MoneyOwl review: The robo advisor platform that is a social enterprise

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It sounds a little scary, but MoneyOwl brands itself as “Singapore’s First Bionic Financial Advisor”. No, that doesn’t mean you’ll be served by cyborgs. It does mean, however, that you’ll be able to obtain financial advice with the help of technology.

MoneyOwl is an NTUC Social Enterprise, and is a joint venture between NTUC Enterprise Co-operative and Providend Holding. That makes them sound a bit more legit to those who are afraid of falling prey to scams.

This financial adviser enables you to invest not only cash, but also your SRS (Supplementary Retirement Scheme) savings.

Now this is noteworthy because it opens up the option for you to invest the money in your SRS account, which otherwise only earns a fixed 0.05 per cent per annum.

MoneyOwl also offers other services such as insurance advisory and will writing, but today we’ll focus on their investment services.

MoneyOwl advisor review

MoneyOwl is strictly speaking not a robo advisor. Robo advisors let you invest automatically on a platform, and that’s all. You just create a profile, punch in your preferences, select a portfolio and the app does the rest of the work for you.

Like robo advisors, MoneyOwl provides a platform on which you can invest, but the key difference is that you can do so with the help of a human advisor if you wish.

That means you can pick up the phone and get someone to explain anything you don’t understand, or advise you on your investments — without having to pay commission!

Other than that little value-added service above, MoneyOwl’s platform acts like a robo platform. You set your portfolio based on your risk profile, and the platform then manages your investment automatically.

Unlike many prominent robo advisors, MoneyOwl does not invest in ETFs. Instead, they focus on funds from multinational investment manager Dimensional Fund Advisors.

Fees and charges

MoneyOwl aims to be accessible to beginning investors, so the minimum one-time lump sum investment amount is just $100. For those who want to commit to investing every month, the minimum monthly investment amount is just $50.

MoneyOwl’s barriers to entry are low for those who don’t have much cash to invest. But it turns out that their annual fees do add up.

Type of fee Interest per annum
MoneyOwl Advisory Fees 0.65 per cent (or special promotional rate if you have one)
Platform Fees 0.18 per cent
Fund Expense Ratio (estimated) 0.28 per cent to 0.32 per cent

That’s at least 1.11 per cent in fees, which is relatively expensive. This is understandable given the fact that real live advisors are employed to answer your queries and their “human wisdom” is one of the key ways MoneyOwl differentiates themselves.

 We do a comparison of how MoneyOwl stacks up against the other robo advisors in the market further below. 

Types of portfolios available

MoneyOwl offers five portfolios with exposure to three funds.

The three funds offered by MoneyOwl, all managed by Dimensional Fund Advisors, are:

  • Dimensional Global Core Equity Fund (SGD, Accumulation) – Contains about 7,500 stocks in 23 countries including Singapore, Japan, Australia and the US. 64.8 per cent of the assets are North American, 21.08 per cent European and 13.89 per cent from the Asia Pacific, while the top three sectors are financials (15.59 per cent), industrials (13.17 per cent) and information technology (13.04per cent).
  • Dimensional Emerging Markets Large Cap Core Equity Fund (SGD, Accumulation) – Contains about 900 stocks in 20 emerging markets including China, Indonesia, India and Brazil. 75.58 per cent of the assets are from the Asia Pacific, 13.54 per cent from Latin America and 6.37 per cent from Africa. Top industries include financials (21.64 per cent), information technology (15.47 per cent) and energy (10.74 per cent).
  • Dimensional Global Short Fixed Income Fund (SGD, Accumulation, Hedged) – There are about 180 assets in this bond fund with a 53.24 per cent allocation in Europe and 25.29 per cent in North America.

How does investing with MoneyOwl work?

Users are recommended one of five portfolios to begin investing based on the risk profile they indicate and for how long they want to invest. 

After keying in your basic financial details such as monthly income, assets and loans, you’re given a short questionnaire to assess your risk appetite. 

The algorithm then recommends you a portfolio and its assets based on your risk appetite, and you can start investing if you like what you see. 

The platform rebalances your portfolio every quarter to ensure it’s within your chosen risk appetite. Other than that, it does not make tactical portfolio adjustments other than to asset allocation of the portfolios.

MoneyOwl vs Endowus

Endowus’s portfolios feature mutual funds, and are thus more similar to MoneyOwl’s than other robo advisors who focus on ETFs or REITs.

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In fact, Endowus’s cash/SRS portfolios also offer exposure to the Dimensional Global Core Equity Fund and Dimensional Emerging Markets Large Cap Core Equity Fund, amongst others. But these are just two of a larger basket of funds in Endowus’ portfolios.

Endowus could actually be MoneyOwl’s closest competitor as they are the only other robo investor allowing you to invest your SRS funds. Endowus also lets you invest your CPF funds, which MoneyOwl does not.

In addition, the overall cost of using Endowus is significantly lower, as they charge just 0.4 per cent for cash deposits and 0.6per cent for your first $200,000 worth of CPF and SRS funds.

The big difference here is that you need at least $10,000 to invest with Endowus, while MoneyOwl’s minimum lump sum investment is only $100.

MoneyOwl vs Stashaway

Stashaway’s focus is ETFs, unlike MoneyOwl which focuses on funds. Stashaway is not considered particularly cheap compared to other robo investors, but it is still cheaper than MoneyOwl, with fees of 0.8 per cent on your first $25,000. That being said, you can’t invest SRS funds with Stashaway.

Stashaway also does not impose any minimum investment amount and has a beginner-friendly interface. If the cost of investing is a concern to you and you are fine with investing in ETFs, Stashaway is the cheaper choice.

MoneyOwl vs Autowealth

Autoweath is another robo advisor focusing on ETFs. With fees of 0.5 per cent + US$18 (S$25) platform fee per annum, Autowealth is also cheaper to use than MoneyOwl.

However, Autowealth’s minimum investment amount of $3,000 does make it slightly more prohibitive for beginners. You also can’t invest SRS funds with Autowealth.

MoneyOwl vs Syfe

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Syfe is cheaper to use than MoneyOwl, with its lowest tier account charging 0.65per cent for up to $20,000. They also do not impose a minimum investment amount and have no additional brokerage or transaction fees.

So, overall, Syfe is more wallet-friendly for newbies.

That being said, Syfe focuses on ETFs and REITs and has limited portfolios. Some might like that because it’s straightforward, but if you prefer funds or a more nuanced approach then pick MoneyOwl.

How to sign up with MoneyOwl

Create a MoneyOwl account here. (Click on “Don’t have an account? Get started.”)

Once your account has been created, you will then be able to sign up individually for MoneyOwl’s various services, including their investment platform.

Concluding thoughts

MoneyOwl offers exposure to Dimensional funds (which not all robo advisors do), and is also the only platform other than Endowus that enables you to invest your SRS funds. It’s also fairly very easy to qualify for, as the minimum lump sum investment is just $100.

The main drawback for many will be the relatively high fees relative to other robo investors. This might be worth it if you are making full use of their human advisors.

However, if you are experienced and just need a platform to automate your investments, it might be cheaper to go with Endowus, which in addition to SRS funds also lets you invest your CPF OA savings.

This article was first published in MoneySmart.