Money

Wealthsimple Review: Is It Canada’s Best Robo-Advisor?

| Last updated on November 11, 2019

Investing is the most efficient way to make idle money work for you. But it’s a complex world, navigating the ins-and-outs of which takes time and energy. It’s why many Canadians are turning to tech for an automated– hands off— approach to investing. Wealthsimple is a fintech solution that makes it easy for millions of Canadians to secure a better financial future through investing

Its an online investment service that brings you a world-class combination of Robo-advisors and human advisors in one platform, making it a compelling solution for long-term, passive, investors.

In this Wealthsimple review, we will take an in-depth look at what’s now considered to be one of the best automated investing services in Canada today.

What is WealthSimple?

Launched in 2014, Wealthsimple is an automated  investment service that helps Canadians build and maintain smart, zero-maintenance, portfolios while giving them advice on how to reach specific financial goals such as  buying a house, tackling debt, or saving for retirement. Although Wealthsimple is known as one of the best Robo- advisors in the world, that title takes away from the team of phenomenal financial experts who consistently provide human advice to their customers. This platform is predominantly aimed towards Canadians who want to get into long-term investment but don’t have the time or know-how to make it happen.

How Wealthsimple works

When you sign-up, Wealthsimple will have you complete a simple risk-assessment questionnaire. Its outcome determines your risk level and shapes the outlook of your portfolio. Wealthsimple runs on the Modern Portfolio Theory which states that in order to minimize volatility and maximize returns you must diversify assets instead of putting all your eggs in one basket.

Once you finish the online application, you will have to E-sign a few Investment Management Agreements , and undergo a quick bank verification process online by entering your account information. The whole process shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes. You should have your account up and running within 5 business days.

You will be given a portfolio mix based on your risk profile, which will be either conservative (65/35 between split stock/bond), balanced (50/50 split between split stock/bond) or growth (80/20 split largely favoring stocks). Wealthsimple will distribute your funds across a diverse mix of low-fee exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that span across thousands of different companies in several industry verticals. Along with developing your investment portfolio, Wealthsimple also manages and maintains these investments, so your portfolio stays healthy even as your asset changes value.

The account types available with Wealthsimple include Individual and Joint Taxable Accounts, Trusts, Traditional, Roth and SEP IRA Accounts.

WealthSimple: Principles

Wealthsimple encourages value-based investing that enable user to invest in companies that align with their life principles:

Socially responsible investing

With Wealthsimple’s SRI option, you can make the world a better place by investing your funds in ETFs that are assessed for their environmental and social impact.

These socially responsible companies prioritize these 6 factors:

  • Carbon exposure Companies promoting  low carbon exposure
  • Gender diversity Companies with increased gender diversity among their leadership roles
  • Cleantech Focuses on clean technology innovators
  • Local initiatives Bonds issued by municipalities to support local investments
  • Socially responsible US companies Focuses on socially responsible American companies
  • Affordable housing Focuses on government issued securities that enable affordable housing

Halal investing

This feature of Wealthsimple helps their Muslim investors build shariah-compliant portfolio that is in accordance with Islamic principles of investing. The Halal investing portfolio contains over 50 stocks that have been screened by third-party committee of Shariah scholars.

They have ensured that no investment is made in companies that profit from gambling, weapons, tobacco or other restricted industries, and businesses that obtain their maximum income from interest on loans are also excluded. The Shariah Compliant portfolio is mixed with a combination of individual stocks to minimize risk and maximize rewards.

Key features of Wealthsimple

Wealthsimple offers their services across 3 pricing tiers – Basic, Black and Generation. Your deposit will dictate which tier you qualify for. Let’s look at the features of each plan individually.

Wealthsimple Basic

  • Deposit requirement $0-100k
  • Wealthsimple management fee 0.5%/ year
  • Automatic rebalancing Wealthsimple maintains your portfolio allocation through market fluctuations which can otherwise cause the securities in your portfolio to appreciate or depreciate in value over time.
  • Expert financial advice You can call, text or email their advisers  with any questions.
  • Auto deposits Automatically transfer a certain amount of money from your bank account to your Wealthsimple investment account on a regular interval. Automatic deposits help to make your contributions hands-off, allowing you to set it up once and let it do its thing. You never have to miss a contribution again just because you forgot or didn’t have the time to manually transfer an amount.
  • Dividend reinvesting Your dividends are reinvested back into securities so you don’t have money sitting idle.
  • Portfolio review A free service offered by Wealthsimple where expert advisors review your portfolio to find the weak spots and help you fix it for the long term.

Wealthsimple Black

Wealthsimple Black is for larger investors. In this tier, you get all the features associated with the Basic plan, and…

  • Deposit requirement $100k+
  • Wealthsimple management fee 0.4%/year
  • Financial planning session Consult with a real advisor and get their expert opinion on how to meet your financial goals, and also have them help you stay on track.
  • Tax loss harvesting Lower your tax obligations on your investment gains by offsetting it against investment losses.  By selling a security that has undergone a loss, your portfolio is able to offset the taxes on your gains.
  • Tax efficient funds Reduce your tax liability by investing in only tax-efficient funds.
  • VIP airline lounge access Get access to over 1000 VIP airline lounges in more than 400 cities.

Wealthsimple Generation

Wealthsimple Generation are for individuals with a high net worth who are serious about growing their legacy and preserving their wealth.  In this tier, you get all the features of Wealthsimple Black, and…

  • Deposit requirement $500k+
  • In-depth financial planning
  • Asset location Put your investments in proper account to gain maximum tax efficiency
  • Dedicated team of advisors Get access to Wealthsimple advisors on-call for a 0.4% management fee.
  • Personalized financial report Wealthsimple designs a personalized financial report that’s customized to your goal, whether it is to create a strategy for retirement or to increase savings. The report includes factors such as net worth, financial projections, cash flow analysis, and actions that must be implemented to reach your set goals.
  • Individualized portfolios Get a personalized portfolio built for your unique financial situation and goals.
  • 50% off Medcan health plan Get 50% off a comprehensive health plan from Medcan.

What we like about WealthSimple

Puts every penny to work
Wealthsimple’s round-up features ensures that your every penny counts. By turning on the round-up function in their app, whenever you make a transaction using any of your cards, Wealthsimple rounds up the purchase amount to the nearest dollar, and you can use that spare change as an investment. The idea is that the spare change, although a small amount now, will add up over time.

Helps you feel good about investing
While other investing platforms, like Betterment and Wealthfront, are now offering SRI portfolio options, it is still quite rare in the robo-advisor space. There are many investors who want their rewards to go beyond money. They want to generate profit by investing in companies whose ethics match their own. Wealthsimple makes it very easy to do so with their ETFs that is comprised of companies involved in cleantech, carbon exposure reduction, those supporting gender diversity in executive roles, securities that facilitate affordable housing, and bonds supporting local investments.

Minority-inclusive
Many Muslim investors end up having to build and manage their own portfolio to ensure their securities are in accordance with the Islamic laws.  Wealthsimple offers an actively managed portfolio specifically catered to their Muslim customers that contains about 50 individual stocks (different from ETFs), each screened and approved by a third-party committee of Shariah scholars. Customers with low-risk tolerance are recommended to hold the majority of their assets in cash when investing in Halal Investing portfolio. In a country as diverse as Canada, this marquee feature is a much needed addition to the investment space.

Start with as low as $1
Another strong pull of Wealthsimple that we love is that it has very little cost of entry. Most investment firms require you to make a deposit of $2000 – $5000 to get started. But Wealthsimple has no such minimum requirements, making it perfect for beginner investors who don’t have a lot of capital upfront. You can start with as little as $1.

Free portfolio review
You don’t even have to sign-up to use this feature. If you upload your statement from any of your investment account, a Wealthsimple analyst will examine your portfolio and give you their expert opinion on your investment allocation, fees and other factors.

Free Stock Trades
This feature is exclusive to Canadians at the moment. With their Wealthsimple Trade app, you can buy and sell over 8000 stocks and ETFs listed on major Canadian and U.S. exchanges without being charged any commissions on trades. They are able to keep the trade commision-free since the operating cost of running this feature through an app is significantly lower than when compared to a traditional bank offering trading services.

Free Retirement Calculator
Wealthsimple offers a free retirement calculator to help you determine how much you need to save for retirement based on your current financial situations. It will answer pertinent questions such as how much you need to retire in Canada, how much you should have saved for retirement, how much you will have when you retire and more.

What we don’t like about Wealthsimple

High account management fees
Wealthsimple charges a higher management fee percentage compared to other brokers such as Wealthfront and Betterment. But its lack of a minimum deposit requirement, ease of use and the convenience of someone else actively managing your portfolio might make up for its high management fee.

Limited personal finance tools
There are currently not many personal finance tools like calculators available in WealthSimple, but this may change in the future.

Wealthsimple: Who is it for?

Wealthsimple is primarily for new investors who don’t mind paying a little extra for a platform that automates investing while still giving you access to pick the brains of expert human financial advisors. This platform is also perfect for investors who want to make a difference in the world by only investing in companies that matches their ethics. It’s also ideal for Muslim investors who are guided by Islamic investing principles because there aren’t many other options in Canada that currently offer Halal investing portfolio.

Conclusion

Where Wealthsimple shines the most is in its diverse portfolio choices that include speciality portfolio offerings and it’s unlimited access to certified financial planners no matter your account type. Their basic portfolio model contains features that are found in many other Robo investing platforms, such as tax loss harvesting, automatic rebalancing, dividend reinvest thing, automatic deposits and more. Starting with WealthSimple is extremely easy because it has no minimum required deposit and it also provides a live customer support.

The platform is easy to use and navigate even on mobile,  and Wealthsimple as a company is extremely transparent in terms of management fees. They also don’t charge and inactivity fee if your accounts it idle for prolonged periods of time.

The only major drawback of Wealthsimple is its management fee on accounts under $100,000. Their fee is higher than many other Robo Advisers including Betterment and Wealthfront. But Wealthsimple does offer a great value for accounts with higher deposit at a competitive management fee.  This platform is recommended for investors who have at least $100,000 to invest. Smaller investors who don’t mind paying a little extra for the seamlessness of automation and human touch that Wealthsimple provides also stand to gain a lot from this platform.