Started in 2015 by a pair of Estonian fintech founders, Smartly Singapore was later acquired by the parent company of MAS-licensed investment brokerage, VCG Partners. So, officially, you’re investing with VCG, whereas Smartly is “merely” its technology provider.
So that’s the history of Smartly. But is that enough to make it the best option out of the many contenders?
Now that practically every bank and investment brokerage in Singapore has jumped on the robo advisor bandwagon, it’s not enough to simply compare fees and minimum deposits.
In this review, we’ll also take a closer look at Smartly’s other features, including its user interface, investment methodology and sample portfolios.
Disclaimer: Please don’t take financial advice from me. I don’t have a cert.
How do you set up a Smartly Singapore account?
As with most robo advisors, setting up an account with Smartly Singapore is a quick and easy (at least in theory) matter of putting in your personal details such as your name and birthday.
You also have to get your account verified before you can start investing. While competitor Stashaway allows for instant verification with MyInfo login, it takes several days to get your account verified with Smartly. That’s a bit of a pain.
Apart from verification, you also have to complete a “customer account review” at this stage. This is basically a short quiz where you tell Smartly what your investment experience level and risk tolerance is like. I assume this is in place so that you won’t get recommended a portfolio that’s too risky for your own good.
Here’s the result of my review. I “lack knowledge and/or experience”, so I have to read the bullet points before I proceed with investing my money.
Unfortunately, the bullet points (if anyone bothers to read them at all) do not entirely give you the full picture of what it’s like to invest in ETFs through Smartly — which I’ll touch on at the end of this review. Still, it’s better than nothing.
What are Smartly’s fees?
All right, so it says “low-cost” up there, but what are the costs of investing with Smartly, exactly? Well, Smartly has a helpful Pricing page which states the costs of doing so:
- 1% annual fee to Smartly for up to $10,000 in investments
- 0.7% annual fee for accounts over $10,000 and under $100,000
For small investments of up to $10,000, Smartly’s fees are slightly higher against that of Stashaway and AutoWealth. This table shows you the annual fees for all 3 at a glance:
|Annual fees for…||Stashaway||Smartly||AutoWealth*|
|$1,000 investment||$8||$10||— (min. investment $3,000)|
* Charges 0.5% commission plus platform fee of US$18 a year (for simplicity’s sake, we’ll round that up to S$25).
Note that Smartly makes a big deal out of how cheap their fees are. That’s not strictly true — Smartly IS cheap compared to buying a unit trust / mutual fund from a traditional brokerage or bank, but it’s not necessarily the cheapest out of the robo advisors.
What’s the minimum investment for Smartly?
Unlike Stashaway, which does not have a minimum amount to invest with, Smartly’s minimum investment is $50. That’s still reasonable. There’s also no penalty for withdrawal, so if you feel like ditching Smartly at any point, go right ahead.
After I got my account validated, I couldn’t figure out how to transfer my first funds into my Smartly account. Then I got the following email:
Thankfully it’s possible to do a PayNow transfer to Smartly, because I’ve completely forgotten how to do it the normal way.
How do you choose a Smartly investment portfolio?
I got assigned a risk score of 4/10, and here’s what they recommended:
Smartly investment portfolios from 1 to 10/10
Although you get assigned a risk score, you can change it to anything you want. Just for fun, I decided to generate the portfolios for all 10 risk scores:
As you can see, the higher the risk score, the more of your funds are directed into stocks, while lower risk means more money in bonds. This is a fairly standard strategy for most robo advisors.
How do you track the performance of your portfolio?
On the Smartly homepage, you’ll see a dashboard summarising your investments immediately upon logging in. It looks like this:
For longer term monitoring, you can also download historical reports:
If unsatisfied with the performance of your investments, you can try adjusting your portfolio by tweaking the risk level.
It’s a bit worrying that there’s no real risk-related warning for increasing your portfolio up to 10/10. All there is is a warning that your pending withdrawal requests will be cancelled.
Conclusion: Is Smartly the right robo advisor for you?
As with the other entry-level robo advisors, Smartly is an affordable and easy-to-use investing platform. I don’t see anything seriously wrong with its investment methodology, and the platform is built such that you can put in a small amount to experiment with different portfolios to get comfortable.
Nonetheless, Smartly plays in the rather intermediate investment field of global equities, bonds and commodities, which are not exactly beginner investments.
Unless you’re a seasoned trader or studied finance, these are complicated and difficult to understand. Smartly knows this, and it (like all the other robo advisors) seduces you by making you believe you don’t have to understand what you’re getting into.
Even if you don’t particularly care for finance, you should know what you’re getting into. For example, did you know that the dividends you make from the US-listed assets on Smartly are taxed 30% by the US government? If you didn’t know that, then you should seriously think about reading up on all the different asset classes that the robo advisor offers.
You do need some level of investment knowledge to use a robo advisor like Smartly. But at the same time, it’s not for those who are serious investment nerds, because the lack of customisability is probably an issue for those people.
In general, it’s best for what I’d call “high beginner” or intermediate investors who know what they’re getting into, but have no desire to obsess over stock market news and the like.
Do you use Smartly Singapore? Tell us about your experience in the comments.