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Investing: Canada’s best robo-advisors

To the point If you're looking for technology that can help you on your financial investment journey, consider a robo-advisor.

Few Canadians know how to invest their money. Confusion reigns as to where to invest, how much to invest, hidden fees, etc., and all this leads tofinancial anxiety.

With low fees, robo-advisors are perfect for those who don’t know what they’re doing and understand nothing about investing.

You don’t need a lot of money to invest with a robo-advisor, and this type of investment is characterized by a minimal hands-on approach.

What is a robo-advisor?

Robo-advisors are very commonly known as wealth management platforms. They’re cloud-based, which means that everything is done online and the robo-advisor invests your money on your behalf.

You don’t have to be digitally inclined to understand how this works, but the ease of use of their platforms is what matters most. Most robot advisors work the same way. You start by filling out a questionnaire to determine your risk tolerance, connect your bank account to the online platform and enter the amount you wish to invest. The robo-advisor then invests your money in funds and constantly rebalances your funds to keep your assets where they need to be.

There are different accounts where you can put your money, for example:

  • Stocks
  • Chequing accounts
  • Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs)
  • Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs)
  • Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIF)
  • Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP)

Canada's best robotic advisors to choose from

Now that you know what to expect when investing with a robo-advisor, you need to choose the best wealth management platform for your needs. Here is a list of some of Canada’s best robot advisors:

Questwealth Portfolios

Questrade is one of the largest independent brokerages in Canada and is known for its discount brokerage. The robo-advisor option is popular and rebranded as Questwealth Portfolios in 2018. With low fees, the platform is easy to use and offers a solid investment experience.

What they do: Questwealth has combined technology and human interaction to create five ETF portfolios that are actively managed: aggressive, growth, income, balanced and conservative. These portfolios can be used in a variety of accounts such as RRSPs, TFSAs, cash, etc.

Best for: Questwealth Portfolios is best suited for Canadians who prefer to be involved in their own investments, so their platform was designed for more experienced investors, although anyone can use their platform, including beginners.

Fees: There are two main fee structures:

  • 2.5% on account balances from $0 to $99,999.
  • 2% on account balances over $100,000.
  • Minimum balance – $1,000
  • No transfer fees or account opening or closing fees.

Wealthsimple

This Toronto-based robo-advisor has over $5 billion in assets under management. Its interface is user-friendly, and it is accessible to all investors, as there is no minimum investment amount.

What the platform does: Wealthsimple offers three main portfolios: growth, conservative and balanced. As an investor, you cannot choose your portfolio. Wealthsimple selects a portfolio for you based on the answers given in the registration questionnaire that generates your risk tolerance. There are several account options, including TFSAs, RRSPs, LIRAs and RRIFs, as well as an investment account for business owners.

Best for: If you’re looking for simplicity, then Wealthsimple is what you need. Assets over $100,000 will give you access to Wealthsimple Black, which offers reduced fees, access to airport lounges worldwide and a financial planning session with an advisor. Automated tax loss harvesting also provides tax savings. Access Wealthsimple Generation by depositing $500,000 or more, which allows you to create customized portfolios and includes an in-depth financial planning session with an advisor.

Fees:

  • 0.5% on account balances between $0 and $99,999.
  • 0.4% on account balances over $100,000.
  • The fee is waived in the first year for investments of $10,000.
  • Minimum balance – $0 (zero)

CI Direct Investing

CI Direct Investing was previously known as WealthBar. What sets it apart from its competitors is that financial advice is a fundamental part of its offering. Portfolio managers build the funds, which rely primarily on ETFs.

CI Direct Investing combines an advice bot with unlimited access to a financial advisor for advice. Advice is available by phone or chat, and investors can seek advice if needed.

Access to private equity portfolios gives investors access to a larger, more diversified asset class, reducing volatility and improving risk-adjusted returns over the long term.

What the platform does: Two portfolios are available: private equity portfolios and a low-cost ETF portfolio. The private equity portfolios comprise five portfolios ranging from aggressive to conservative, including ETFs and Vanguard. The latter option consists of three portfolios invested in mortgages, private funds, etc.

Best for: CI Direct Investing is perfect for investors who want to have more choices and diversify their portfolios. A central aspect of CI Direct Investing is diversification, with portfolios that include real estate.

Fees:

  • 0.6% on account balances between $0 and $150,000.
  • 0.4% on the next $350,000
  • 0.35% on accounts with balances over $500,000.
  • The fee is waived for the first year for investments of $10,000 when you sign up and fund your account.
  • Minimum balance – $1,000

Justwealth

Based in Toronto, Justwealth is classified as a sophisticated advisory robot. You get a personal portfolio manager to help you find the right ETFs for your portfolio, all based on your own objectives. Accounts available include RESPs, RRSPs, RRIFs, TFSAs and tax-free accounts.

What the platform does: Justwealth offers over 660 wallets, including U.S. dollar wallets. Personalized capital loss recovery is also available. Your personal portfolio manager is a real person who manages your portfolio and whom you can contact if you have any questions.

Best for: Justwealth is perfect for Canadians who want broader investment options.

Fees:

  • 0.5% on account balances between $0 and $500,000.
  • 0.4% on accounts over $500,000.
  • All accounts, except RESPs, are subject to a minimum monthly fee of $4.99.
  • RESPs cost $2.50 per month.
  • Minimum balance – $5,000

Nest Wealth

Nest Wealth is unique in its focus on advisors and locations. While there are several options for individuals, they have a Pro version that allows fund companies to set up robots with their own products.

What the platform does: Nest Wealth will allocate your funds according to your risk tolerance while regularly rebalancing your portfolio. It will allocate your money among six different asset classes, such as government fixed income, emerging markets, domestic equities, real estate, real return bonds and international equities.

Best for: If you’re looking for a user-friendly, passive approach to investing, then Nest Wealth is for you. It’s not hard to understand, and your monthly fee will stay the same as your assets grow. Companies can improve their benefits offerings. Consultants can spend more time planning and less time investing.

Fees:

  • 20 per month on account balances between $0 and $75,000.
  • 40 per month on account balances between $75,000 and $150,000.
  • 80 per month on account balances over $150,000.
  • Minimum balance – $0 (zero)

BMO Smart Portfolio

Like other banks, BMO offers robo-advisors as part of its services. BMO Smart Portfolio uses ETFs and designs its portfolios with real fund managers from BMO Global Asset Management. Anyone can use BMO Smart Portfolios, even if most of their investors are already with BMO.

What the platform does: When you register, you will answer questions to determine your risk tolerance. You will then be assigned to one of its five portfolios, which feature a wide variety of assets. Each portfolio is comprised of a mix of BMO ETFs. Asset allocation can be changed easily, especially when your life goals change (e.g. marriage or children).

Best for : BMO Smart Portfolio is ideal for investors seeking a combination of passive and active investments. Investors can let go of their investments, and if something happens in the market, portfolio managers will adjust the asset allocation accordingly. As an investor, you can contact a team of advisors directly by email, phone or live chat.

Fees:

  • 0.7% on account balances between $0 and $100,000.
  • 0.6% on account balances between $100,000 and $150,000
  • 0.5% on account balances between $150,000 and $250,000.
  • 0.4% on account balances over $500,000.
  • Minimum balance – $1,000

Invisor

Invisor is managed by Alliance Insurance and Financial Services Inc. It differs from other robo-advisors in that it places investors in one of its seven ETF portfolios based on their objectives. These portfolios range from “Safety” for low risk to “Equity Only” for higher risk. They also offer products such as disability, life and critical illness coverage, and financial advisors are available to answer any questions you may have about investing.

What the platform does: Invisor’s seven portfolios are managed by professional investment managers, who also offer passive ETFs from iShares and Vanguard. Depending on your risk tolerance, there is a wide range of asset combinations.

Best for: If you’re looking for a robo-advisor that handles everything from investments to insurance, consider Invisor. It is a one-stop shop for all your financial products on a single platform.

Fees:

  • 0.7% on the balance of all accounts. This includes a 0.2% management expense ratio (MER) fee for the securities in the portfolio and a 0.5% Invisor management fee.
  • Minimum balance – $0 (zero). Deposits are held as cash until your balance reaches $1,000.

RBC Invest-Clic

RBC Invest-Clic is a simple robo-advisor option for investors. RBC and BlackRock have merged to create RBC iShares, making it the largest ETF provider in Canada. Their portfolios are filled with iShare products thanks to this merger. RBC Invest-Clic is a user-friendly advisory robot, which makes it easily compete with others in the market.

What the platform does: RBC Venture-Clic offers two main types of portfolios, namely standard investment and responsible investment. Within these two portfolios are five other options that fit your risk tolerance levels. RBC Click & Save rebalances portfolios throughout the year according to your financial goals.

Best for : RBC Invest-Clic is the best solution for Canadians looking for easy ways to invest their money. Because there is only one fee structure, investors know what they are getting at all times. Their investments are considered safe because they are backed by a major bank. Financial advisors are available to answer questions in English and French.

Fees:

  • 0.5% on the balance of all accounts
  • Minimum balance – $0 (zero). Investments will not begin until your account balance reaches $100.

Bottom Line

When investing with a robo-advisor, make sure that the one you choose is regulated byIIROC or CIPF. Online security is essential when you invest on an online investment platform. If the robo-advisor is regulated, you can ensure that you are protected against the investment platform’s bankruptcy or fraud. Some robo-advisors use two-factor authentication for added security.

Robo-advisors are the way of the future and investors should not be afraid of this unique technology. The world is moving towards a digital platform in everything we do, and we should all be on the cutting edge of technology, embracing the human touch… complemented by robots.

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Jean-Maximilien
Jean-Maximilien is an expert in Canada and France about Loyalty programs, Credit cards and Travel. He is the Founding President of Milesopedia.

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