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Robo Advisors In Singapore: 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.

Everywhere we look, algorithms have already made a big impact on the way we live. It comes as no surprise that we will also increasingly rely on algorithms for our investing needs. This is where robo-advisor platforms in Singapore step in to offer us a solution to invest like a professional without actually requiring us to have much financial or investment knowledge.

Before we go 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 UTrade Robo (UOB Kay Hian)
#8 Kristal.AI

Investment in Individual Stocks and ETFs
#9 FSM MAPS
#10 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?

Robo advisor platforms share many similarities with traditional fund management. They pool together the monies of many smaller investors to make large and diverse investments. This helps smaller investors lower sales charges and achieve diversification even if they only invest a small sum of money. In addition, they also get to enjoy taking a passive approach to managing their investments.

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 also participating in the same financial markets and investing in the same asset classes as regular investor, such as stocks, bonds, and funds. 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 recent years, there have been a number of automated and algorithm based invest solutions offered to Singapore investors. This is unsurprising, following the increase in popularity of such investment solutions globally.

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

Robo-Advisor Platform Launched Minimum Investment Yearly Advisor Fees
Investments In Funds
DBS digiPortfolio 2019 $1,000 0.75%
Endowus 2018 $10,000 Access Fee: 0.25% to 0.6%
MoneyOwl 2019 $100 Advisory Fee: 0.65%
Custodian/Platform Fee: 0.18%
Investments In ETFs
Autowealth 2015 $3,000 0.5% + USD$18 platform fee
StashAway 2016 None 0.2% to 0.8%
Syfe 2019 None 0.4 to 0.65%
UTrade Robo (UOB Kay Hian) 2018 $5,000 0.5% to 0.88%
Kristal.AI 2018 None 0% (for first US$50,000)

0.3% (for amounts above US$50,000)

Investments In Individual Stocks And ETFs
FSM MAPS 2017 $1,000 0.35% to 0.5%
OCBC RoboInvest 2018 $3,500 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

Newly created in 2019, the DBS digiPortfolio is a robo-advisory platform that leverages on DBS’ existing business and proficiencies. It currently provides investors with two main portfolios – Asia Portfolio and Global Portfolio – consisting unit trusts.

DBS digiPortfolio leverages on its portfolio management team to construct portfolios comprising the best funds from DBS’ platform, while aligning its investment strategy with the Chief Investment Office and relying on its fund managers for in-depth research and assessment of investments.

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% per annum.
  • Global Portfolio – USD $1,000 minimum investment; 0.75% per annum.

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 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

Endowus is licensed under the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), under the Financial Advisers Act (FA License No. 100066-1), to provide certain financial advisory services.

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.

Endowus charges a transparent access fee of 0.4% per annum for investments funded by CPF or SRS monies, and between 0.25% to 0.60% for cash-funded investments, depending on the amount invested:

  • 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%

On the other hand, it also makes clear that investors have to pay management fees to funds of between 0.43% to 0.64%. Many times, investors are not aware of these charges as they are on a fund-level and typically not divulged by other platforms.

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. You can learn more through their live webinar on 8 July.

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

Launched in 2019, MoneyOwl is a joint venture between NTUC Enterprise and Providend. It offers bionic investment advice – which means it incorporates advice from both humans and robots to deliver low-cost investment solution to its clients.

Currently, MoneyOwl 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, based on their ability, willingness and need to take risks.

Annually, MoneyOwl charges an advisory fee of 0.65%, as well as levy a custodian/platform fee of 0.18%. It also transparent advises investors that fund-level fees range between 0.28% and 0.32%. This brings its annual total expense ratio to between 1.11% to 1.15%.

The minimum investment amount is either $100 for lump sum investments and $50 a month for their regular savings plans.

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

 

Investments In ETFs

#4 AutoWealth

Started in 2015, AutoWealth has a MAS Financial Advisor Licence (FA100064-1).

AutoWealth portfolios comprise index-tracking ETFs listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and NASDAQ.

AutoWealth’s fees are at a flat 0.5% per year, regardless of the amount invested, plus an annual platform fee of USD$18. It requires a minimum of S$3,000 to start investing. AutoWealth has no lock-in period for investments and clients are free to withdraw their investment capital or close the investment account anytime.

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

Stashaway was started in 2016 and operates under the MAS’ Capital Market Services Licence (CMS100604-1).

They employ a proprietary investment strategy they call Economic Regime-based Asset Allocation (ERAA), which is 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

StashAway’s fees range between 0.2% to 0.8% per year, depending on amount invested:

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

There are also fund-level fees of about 0.2% charged by the ETF manager, as well as a currency conversion fee of 0.08% charged by the broker for non-USD deposits into USD portfolios.

Since December 2018, you can also invest your Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) funds via StashAway. Earlier this year, StashAway also launched StashAway Simple, a 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%.

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 

Syfe is a digital wealth manager that launched in Singapore in July 2019 after raising $5.2 million in seed funding and receiving the capital markets services (CMS) license from the MAS.

Syfe uses 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.

There is no minimum amount for investors to start investing. Syfe charges between 0.4% to 0.65% per year depending on your invested amount. This is an all-inclusive fee gives you unlimited, free withdrawals and unlimited rebalancing.

  • 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%

Complementing its Global portfolio, Syfe launched Singapore’s first risk-managed REIT portfolio, named Syfe REIT+ to give users more choices in 2020.

Bonus Funds For New Syfe Accounts

If you’re interested to give Syfe a try, there is a special offer for DollarsAndSense readers to receive bonuses added to your Syfe account:

$10 bonus for funding your Syfe account above $500

$50 bonus for investing more than $10,000 with Syfe

$100 bonus for investing more than $20,000 with Syfe

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 6 months.

You can read more details on the promotion and start investing with Syfe here.

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

 

#7 UTrade Robo (UOB Kay Hian)

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.

It has a minimum investment amount of $5,000 per portfolio and charges a fee of between 0.5% and 0.88%.

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

Subsequent top-ups of investments can be made with a minimum amount of $500.

 

#8 Kristal.AI

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 REITs.

Kristal recommends a minimum investment of US$5,000, but there is no enforced minimum amount to get started. Uniquely, it allows investors to invest in individual ETFs, ETF baskets, Stock baskets and funds (some of which are managed by Kristal themselves).

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. It also states its foreign currency conversion fees upfront – at 0.05% from the market rate.

Investments In Individual Stocks And ETFs

 

#9 FSM MAPS

Launched in 2017, FSM Managaed 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.

 

#10 OCBC RoboInvest

OCBC RoboInvest was launched in August 2018, making it the first bank in Singapore to offer a robo advisory solution. It offers a diverse selection of 31 thematic portfolios across six risk tolerance levels for its investors.

Uniquely, it is the only platform offering the ability to get invested into individual stocks within the themes we select.

Annual fees of 0.88% apply, and other fees such as Exchange fees and charges may also apply. Customers are required to start with a minimum of $1,500.

 

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 $66 $306 $1,250
MoneyOwl $8.30 $91.30 $423.30 $2,075
AutoWealth $79.30 $279.30 $1,274.30
StashAway $8 $88 $306 $1,250
Syfe $6.50 $71.50 $331.50 $1,625
UTrade Robo $96.80 $346.80 $1,250
Kristal.AI $0 $0 $0 (fees only start from US$50,000 onwards) $750
FSM MAPS $5 $55 $255 $1,250
OCBC RoboInvest $96.80 $448.80 $2,200

Based on USD/SGD exchange rate of 1.35

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.

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 automated 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 management fees. These fund-level fees or Total Expense Ratio (TER) that ETFs charge can take a big bite out of your investment returns over the long run.

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.