Announcing the Couch Potato Robo-Advisor Service

[Note: This was an April Fool’s joke!]

One Benderof the most exciting developments in investing is the rise of online wealth managers, also known as robo-advisors. These services offer online portfolio management at a fraction of the cost of a full-service advisor. We’ve seen a number of these services pop up in Canada in the last year so, and I am happy to announce that my colleagues at PWL Capital are set to launch our own online service for Couch Potato investors. Best of all, it will be absolutely free.

We’ve nicknamed our service Bender, in honor of the lovable robot character from TV’s Futurama. (Any resemblance to the name of a human portfolio manager is purely coincidental.) Bender will be unlike any other robo-advisor, because it won’t actually make any trades in your account: it will simply give you voice instructions. Then you’re responsible for carrying them out.

This is something of a revolution in the robo-advisor space. Provincial securities regulators have put up high barriers for online wealth managers: they simply don’t like the idea of robots making bad investment decisions when human advisors are perfectly capable of doing that on their own. The Ontario Securities Commission blocked our initial application. But we’ve skirted their objections by programming Bender to leave the trade execution up to the individual investor. This feature has the added bonus of giving DIY investors a more hands-on experience.

How the service works

To understand how Bender works, let’s look at example. Assume the target asset mix in your RRSP is 20% Canadian equities, 40% US and international equities, and 40% bonds. Stock markets have been strong recently, and you’ve just made a $10,000 contribution, so your portfolio is now out of balance:

Value ($) Value (%) +/- Target
Cash 10,000 4.90% +10,000
Vanguard FTSE Canada All Cap (VCN) 42,896 21.01% +2,067
Vanguard FTSE All World ex Canada (VXC) 85,963 42.11% +4,305
Vanguard Canadian Aggregate Bond (VAB) 65,287 31.98% -16,371
204,146

Bender’s algorithm will determine the number of shares of VCN and VXC you will need to sell to get your equity allocations back on target. Then it will calculate the number of shares of VAB you need to buy to prop of your bond holdings. But rather than placing those trades automatically, Bender will give you these instructions in his charming robot voice:

 

Need answers? Ask Bender

Our robo-advisor service doesn’t just manage your portfolio. It also answers your questions about current market conditions through an interactive feature we’re calling “Ask Bender.” For example, you might ask him for his opinion on the current low-rate environment:

 

Worried about the recent weakness in oil prices? You can ask Bender about that, too:

 

We hope future upgrades will include the ability to send alarmist tweets when markets go down, make useless forecasts in the media, and perform several other tasks that are currently the domain of human advisors. We’re even exploring the possibility of getting Bender insurance-licensed so he can recommend segregated funds.

There are still some bugs in the software, but we’re hoping to launch Bender within a couple of weeks. We hope you’ll agree it will be the most significant development in the Canadian investment industry since smart beta ETFs. We’ll keep you up to date.

 

36 Responses to Announcing the Couch Potato Robo-Advisor Service

  1. Yannick April 1, 2015 at 8:10 am #

    I see what you did there.

  2. Adam April 1, 2015 at 8:51 am #

    Happy April fool’s day to you too. 🙂

  3. Michael James April 1, 2015 at 8:53 am #

    I like the digs at segregated funds and smart beta.

  4. Dimitris April 1, 2015 at 9:00 am #

    second time in a row 😛

  5. Single Dad Living April 1, 2015 at 9:09 am #

    I’m a bit sad that this is an April fools joke… I love bender and would have totally trusted him with my money 😉

  6. MDJ April 1, 2015 at 9:16 am #

    Just shut up and take my money already!!!!

  7. Andrew Macdonell April 1, 2015 at 9:18 am #

    Where do I send my cheque?

  8. SNB April 1, 2015 at 9:20 am #

    Another fantastic April Fool’s Day post! This one even has audio!!

  9. Benjamin Felix April 1, 2015 at 9:29 am #

    Great post. Bender will give Jim Cramer stiff competition!

  10. DL April 1, 2015 at 9:35 am #

    This service seems very attractive to me. How do I enroll? 🙂

  11. Paul G April 1, 2015 at 9:41 am #

    Happy April fools to you too !

  12. fluffy April 1, 2015 at 9:53 am #

    I know it’s a joke post but this site and a spreadsheet is Bender… You could rename the rebalancing spreadsheet to Bender to make it real 😉

  13. PK April 1, 2015 at 10:20 am #

    I was really hoping to hear some advice from the actual Bender. “Hey meatbag, load up on AI and battery stocks. After us robots crush all humans those will be the only companies worth anything”.

  14. Adil April 1, 2015 at 11:24 am #

    Nice – http://goo.gl/kZ2JSR

  15. Rick April 1, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    I look forward to your April Fools Day posts every year. Amazing!

  16. Cuylar Conly April 1, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    LOLZ. I am so stoked that you are a fan of Futurama!

  17. Sam April 1, 2015 at 12:20 pm #

    Oh my, I fell for it for a few seconds there and was like, I’m so smart I don’t even need that

  18. jpetso April 1, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

    It’s funny because a service like this would actually be useful. I started coding a mobile app to make better rebalancing suggestions just like the robo voice above, but didn’t make it all that far.

    Something like this could massively improve on Excel spreadsheets on both functionality and user experience – automatically pull ETF prices, make concrete suggestions, respect percentage or absolute dollar limits as to when buying or selling actually makes sense, offer pointers to tax implications, minimise churn between account types (TFSA/RRSP/taxable), take into account investments from different banks, etc.

    You always say it’s bad to give general advice because everybody’s situation is different. With an app that knows about an individual’s relevant information, there could be tailor-made advice for the vast majority of people. Just make sure to offer a “Consult a fee-based investment advisor” suggestion when the information is too complex for the app to handle.

  19. Rod Martin April 1, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    That was hilarious! In all the humour, I think you’re making a serious point about the common-sense nature of index investing. I love it!

  20. Pete April 1, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    Please tell me this is not an April fools trick:)

  21. Bernie April 1, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

    I realize this was an April Fools joke but I feel something so basic as a Robo service for rebalancing a few ETFs should be a free service.

  22. John T April 1, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

    Just don’t call it Beiber (hope I spelled that right).

  23. Noel April 1, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

    Wow, I signed up and I’ve already got a few voice instructions and my portfolio is up 20% today alone. This is simply amazing. Plus, you didn’t mention this, but your service also auto-deposits 1% of my portfolio value into my TD Waterhouse account every time I get a voice instruction from Bender.

    This is going to totally change the landscape of investment advice in Canada and return the exhorbitant fees the investment industry has been sucking out of us since time immemorial.

    Thanks so much!

  24. Albert wilson April 1, 2015 at 1:36 pm #

    Can you make some comments in regards to the insurance industries options ie segregated funds, annuities etc. This is an area that I know little about. If in the future you may offer such products as part of your robo advisor it would be prudent to have your comments in the offerings of the insurance companies investment vehicles.

  25. harveym April 1, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

    But where is the button to ask how to invest for income?

  26. jamie April 1, 2015 at 6:16 pm #

    you are too funny! Is this yet another career option for you??
    Thanks for keeping us laughing and for all the other great stuff you do the rest of the year.

  27. Cici April 1, 2015 at 7:36 pm #

    Ha, ha…You didn’t get me this year 😉

  28. Trish April 1, 2015 at 7:46 pm #

    Happy April Fools to you too! I love the robot voice the best!

  29. Andrew brown April 1, 2015 at 8:23 pm #

    Dan you got me. Good job !

  30. Gerry P April 1, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

    Reminds me of the old joke about the onboard announcement from the automatic pilot: “You have nothing to fear. Nothing can go wrong can go wrong can go wrong can go wrong….”.

  31. My Own Advisor April 2, 2015 at 6:15 am #

    How funny was that?
    Always enjoy your April 1st posts Dan.

    Mark

  32. lake superior john April 2, 2015 at 8:21 am #

    Isn’t Bender really a former disc jockey?

  33. Mallory April 6, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    Great April Fools joke Dan! Anyone looking for an online investment manager (without the robot voice), check out: https://www.wealthsimple.com/

  34. David McKenna March 1, 2016 at 9:14 pm #

    For those who want to do their own robo-advising. I’ve made a Python script which takes the .CSV exports you can get from TD Waterhouse and creates nice reports from them.

    https://github.com/dgmckenna/InvestingCSVtoPivotReports

    One of the template reports let’s you see asset allocation.

    This script:
    1. Saves time
    2. Let’s you see results from both you, and your spouses’ accounts in the same report.
    3. Solves the issue of the couch potato portfolio’s being changed, since you just change the category you assigned old stocks to. Hopefully the couch potato community finds this useful!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] 1st is better known as don't believe the internet day. Canadian Couch Potato jokingly announced their robo-advisor […]

  2. Weekend Reading: Death of Retail Edition - April 4, 2015

    […] And finally, April Fools’ Day is terrible but at least there’s one article I look forward to every year. Dan Bortolotti is back with a tale of Bender, the new Canadian Couch Potato robo-advisory service. […]

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