Best Robo for Complex Financial Planning 2020

Best Robo for Complex Financial Planning 2020

Winner: Vanguard Personal Advisor Services
Runner-Up: Personal Capital
Honorable Mentions: Ellevest & Wealthsimple

We believe that complex financial planning benefits from the ability to work with a live planner. Therefore, investors looking for more personalized advice and tailored portfolio allocations may still need to work with human advisors. To justify the level of customization being offered, such services typically have higher investment minimums than digital-only products.

Vanguard’s large scale has allowed them to create a service that can build comprehensive plans with live advice for all of its robo clients for a low fee of 0.30%. This is a discount compared to most similar offerings that provide access to live planners. At Vanguard, planning centers around the direct client-advisor relationship. Working with an advisor, users can plan for multiple long-term investment goals and receive a comprehensive illustration of their assets. While Vanguard’s digital planning tools are not as robust as those offered by Personal Capital, their individualized approach stands out. Vanguard’s offering represents a more traditional advice relationship, as planning is primarily driven by communications with live planners. Generally, Vanguard’s user interface is not as intuitive as the leading independent providers. For those with complex planning needs, Vanguard is a quality option due to its emphasis on the human experience and overall low costs. 

Personal Capital also excels in this category due to their top-in-class digital planning tools. Their free digital planning tools are flexible and can handle a broad set of income and spending goals. When the digital planning tool falls short, all Personal Capital investors have access to live advisors to handle complex planning needs. Through their tiered-service model, the level of portfolio customization and advice services offered increases with the amount of assets under management. Those investing more than $1,000,000 with Personal Capital’s Private Client service receive custom portfolios that include individual stocks and bonds, as well as the option of gaining exposure to private equity. Compared to other leading digital advice providers, the biggest detriment to Personal Capital are high fees, which currently start at 0.89%. When compared to other digital advice providers, this fee is high but is still lower than typical traditional advisors. Fees aside, Personal Capital was one of the few advisors in our ranking with a perfect score in the financial planning category. 

Both Wealthsimple and Ellevest earned honorable mentions for complex financial planning capabilities. In their highest service levels, Wealthsimple Generation and Ellevest Private Wealth, investors receive individualized planning and investment services comparable to those offered by Personal Capital’s Private Client offering. Ellevest, which caters to female investors, also has the unique feature of offering career coaching to help clients navigate salary negotiations and other career challenges. Wealthsimple, on the other hand, provides live advisors to all of their clients, regardless of service level. Those who wish to build a plan with a Wealthsimple advisor will need a minimum investment of $100,000 and be signed up for Wealthsimple Black. Wealthsimple can provide comprehensive plans, but the planning portal and the regular client portal are not currently integrated. Similarly, full planning services at Ellevest are introduced at its premium service tier, which requires a minimum of $50,000.

Details of how we rank the robos can be found here: