Robo-investing: cheapest and best digital platforms for your Stocks and Shares ISA

An increasing number of ‘Robo’ and digital investment platforms are introducing human financial advisors to help you invest.

Nutmeg has become the latest robo-advisor to offer human financial advice over the telephone.

Investors will now be able to talk to advisors who are regulated to make recommendations based on the investor's individual circumstances.

Three of Nutmeg's competitors, Evestor, Moneyfarm and Wealthsimple, already offer human financial advice, in a shift away from robo-advice's origins in low-cost but somewhat faceless investment platforms.

Advice and support come at a cost, however, and the difference in fees charged by different platforms could cost you hundreds of pounds over time.

In this article, we compare robo-investment platforms, otherwise known as assisted or digital investment platforms, where the platforms help pick the funds for you.

If you’re looking for a price comparison of do-it-yourself type platforms instead, click here for our guide.

This article is part of a wider series on investing, covering all areas from stocks and shares to buy-to-let, peer-to-peer and alternative investments. Click here to view the full guide.

What is robo-investing?

Robo-investing is a catch-all term encompassing a wide range of investment platforms.

In most cases, these software programmes aren’t actually investing for you: instead, they’re using your data to make recommendations of the funds your portfolio should include.

The benefits of this approach are lower fees and then traditional advised platforms, whilst still doing most of the work for you. Robo investing platforms usually focus on cheaper passive exchange-traded funds.

All the platforms in this article offer the Stocks and Shares ISA; many offer the Junior ISA and some are moving into Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPPs).

Please note that this article focuses on fees and usability. It does not review performance or risk, as all platforms have several different options to choose from and past performance is no indication of future returns.

Also, bear in mind that your investments could decline in value and you should be looking to invest for at least five years: if that’s not the case look at a savings account.

Low fees

If you want the absolute lowest fees, it’s difficult to look past Plum and Evestor.

Both have effective total fees of under 0.6% (including product fees); even lower if you have a larger amount invested in Plum (see below for a comparison).

Evestor is also the cheapest platform if you want a personalised recommendation, human advice and automatic rebalancing of your funds.

However, with even the most expensive robo-investing platforms hovering just above the 1% mark, on a small investment the difference in fees is not huge, so you should consider other factors than cost alone.

If you’re confident enough to pick your own funds, you could find even lower fees with do-it-yourself investing platforms.

In many cases, you’ll be able to buy the same funds the robo-investing platforms use, without paying the middleman as much. Some of these funds rebalance themselves, but you would have to rebalance your overall portfolio yourself, however.

If this appeals to you, read our guide to low-cost do-it-yourself platforms here.

Advice and ongoing support

It’s important to distinguish between robo-investing platforms that give you advice and those that don’t.

Moneybox, tickr, Plum and Wealthify ask you to pick between a range of different portfolios. They may have useful reading material but they won’t recommend you a particular option.

Evestor, Nutmeg, Moneyfarm, Tiller and Wealthsimple will ask you a series of questions and recommend a portfolio based on your personal circumstances. These platforms may be more suitable as a beginner investor, when you’re not yet sure what your investment risk appetite is.

In the case of Evestor, Moneyfarm and Wealthsimple, you can also talk to a human financial adviser for no extra cost. Nutmeg's new advice offering has a free initial conversation but then costs £350, making it more suitable for large portfolios.

Whilst most platforms automatically rebalance portfolios over time – to cope with changing events, for example – some don’t, including Moneybox and Plum.

Ease of use

All platforms listed here now offer mobile apps – in fact, Moneybox, tickr and Plum are mobile-only.

You can apply for all platforms online; some can be applied for and funded in minutes, whilst platforms which recommend portfolios will take you through more extensive questionnaires.

All platforms can be funded by one-off or regular transfers. Additionally, Moneybox allows you to round up your everyday purchases and puts the excess into your funds (more on Moneybox here).

Plum uses Facebook messenger to chat to you and will soon have the ability to automatically take money from your current account and put it in investments, by analysing your spending habits.

Ability to customise portfolios

The choice of portfolios for most robo-investing platforms is extremely simple: conservative, balanced and ambitious (or similar).

Wealthify and Nutmeg are slightly different in having five investment settings, again graded by risk appetite; Nutmeg's fully-managed option has ten portfolios available.

Some platforms offer room for more customisation. Plum offers advanced portfolios focusing on tech, ethical or emerging markets, although the fund charges are considerably higher than the standard offerings.

Plum also offers access to peer-to-peer lending through Ratesetter (read more about Ratesetter here).

Tickr offers ethical portfolios with themes such as climate change, disruptive technology and social impact.

Tiller offers the most customisation and one of the only platforms listed here to offer access to actively managed funds, which aim to beat tracker (ETF) funds, although active funds generally have higher charges.

If you can invest more than £100,000, Tiller’s Select Portfolios include a wide range of themed fund picks.

Again, if you really want to customise your portfolio then you could just build it yourself, using a do-it-yourself platform.

Ethical investing

As we recently explained, ethical investment options for beginners are very limited.

Robo-investing platforms are making a difference, however, with Nutmeg, Plum, Wealthify, Wealthsimple, tickr and Tiller offering ethical options.

You only need £1 to access Plum and Wealthify’s ethical portfolios, or £5 for tickr, unlike Wealthsimple’s £5,000 requirement and Tiller’s £100,000.

If you have the money, however, it may be worth looking at the latter platforms, which can tailor an ethical portfolio to your risk appetite.

Keep in mind that ethical funds typically have higher charges.

Click on the links to read more about ethical investing and ethical pensions.

Low deposits

Several platforms allow you to get started with just a £1 minimum deposit.

However, due to some platforms’ flat-fee or tiered-fee structures, if you have a low deposit you should focus on Evestor and Wealthsimple.

Both platforms give you access to human support even if you have only a small amount to invest,

Do you understand risk?

A big attraction of robo-investing platforms is (relative) safety: you should end up with an investment portfolio that suits your risk appetite.

The problem is that different platforms use common terms, such as ‘conservative’ or ‘balanced’, in different ways, the FCA has warned. This could mean you are left with the wrong idea of the risk you face.

The simplest way to assess the risk of a portfolio is to look at the proportion invested in equities vs the proportion invested in bonds. More equities generally mean more risk.

Many robo-investing platforms can give you a breakdown of your recommended portfolio before you need to invest.

Read financial adviser Ben Willis’ guide to understanding investment risk here

Platform comparison

Here are the digital investment platforms ranked by total annual fees for balances below £100,000.

Please note that these figures are approximate, as they are based on average fund charges - a figure that includes the annual fund charges, which are included for illustration.

Bear in mind that some platforms have more complicated tiered fee structures or higher fees for specialist portfolios (such as ethical).

Platform

Minimum deposit

Annual total fee (balance up to £100,000)

Annual total fee (balance over £100,000+)

Average annual fund charge

Automatic rebalancing?

Plum

£1

0.37% + £12

0.37% + £12

0.22%

No

evestor

£1

0.52%

0.53%

0.10%

Yes

Moneybox

£1

0.68% + £12

0.68% + £12

0.23%

No

Wealthify

£1

             0.73%***

0.73%

0.21%

Yes

Nutmeg fixed allocation

£5,000*

0.75%

               0.55%**

0.21%

Yes

Wealthsimple

£1

0.90%

0.70%

0.20%

Yes

tickr                     £5                    0.7%                     0.7%                  0.22% Yes

Moneyfarm

£500

1%

0.80%

0.30%

Yes

Tiller Core

£10,000

1.00%

1.00%

0.25%

Yes

Nutmeg fully managed

£5,000*

1.05%

               0.65%**

0.21%

Yes

Tiller Smart or Select

£10,000

1.44%

1.44%

0.54%

Yes

*Or a £500 initial charge and £100 monthly contribution

** Applied to the balance above £100,000; otherwise higher fee applies

***Higher charges apply to smaller balances 

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