo advisor will then purchase a mix of ETFs (and if applicable, other assets) that corresponds to what they consider “optimal” based on your profile and the current market conditions.

Step 4: The robo advisor will monitor the market and perform rebalancing when necessary to manage risk and maximise potential returns.

As far as we can tell, all of the robo advisors make the majority of their investments in US and global ETFs with exposure to a variety of asset classes including equities, bonds, gold and other commodities.

Comparison Based On The Amount Invested, And The Fees Charged

Some investors may make their decision on which robo advisor platform to use base on the amount they intend to invest. We don’t recommend that you only look at fees only, since the main decision criteria should be whether you agree with their investment methodology in the first place. As with all investments, do not invest in something you do not fully understand.

However, cost is nevertheless a factor we should not ignore. Here’s a rough guide to the cost that you can expect to incur using each of the platform.

Annual Fees/Year

Amount Invested

$1,000 $11,000 $51,000 $250,000
DBS digiPortfolio $7.50 $82.50 $382.50 $1,875
Endowus N.A. $66 $306 $1,250
MoneyOwl $6 $66 $306 $1,250
AutoWealth N.A. $79.30 $279.30 $1,274.30
StashAway $8 $88 $381 $1,425
Syfe $6.50 $71.50 $331.50 $1,625
UOBAM Invest $8 $88 $305 $1,500
UTrade Robo N.A. $96.80 $346.80 $1,250
FSM MAPS $5 $55 $255 $1,250
Kristal.AI $0 (Not inclusive of Custody and Asset Operating Fee) $0 (Not inclusive of Custody and Asset Operating Fee) $0 (Not inclusive of Custody and Asset Operating Fee) $750 (Not inclusive of Custody and Asset Operating Fee)
OCBC RoboInvest N.A. $96.80 $448.80 $2,200

Based on USD/SGD exchange rate of 1.35. Some robo advisors have a minimum investment amount, thus, costs are not applicable (N.A.)

Do note that beyond the fees that you fork out, there are also other fees involved when investing. Do look out for the Total Expense Ratio of the underlying funds or investments before putting your money into it. You will typically also bear the cost of currency conversion fees and should ask the robo-advisory firm if you are unsure how much they will charge. As you can tell, some robo advisory may also have other charges, such as Kristal’s Custody and Asset Operating fee.

Pros And Cons Of Investing With A Robo Advisor

Pro #1: You Don’t Need a Large Amount of Capital

When investing as an individual, there are minimum trade sizes and high transaction costs imposed on the account, and this makes investing as an individual cost-prohibitive. Robo advisors allows you to own fractional portions of ETFs, which is impossible to do on your own unless you have a large capital.

Pro #2: Diversification

Because of the scale that technology enables, robo advisors can offer detailed monitoring of market indicators and apply sophisticated investment strategies based on them, much like what mutual funds provide, but at lower cost.

Pro #3: Personalised Portfolio

Rather than needing to pick from a list of mutual funds that you think best fit your needs, robo advisors can give you a portfolio mix that is more finely tuned to your needs (as the robo advisor deems to be appropriate), though not completely personalised on an individual level.

Pro #4: Passive Approach

The idea with robo advisors is that you do not need to rebalance your portfolio as market conditions change. Rebalancing is done by robo advisors for you, automatically.

Read Also: 3 Important Differences Of Automated Investing From Traditional Investing

Pro #5: “Low Fees”

Robo advisors generally charge lower annual management fees than professionally managed funds do. We all know that fees have a compounding effect that eats into our returns, especially over the long term. The higher the fees, the less returns we enjoy for the same amount invested and asset performance.

This point about “low fees” does come with a caveat. While robo advisor fees are admittedly lower than what mutual funds charge, it is still an additional cost that you are incurring, as opposed to buying the ETFs yourself and managing your own portfolio. So you need to decide if the value robo advisors provide is worth the fees you pay, over the long-term.

Con #1: Letting Emotions Get In The Way

Even though you automating the investment process, your emotions can still sway your decisions. This means panic selling during a downturn or making the decision to sell after an upswing in the markets.

Con #2: Forgetting Your Long-Term Investment Needs

Because you automate your investments, you may think it is well taken care of. However, you may forget to increase your investment size as you progress in your career and earn more or when you have more children.

Con #3: Currency Exchange Spread and Risk

Typically, in Singapore right now, robo advisors tend to be heavily invested in US-based ETFs. This means your money will be subject to USD conversions at spot rates, as well as incurring currency conversion fees charged by brokers.

Con #4: The Fees

It might be ironic to say that the fees are a reason not to use robo advisors, since they are one of the draws. However, as mentioned earlier, robo advisor fees are recurring costs, which are on top of underlying fund-level fees or Total Expense Ratio (TER) that may also be charged. Finally, as mentioned, there is a currency conversion fee you also need to be aware of.

If you like the benefits of what ETFs offer and are willing to put in some time and effort to do-in-yourself, then you would be able to save quite a bit, especially over the longer-term. So you need to evaluate if you really need a “purely passive” option that robo advisors provide, or can spare some time to periodically review and manage your portfolio.

Read Also: Fund Management Costs: 3 Ways Your Returns Are Being Eroded By “Hidden” Charges

Con #5: Lack of Flexibility

The whole idea of robo advisors is that you take the emotion out of investing, and that they help you to make “smart” choices based on their algorithms. However, what happens when you do not agree with the choices made by the robo advisor?

If you have a particular opinion or insight that you think isn’t picked up on by the robo advisor, then you might want to give them a miss. Also, you cannot choose a specific ETF to include (or exclude), which can be irritating, since a portion of your money is deployed in something you do not believe in.

Con #6: Tax On Dividends

Many of these robo advisors buy ETFs listed in the US, your dividends are subject to a 30% dividend withholding tax. What that means is that your dividend returns are lesser compared to buying ETFs listed elsewhere. It is unclear whether the robo advisors take this 30% dividend tax into account when doing their projections.

 

Try A Robo-Advisor For Yourself

Since it doesn’t cost you any thing to register and tinker around with the platforms, you should do it and see for yourself how robo-advisors allow you to easily set your risk profile, get insights into your portfolio, and project your investment returns.

If you’d like to try a robo-advisor for yourself, DollarsAndSense has partnered with StashAway, AutoWealth and Syfe to give you a headstart on your robo-investing journey.

StashAway is giving 50% off in management fees for 6 months, for up to $50,000 in portfolio value. That makes it perfect for taking StashAway on a test drive and see if it is the robo-advisor for you. You can also start investing your SRS funds with StashAway to start growing your retirement nest egg today. You can sign-up for free today at this link.

Sign up with AutoWealth and use the promo code ‘DollarsAndSense‘ to receive a $20 top-up into your account once you fund it with the $3,000 minimum. Once you do so, let us know what you think.

Syfe’s special promotion: Get $10 added to your portfolio for every $1,000 invested with Syfe, up to a maximum bonus of $100. This bonus will be credited within 7 days after receiving your funds and invested together with your portfolio. To enjoy this promotion, you will need to maintain the portfolio with Syfe for at least 3 months. More details on the promotion here.

If you’re interested to start investing with Endowus, you’ll be happy to know that DollarsAndSense readers can have their first $10,000 managed for free for 6 months, which translates to savings of $20 in fees. Sign-up using this link to claim this special offer. Terms & Conditions apply.