Month: September 2019

Posted on September 27, 2019

The term “Robo-Advisor” has become commonplace to describe a new breed of digital investment management solutions. Although there is not an official definition for the term, robo-advisors share a few key characteristics. Mainly, they are automated platforms that provide investment and financial planning services. Created in response to the lack of access to traditional advisors amongst less affluent investors, robo-advisors lower the cost and ease of investing in a professionally managed, globally diversified portfolio. They do this by leveraging algorithm-driven technology in the client management and investment selection process. 

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Posted on September 27, 2019

As the digital advice industry has grown, acquiring more customers and assets, providers have expanded their role from automated investment managers to digital bankers. A major component of this shift has been the offering of high-yield cash accounts. Betterment, Wealthfront, Ally, Personal Capital, Wealthsimple and SoFi offer these accounts, which have APYs of at least 1.80% and carry FDIC insurance. Personal Capital and SoFi accounts are FDIC insured up to $1.5M—six times the coverage of a savings account opened at a traditional bank. Wealthfront and Betterment offer $1M of FDIC insurance. Robos partner with numerous banks, take in users’ deposits, and spread those deposits across partner banks. This process allows high-yield cash accounts to provide insurance beyond the standard $250K.

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Posted on September 24, 2019

Vanguard is piloting and is expected to soon release a new digital planning and automated-investing product called Vanguard Digital Advisor, according to a document filed with the SEC. Vanguard Digital Advisor will have a $3,000 minimum and an all-in fee of 0.20%, placing it in direct competition with providers targeting less affluent investors. In doing so, Vanguard will undercut incumbents Fidelity and JP Morgan, who both have all-in costs—management and underlying fund fees— of 0.35% and independents Wealthfront and Betterment, who have all-in costs of around 0.33% and 0.36%, respectively depending on the portfolio chosen. 

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Posted on September 21, 2019

When digital investing was first introduced, platforms quickly began accumulating assets. Digital advisors were labeled industry disruptors, as talks of fee compression, the commoditization of professional asset management, and disruption of the investment advice industry ran rampant.  Digital advice providers had the advantage of emerging during a historic multi-year bull market. Over the last four years, the market has continued to mature, adoption has spread across major financial institutions, and new consumer trends have emerged. An increasing number of companies are battling for market share and institutions have developed their own offerings.  In the race to achieve scale, the largest independent advisors continue to expand product offerings to stay a step ahead of incumbent players and maintain impressive rates of asset accumulation.  

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Posted on September 20, 2019

SoFi, a company initially focused on consolidating student loan debt, has been aggressively expanding into other areas of financial services. Within the past two years, they launched a robo-investing platform, high-interest cash account, and a self-directed brokerage platform with commission-free trading. Most recently, they announced proprietary ETFs offering an introductory 0% expense ratio through June 2020.

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Posted on September 20, 2019

I hope that this post finds you well and that you have enjoyed your summer. The last few months have been quite busy at Backend Benchmarking! Here are some highlights of our progress:

Successful Capital Raise

On June 1, we closed a fundraising round with $3.8 million in equity capital—$3.0M in Preferred Equity and $800K in SAFEs. We also secured a signed letter of intent from Peapack Gladstone Bank for an additional $1 million in debt financing. Once the debt financing is finalized, the total amount raised this year will be $4.8 million!

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