Robo-advisors first arrived in Canada in the beginning of 2014 presenting young and middle-income investors the option of having their savings passively managed in a bundle of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) matched to their goals and risk tolerance for about a penny on the dollar per year: A perfect set-it-and-forget it solution for people with better things to do.
Fast forward to today and the honeymoon atmosphere has dissipated. Against the backdrop of an extraordinarily long-lived bull market in stocks, active management has made a comeback (not least in the ETF space), exotic asset classes like cryptocurrency are on the rise, and new competition is coming from asset-allocation ETFs that do the job of portfolio management all in one security.
Suddenly robo-advisors find themselves having to prove their worth anew, all the while trying to establish a profitable business model in a low-margin corner of the investment universe. It’s surprising, really, because amid all the competition their fee structures and value proposition are as good as or better than ever.
Investors now must probe deeper in their choice of robo-advisor, asking tough questions around performance, risk and the composition of portfolios. The 2022 survey of the Canadian robo industry shows, they’re not all the same.