If movies have taught us anything, it’s that handing over total control of anything to a computer is normally a really bad idea. So, investors could be forgiven for being slightly wary of the continued rise of the robo-advisor apps. Are they the answer to easy, profitable management of your stocks and shares portfolio or simply a short route to your mobile going all Skynet or Hal 9000 on you?
We’ll look at the benefits and drawbacks of robo-investing vs Do-It-Yourself (DIY) share dealing to see which is right for you.
To those with little to no experience of the stock market DIY share dealing might seem to be an activity best left to the well-heeled, financial types seen in films such as Wall Street. In fact, share dealing for yourself – without the aid of a financial adviser or share broker – is becoming increasingly popular. Many people now run their own portfolios online using widely available software packages. The great advantage of this is that people can start investing with very small amounts of money – a distinct advantage over using financial advisers who command premium fees from their clients for their expertise and knowledge. This expertise and knowledge make them an excellent resource if you are dealing with moderate to large sums but rather too pricey if your investments are small our you just want to ‘dip a toe’ in the water.
However, for people who are looking for a way to start trading shares without such a steep learning curve or a huge outlay, there is another option: Robo-investing.
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Simply put, robo-advisors (sometimes also referred to as robo-investing software here in the UK) are a group of online packages and apps that aim to help you manage your investments. These programs can assist you in building a portfolio based on certain criteria, usually in the form of some initial questions about how you want your portfolio to be run and your personal circumstances. Based on your answers, robo-advisor apps will automatically select and make changes to your investments in order to produce the best results according to their in-built algorithms. Importantly, although you may get a free ‘trial’ period when first purchased, robo-investing software charges you a fee for their services, together with the expenses of the investments. The charges for robo-advisors can be based on a fixed monthly fee or as a percentage of the assets being managed.
One of the great plus points of robo-investing apps is the fact that they are a ‘fire and forget’ solution to everyday stocks and share management. Once it has assessed your needs through a series of questions, the online software or app will proceed to take over control of your portfolio, basing its decisions on pure logic and algorithms rather than the kind of flawed ‘emotional decision-making’ trap that novices often fall into (with loss-making consequences). This has the benefit of spreading your investments across a range of disparate stocks and shares to maximise potential profits while adhering to your pre-selected choice of risk strategy.
An additional benefit of such a ‘hands off’ solution is that robo-advisors significantly reduce the amount time people spend managing their portfolios and agonising over investment decisions – a positive boon for the time-poor or inexperienced investor.
Robo-investing software is also seen as a cheaper alternative for those who are starting out, or whose portfolio is not large enough to justify the costs of using a financial adviser. This enables people who would not normally have access to professional share-dealing advice to start and grow from a very small investment.
Unlike DIY investment, robo-advisors can be a little limited in their flexibility. For some, this greatly simplifies things and so is a positive trait. However, for those with more knowledge and experience in portfolio management, this inflexibility is a frustrating element.
Relatively speaking, robo-investment also has an overall higher cost than DIY share dealing. While not as high as the costs of utilising financial advisers’ services, the fees of a typical robo-advisor are still greater than the DIY option. While this could put off those who are primarily focused on cost, there are those who consider this a fair trade-off when considering the ease of use and time-saving options that robo-advisors deliver.
Overall, making use of robo-advisor software is a good idea for those who are just starting out in stocks and shares investment or who lack the time that DIY self-management can take up. Both groups will find that a robo-advisor is a useful tool that can save you both time and money in managing your investment portfolio.
To compare different stocks and shares ISAs, including direct purchase and those through a platform or similar robo-adviser then why not check out our Stocks and shares ISA page.
Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.