[Note: This was an April Fool’s joke!]
One of 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|
|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|
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.
I see what you did there.
Happy April fool’s day to you too. :)
I like the digs at segregated funds and smart beta.
second time in a row :P
I’m a bit sad that this is an April fools joke… I love bender and would have totally trusted him with my money ;)
Just shut up and take my money already!!!!
Where do I send my cheque?
Another fantastic April Fool’s Day post! This one even has audio!!
Great post. Bender will give Jim Cramer stiff competition!
This service seems very attractive to me. How do I enroll? :)
Happy April fools to you too !
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 ;-)
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”.
Nice – http://goo.gl/kZ2JSR
I look forward to your April Fools Day posts every year. Amazing!
LOLZ. I am so stoked that you are a fan of Futurama!
Oh my, I fell for it for a few seconds there and was like, I’m so smart I don’t even need that
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.
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!
Please tell me this is not an April fools trick:)
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.
Just don’t call it Beiber (hope I spelled that right).
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!
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.
But where is the button to ask how to invest for income?
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.
Ha, ha…You didn’t get me this year ;-)
Happy April Fools to you too! I love the robot voice the best!
Dan you got me. Good job !
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….”.
How funny was that?
Always enjoy your April 1st posts Dan.
Isn’t Bender really a former disc jockey?
Great April Fools joke Dan! Anyone looking for an online investment manager (without the robot voice), check out: https://www.wealthsimple.com/
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.
One of the template reports let’s you see asset allocation.
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!