Online Investment Portfolio Manager Comparison: My Wish List

An increasingly-crowded space is the online investment portfolio manager, which promises to help you invest better while costing a fraction of what conventional financial advisors would charge. Here is an incomplete list, including several services that I’ve tried and reviewed:

I support the overall vision and enjoy seeing all the new developents, and I think that many of them show promise. Selfishly, I figured that I’d put up my personal wish list of features as a DIY low-cost investor. Many of the services listed above do one or more of these things, but so far none have done enough to replace my current method of using a manually-updated Google Docs spreadsheet.

Import my existing portfolio automatically. Similar to Mint, I should simply provide my login details and have all my portfolio holdings and activity imported and synchronized automatically on a daily basis. Security is a concern here, and it would be really nice if brokers created a “read-only” access protocal, similar to what Capital One 360 has set up for its savings account. SigFig (formerly WikInvest) does this aggregation part reasonably well for many popular brokers.

Track asset allocation across entire portfolio. Many folks have investments spread across various places – 401k, IRA, SEP-IRA, taxable account, etc. I want to know my overall asset allocation across everything. Stocks vs. Bonds, US vs. International, Large-cap vs. Small-cap, Growth vs. Value, please break it down as fine or as broadly as I’d like. This may take some learning by the software in the case of some niche investments like stable value funds or individual bonds. I’ve seen Personal Capital learn asset classes quickly, so it’s definitely possible.

Customized rebalancing alerts. I want to be able to set my own target asset allocation as well as tolerance bands, and have the software send me an alert when I need to rebalance. They could even tell me “buy $X,XXX of Large-Cap US stocks” or “sell $X,XXX of Corporate Bonds”. This is a critical feature of my Google Docs spreadsheet, as it tells me where to invest new cash inflows. MarketRiders provides rebalancing alerts for a fee, but they don’t import data automatically.

Detailed performance stats vs. benchmarks. Even though I’m mostly a passive investor, my actual performance will still depend on the timing of my investments. I’d like to know my “personal rate of return”, which some brokers like Fidelity and Vanguard are pretty good at showing me. But again, I want to see numbers across my entire portfolio. How does my return compare with various benchmarks?

Reasonable cost. Some services are ad-supported or charge based on asset size, but I would be willing to pay around a flat $100 a year or $10 a month for such a product. That’s not much, but I think all of the above can be done with software and thus should scale easily. 10,000 people paying $100 a year is still $1,000,000 a year. Perhaps a company like Morningstar could offer access as part of their premium service, or it could be licensed to an E-Trade or TD Ameritrade.

What features are you looking for that haven’t been met?

Comments

  1. Those are the exact features I’ve been looking for as well. Can you review Investment account manager? I have not taken a good look at it but it might work.

  2. Cooper's Dad says:

    Alert me to the possibility of a wash sale transaction (obviously at the time that I make the purchase of shares previously sold in the past 30 days) so I can reconsider, and…if I go forward with such a purchase that would result on the earlier sale being treated as a wash sake by the IRS, make the proper adjustments to the basis of my remaining shares.

    And calculate my performance metrics both before and after all withdrawals made to fund the payment of fees– to my investment manager or to the account custodian. This would be helpful to me largely because I pay these for multiple accounts but fund them entirely from only one account so on a net basis, none of my accounts reflects performance after fees accurately.

  3. I would like to be able to define additional asset classes (or have a wide selection) that included things like REITs, Micro-caps, Commodities, Countries, etc. I would then like to be able to choose a benchmark for each asset class. (Much like investment managers do.)

    Imagine a system where you could choose your asset allocation percentages (from an extensive list of assets types) then have suggestions for best of breed ETFs or Mutual Funds in each Asset Class (e.g. these are various REIT ETFs that you might like!) Then have it tell you when you get out of balance, and also show you how your picks for that asset class did against a chosen benchmark for that asset class.

    This could also incorporate individual stock picks as those could be thrown in with a particular asset class.

    Also, I need to see how my investments compared to the index both with cash in the account and without… If I add cash to an account and markets are going up, that would be a drag on performance. I’d like to see how just money invested does against the benchmarks.

    Man, that would be awesome…

  4. Excellent wishlist. Jemstep is soon releasing a new product which takes comments like this and others into account from users over the past few months. We are very excited about the upcoming release and will be in touch closer to the time. On a macro-level, kudos to each of these services for helping ordinary investors educate and empower themselves to take more responsibility for their investments.

    Regards,
    Kevin

  5. Are these places acting as the custodian and money manager, or something else?

    If the actual funds stay at the existing company these services seem like one more annoying layer and service to deal with. I’m probably wrong about what they actually do.

  6. Hi Donnie – the different services have different approaches. Some give recommendations and therefore allow you to remain with your existing broker and keep your existing relationships. Others require you to shift assets to them as designated brokerage/custodian. Depending on your circumstances each one may hold a different appeal.

  7. Take a look at futureadvisor as well. Has some nice features, but is missing some others.

  8. I am curious why FutureAdvisor wasn’t mentioned above, wasn’t that reviewed earlier? I believe it offers alerts, imports and takes into consideration the entire portfolio. You only have basic conservative, moderate or aggressive styles to choose from but I like their recommendations that strive for low cost investment choices.

  9. I just talked with an advisor from personal capital. He mentioned about creating my own personalized stock/ETF mix through investing with them. He also mentioned the fee for the first 250k would be 0.95% (250-500k it 0.9% and 500k-1mil is 0.85%). I feel like that’s a little high, but not outrageous given the work they would be doing to set up my custom investment portfolio. The fee is taken out monthly from the account, not buried in the returns like mutual funds. They also eat all the costs for trades and said there’s usually a 0.05 to 0.1% fee for ETFs. I’m debating if it’s worth going through personal capital for this service or trying to manage it all on my own. Have any thoughts?

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