Robo advisors have become an increasingly popular investment option in recent years. Their ease of accessibility, the ability for people to start investing using small amounts, and the hands-off approach that they promise, are all factors that have led to investors of all stripes giving them a try.
Launched in late 2019, Endowus is a robo advisor that has distinguished itself by becoming the first robo advisor in Singapore to provide the most comprehensive range of options for funding your investments. Besides cash, you can also invest monies from your Central Provident Fund (CPF) and Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS).
We took Endowus for a spin to examine what it has to offer, and how it holds up as an avenue for investment.
Overview of robo advisors
In essence, tapping on a robo advisor is like having a financial advisor in the palm of your hand. However, unlike humans, these platforms are digital and driven by algorithms. They recommend investments, typically index funds, based on your goals and risk appetite, and automatically rebalance your portfolio for you when needed.
Some of the popular robo advisors in Singapore include Endowus, StashAway and Syfe.
What Endowus provides
Endowus promises to customise an investment plan for you based on the model portfolios assembled and monitored by its team. Knowledge and transparency are among its values, so you should be able to make informed decisions using the information that it presents.
You can access the platform through an internet browser or its phone app.
Our Experience of signing up with Endowus
After downloading and opening the Endowus app on our phone, the app wasted no time in getting down to business. Once we opened an account, it asked if we wanted to connect the app with Singpass in order to pre-fill our details, or to fill these in manually.
Upon selecting the Singpass option, we could choose for Endowus to retrieve personal and contact information, or extract additional details on income and CPF. The idea being that the latter would help shape its investment advice and allow Endowus to determine how much CPF we could invest.
We appreciated the choice on whether to share CPF details – it allows for the maintenance of some privacy on financial status if desired. And if we chose to opt in, it’s a fuss-free way to determine if investing using CPF funds is possible.
Endowus then brought us to the first of four steps – creating our first investment goal. It also laid out the steps that would follow: Endowus would open an account at brokerage firm UOB Kay Hian for us to invest from, we’d link our funding accounts, and finally review our goal and profile.
It especially impressed us that Endowus would take the step of opening a brokerage account at UOB Kay Hian. In previous experiences with other investment platforms, we would either need to open our own brokerage account, or directly deposit the money with the platform.
According to Endowus, this system ensures that your cash and securities remain secure, since they are all kept under your name. Endowus automatically closes the brokerage account when you’ve withdrawn all investments from them.
This lends the assurance of having an established brokerage firm process the transactions, after executing decisions through the Endowus platform.
Breaking down Endowus’ investment goals
Endowus gives you the choice of four possible investment models to choose from: Core, Satellite, Income, and Cash Smart.
Core is positioned as the first portfolio that most clients would start with, and provides global diversification.
Satellite gives you a narrower range of investment opportunities, picked based on select characteristics.
Income centres around earning passive income and capital appreciation, suitable for those thinking mid to long term.
Lastly, Cash Smart is intended for those with a short-term outlook. It’s meant to provide you with yields higher than what a bank’s savings account could offer, yet with similar low risks.
Endowus advocates an investment strategy that it terms as “core-satellite”. This means that your portfolio has a broad and balanced market exposure, yet also invests in specific regions, sectors, assets or themes that you may have an interest in.
Having these goals set out for us to select from, gave us a clear idea of what Endowus aspired to deliver for its users. Its recommendation of the “core-satellite” investment strategy also gave us some food for thought on how to approach our portfolio going forward. This could be especially helpful for beginner investors with no idea where to start.
Financial offerings available
After selecting the ‘Core’ investment goal, we could either select up to eight funds under Endowus’ Fund Smart option, or choose its Flagship, ESG or Discretionary portfolios. We could choose to invest in all three using cash and SRS; only the Flagship portfolio permitted the investing of CPF.
Read more: How To Invest Your CPF Savings
Interestingly, Endowus offers the Discretionary portfolio in partnership with Dimensional Fund Advisors, which specialises in factor-based investing. It selects diversified investments that all share common factors of return, including value, size and profitability.
In other words, even for those looking solely to pursue a ‘Core’ investment strategy, Endowus offers portfolios of varying compositions depending on whether you prioritise a more conventional pick, environmental and social good, or are keen on scientifically based investing.
Endowus’ underlying investments are unit trusts, so you’ll be buying into these across its various portfolios.
Placing money with Endowus
Should you wish to get started with investing, you’ll need a minimum amount of S$1,000 (from cash/CPF/SRS). You’ll be required to add a minimum of S$100 for subsequent investments.
As part of setting up your investment profile, Endowus also asks what is the worst 12-month percentage loss that you can tolerate. We opted for the lowest possible risk, which was 13%.
In terms of fees, you’ll be required to cover the price of buying the funds, and Endowus’ access fee, which ranges from 0.05% to 0.6% depending on your goal and portfolio. Nonetheless, these fees are comparatively low next to what you would usually pay a financial advisor, which can be around 1% or more.
Endowus also takes pride in rebating trailer fees, which is the annual fee that fund managers pay to whoever sells the fund, to its users.
Endowus impresses with its comprehensive funding options and considered investment objectives. Its accessibility and clarity in explaining how it picks funds, should make it attractive to those who are just starting on their investment journeys.
It’s highly conceivable that more experienced investors, or those maturing in their financial knowledge, would also take advantage of Endowus’ unique product offerings, such as its factor-based portfolios.
With a user-friendly interface and detailed guidance from start to end of the investing process, Endowus provides a refined and trustworthy experience for those seeking to grow their funds through a robo advisor.