1) Trade Offer
Robo advisors will offer a range of financial instruments, which a trader can choose to invest in. Financial instruments commonly offered through robo advisor companies include stocks, ISAs and bonds. These companies assess the needs and risk profile of an investor, and provide them with a matching investment profile.
Robo advisors should offer a modern portfolio theory model to their investors as the basic investment option. This may encompass models such as a socially responsible portfolio strategy, a factor-based portfolio strategy and bond portfolio strategies.
Robo advisor companies take various parameters into consideration before devising the most suitable plan for an investor. Aspects such as the goals for your investment, your attitude to risk, how much you are saving, and other factors are taken into consideration. This will all shape which trade offer a robo advisor will recommend to you. Robo advisors that deal with currency pairs, and other more volatile assets, will also have a different asset class for their trade offer. With currency pairs, for example, there are more volatile currencies and others that make a lot less price movement in any given day.
Top 3 Robo Advisor Broker Comparison
In this section we are interested to know what financial instruments a broker has. A broker with multiple financial instruments will present investors with good financial choice based on their risk profile. Things to look at include:
- The number of tradable instruments
- How is the asset class of the robo advisor distributed?
- Are there volatile and less volatile instruments?
2) Commissions, Fees, and Costs
Fees matter a lot when deciding on a robo advisor. You should be wary of robo advisors that charge high fees without a justifiable reason. Robo advisor companies that have a wide range of financial products will not charge a fee for investments of up to 10,000 USD. Any investment above this may be charged a certain percentage – most being less than 0.5% of your investment per year. Other robo advisors charge no fees at all, but will require traders to make a deposit of a certain amount.
The above mentioned fees are the basic costs associated with your account. It will often be possible to pay a premium to get a more personalised service. For instance, after paying the fee you can get access to telephone contact with a financial expert for extra support and enquiries outside of the robo advisor service.
Other costs and commissions charged by a robo advisor may be in the form of deposits and withdrawals, an administration fee, transfer fee, and other account related transaction charges. You may also consider hidden charges such as inactivity fees. It is rare for robo advisors to charge extra for the fees incurred in buying and selling securities.
We assess the following points when factoring in costs and fees:
- What are the commissions charged?
- What are the costs for premium services?
- Are there hidden charges?
3) ACCOUNT AND DEPOSIT MODELS FOR DIFFERENT TYPES OF INVESTORS
Robo advisors offer several account types for traders. Having one account type is never the best approach for robo advisors since traders have different financial goals. However, there is always a baseline account type, which is a good starting point for investors with little experience or no specific financial goals. Most robo advisors have IRA accounts, Roth IRA, and trust accounts, among others.
These account types serve retirement, custodial, and savings needs. There are even account types that are suitable for college students. Even with very little funds, college students can immerse themselves in the investment world at an early age.
Robo account types will also vary from country to country. Robo advisor companies in the UK will offer different account types to robo advisor companies in the US. This is because of differences in the nature of investment opportunities in the two different jurisdictions. UK residents may lack access to a 401(k) plan while US residents may lack a Stocks & Shares ISA account. This means there will always be differences in account types based on jurisdiction.
We consider the following points in regard to accounts available:
- Account types based on jurisdiction
- Are there multiple account types?
- Are there VIP accounts?
4) TRADING PLATFORM AND MOBILE TRADING
The trading platform matters a lot to us. A good trading platform should let investors with a robo advisor see all their investments in one place, track their account growth, see trades that were picked, and access account reports and statements.
An easy to use trading platform is desirable since not all investors have a strong technical background. Maintaining a simple to use platform makes it easy for investors to navigate the trading platform. Another consideration is the languages that the trading platform can support. A robo advisor trading platform that has multiple language options gives investors from different backgrounds the opportunity to interact with the trading platform without the need for a translator.
With the recent increase in the use of smartphones, tracking your investment on your phone is certainly a must. Robo advisors should have mobile apps that work well with popular mobile software, such as iOS and Android. Most robo advisors have also taken the step of making their website mobile responsive. This means the robo advisor website should work seamlessly with a mobile browser, with all the features of the web version. In establishing which robo advisor you would consider the best, you might consider the following.
- Does the robo advisor have a mobile app?
- How robust is the trading platform?
- Multiple language options
5) Usability of the Website
A good website design gives its visitors a good impression of a business. However, much more goes into a website than its design and colour scheme. A robo advisor website that has a search bar, sub menus, and an investment questionnaire, among other tools, allows investors to easily interact with the website. Legal information, a sitemap, and terms & conditions should also be available on the website. It is more convenient if the sign-in and sign-up buttons are positioned at the top of the website.
The language options on the website matter too. International investors should have the option to switch to a language that suits them. The most commonly used languages such as English, Russian, Spanish and Chinese should be included – although, this will depend on the target market of the robo broker. A robo advisor website that is available constantly, with little or no downtime, gives traders a high level of convenience. A website that has frequent downtime may restrict investors’ account access at crucial times and lead to a lack of availability of an important activity on your account, such as a prompt withdrawal of funds.
The website’s aesthetics do matter, although not to a great extent. A website that has a clean, clear design gives a good impression of that particular robo broker. A robo broker with a website full of distracting pop ups and promotions may end up frustrating a visitor.
A summary of what counts in this section is:
- Website availability
- Website tools
- Website language options
6) CUSTOMER SUPPORT
In our opinion, customer support is an important feature. We believe investors should receive the best treatment possible from their robo advisor companies. Have you had a good or bad experience when contacting a robo broker’s customer support team? Tell the world about your experience by voting for your favoured robo advisor.
Robo advisor customer support teams can usually be contacted by email, telephone or live chat. Live chat is typically the most common method utilised. You should also examine the responsiveness of the customer support team. It is a bad sign if customer support representatives take a long time to respond to live chat or are slow to respond to emails. The professionalism of customer support also matters – good customer service representatives should show complete understanding of the robo advisor business. They should show empathy while communicating and refrain from abusive or vulgar language. The customer service team should be multilingual, enabling investors who speak different languages to conveniently have their queries solved.
The availability of customer service support is also important. Customer support that is accessible on a 24/7 basis is convenient for investors, allowing them the option to call anytime of the week. When voting for the best robo advisor, you may wish to consider the following points:
- Customer service accessibility
- What are the customer service options?
- Is the customer service team professional?
7) Methods of Payment
The ease of funding your account and withdrawing money is important. A robo advisor that gives investors multiple payment methods allows the investor the opportunity to choose the cheapest or most convenient method. The most common payment methods used by robo advisors are bank transfer and cheque. However, some robo advisor companies may use other payment options. Bank transfer is usually expensive since it attracts a fee. Additional charges related to payment processing also matter. Robo advisors that don’t charge a fee are favoured if investors are seeking cost-cutting measures.
Payment processing time is also important. Bank transfers normally take 2-5 business days, while payment methods such as PayPal are instant. Credit and debit cards are processed in less than 24 hours. The limits on deposits and withdrawals also count. Robo advisors should give traders reasonable deposit and withdrawal limits, and should also factor in the deposit and withdrawal frequency of the investor. Investors who make frequent deposits and withdrawals may be considered for a higher limit.
A summary of the attributes to check out under this category are:
- Variety of payment methods
- Speed of a payment method
- Transaction charges
8) ADDITIONAL OFFERS
Robo advisors may often offer additional services that are beyond the standard service that traders expect. A robo advisor company that runs promotions for their customers will always be popular with investors. Promotions give investors relief from costs and increase the chances of an investor retaining their robo advisor.
A robo advisor company that empowers its investors with solid training materials – e-books, videos and other educational material – is also always appreciated. A company may also organise seminars, which investors may attend to gain a one-on-one interaction with financial advisors.
Robo advisors may periodically organise competitions and tournaments to show appreciation for their customers. Bonuses also form part of the additional offers. Robo advisor companies may offer incentives to investors when they make deposits.
Brokers may also give their investors access to demo accounts. Demo accounts help traders build their investing skills, and are helpful for inexperienced investors and more experienced ones, who may want to test something new, or try out a strategy. Demo accounts also allow new traders to gather an insight and learn about trading different instruments.
A breakdown of what counts in this section is:
- Educational material – videos, e-books, webinars
- Bonuses and promotions
- Demo accounts
9) REGULATION & DEPOSIT PROTECTION
Regulation sets apart legitimate businesses from businesses that potentially indulge in bad conduct. While there may be some unregulated brokers that conduct good business, regulation is an important factor that helps investors have peace of mind. Robo advisor companies need to be regulated for investors to feel assured that they are not investing their money in a Ponzi scheme. Regulation makes robo advisor companies abide with the rules set out by the regulators, and failure to do so means they will be fined. If robo advisor companies have been fined in the past, it is best to be aware of this and keep a close eye on them.
We suggest you also consider the regulator and the jurisdiction they operate in. Regulators from North America, Japan and Europe are known to have stringent rules, which can further assure investors that their broker is legitimate.
Deposit protection is an added advantage of regulation. Deposit protection insures traders’ money in case a robo advisor goes bankrupt. For instance, the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) insures trader funds up to USD 500,000. The amount is inclusive of USD 250,000 in cash claims. Regulation subjects robo advisor companies to frequent audits that help ensure they conform to best business practices.
To vote for the best robo advisor company, you may consider the following points:
- Is the business regulated?
- Who is the regulator of the business?
- Is your capital insured?
10) Opinions of the Trade Press and Awards
A robo advisor may, from time to time, get some exposure in the media. You should obviously be concerned if a robo advisor company receives bad media coverage and a bad public rating. A robo advisor company that strives to maintain a good name will go to great efforts to provide a quality service, good customer support and much more. Although the media may occasionally publish false or subjective reports on a business, it’s highly unlikely that a company will frequently be in the limelight for the wrong reasons – unless the advisor is genuinely offering a sub-standard service. Good media exposure can encourage customers to sign up and helps with customer retention.
We also consider industry awards in this section, including the nature of the awards themselves. Robo advisor companies that receive awards such as ‘best in customer service’ are much more respected than robo advisor companies that receive awards such as ‘best affiliate program’. We also take into consideration who is behind the award – a robo advisor company may receive an award from an unknown or non-reputable source. This is common practice nowadays with some Forex brokers, so in this category we look closely at the following attributes:
- Does a robo advisor company have good media coverage?
- Does a robo advisor company have an award?
- What award did the robo advisor receive, and who is behind it?
AskTraders conducts reader tests to find the best brokers in several areas, and the robo advisor award is one of them. The process involves our readers casting an independent vote to decide who is the best robo advisor. This guide is just a framework of what we feel is important when voting for a robo advisor. You may also wish to look at our robo advisor comparison page before voting. AskTraders does not encourage or coerce any of its readers to vote for a specific robo advisor company. The comments on this website are from real readers expressing their genuine opinions and experiences, with the aim of empowering investors and other readers to make the right choices for themselves. We invite you to vote for the best robo broker by taking into consideration all the above considerations.
Would you like you to tell us about your experiences with a robo advisor broker? Did you like their customer support? Were their payment methods convenient? Vote for your broker and empower other readers.