SigFig and Personal Capital are early entrants in the robo-advising space, with the companies starting their robo-advising platforms in 2006 and 2009, respectively. Both utilize modern portfolio theory (MPT) to construct portfolios based on client preferences for investment time horizon and risk tolerances. SigFig and Personal Capital also offer access to financial advisors, which are unavailable through many digital investment management platforms. Another common feature between the two is their relatively high account minimums, with SigFig requiring $2,000 and Personal Capital requiring $100,000. With the high minimum and high management fees, Personal Capital is designed to attract high-net-worth clients while SigFig is trying to carve out a niche as a bolt-on investment automation solution for a wider range of retail investors. We will take a closer look at both offerings to highlight their similarities and differences to allow investors to determine which offering is best for them.
- Account Minimum: $2,000
- Fee: 0.25% (first $10,000 is free)
- Has a higher minimum investment requirement than many robo-advisors, but low management and investment expense fees, and no management fees for accounts with less than $10,000.
- Offers free, unlimited access to human financial advisors.
- Provides comprehensive wealth management tools utilizing information from your external accounts to show a complete financial picture in one place.
- Provides free tax-loss harvesting on taxable accounts.
- Does not support socially responsible investing (SRI) or cash management/savings accounts.
- Account Minimum: $100,000
- Fees: 0.89% to 0.49% for accounts over $1 million
- Very high minimum investment of $100,000 and high management fees.
- Personal Capital is looking to provide full-service financial advising for high-net-worth individuals that entails working with live financial advisors (including dedicated advisors for accounts with more than $200,000).
- Offers more customization options for clients with complex finances and uses multiple asset types for investment accounts, including individual equities, mutual funds, and fixed income.
- Accounts with $5 million or more are also able to participate in private equity.
- Personal Capital provides comprehensive financial planning tools that incorporate external account information to obtain a more complete picture of your overall financial condition.
Account setup is pretty straightforward at SigFig and Personal Capital in that both use a basic questionnaire to understand investors’ time horizon and risk profile. One key difference is that Personal Capital requires an interview with a financial advisor before opening an account. SigFig doesn’t require you to sign up for anything to answer the questions and see a suggested portfolio. Personal Capital requires the establishment of an account, which leads to the aforementioned interview with a financial advisor. SigFig and Personal Capital also offer excellent financial planning tools with the ability to incorporate external financial information. These tools are available without funding an account.
SigFig customers need to have their accounts held at either Schwab, Fidelity, or TD Ameritrade, and existing customers of these brokers can utilize SigFig’s robo-advisor platform. Personal Capital client accounts are held in custody at Pershing. While the mandatory interview for new customers at Personal Capital may annoy a potential customer, the interview is for the benefit of investors opening an account with at least $100,000. This is because it is common for wealthier investors to have a mix of different assets or less liquid investments, like real estate or private equity holdings. Therefore, the Personal Capital interview can be an important part of the portfolio construction process for these investors. Since Personal Capital offers a high-touch approach for setting up accounts, it is in investors’ best interest to take the interview seriously to best take advantage of the personal advice available at Personal Capital.
While it may make sense for high-net-worth individuals to meet with an advisor, we give a small edge in account opening to SigFig because it’s a quicker process that the investor can do themselves.
SigFig’s goal planning for robo-investing is limited to short-term (less than 5 years), medium-term (5 to 10 years), and long-term (10+ years), and is not particularly robust. Instead, SigFig has a basic questionnaire to determine your risk profile, which they match with the basic time horizons and account type to determine a sample portfolio. To have 25-year-olds and 50-year-olds both fall into the same long-term time horizon for a retirement goal seems a bit broad since long-term time horizons for these two investors are often quite different.
SigFig also provides unlimited access to investment advisors by appointment, so these advisors can also help customers get up and running. Since only one goal can be added to a portfolio, different SigFig accounts would be needed to work towards multiple goals. While SigFig customers can use the portfolio analysis tools, SigFig does not implement investment management changes for external accounts, so account owners need to make adjustments in external accounts.
Personal Capital also has a quick questionnaire process for initial goal setting, but it is a much more hands-on process overall. This includes a team of financial advisors for all accounts, and two dedicated financial advisors for accounts with more than $200,000. Further, the mandatory meeting with an advisor provides an opportunity for Personal Capital to learn your priorities and specific goals, as well as examine any other special or long-term holdings to create a customized investment plan.
Since both SigFig and Personal Capital make financial advisors available to customers for the account setup process, they stand out from many other digital investment advisors that don’t offer advisors. However, we give Personal Capital the edge in goal planning because the initial meeting with the advisor helps with the process of determining how the investment portfolio will be managed, including a look at the overall financial picture for the investor.
Both SigFig and Personal Capital support individual and joint taxable accounts, trust accounts, and all individual retirement accounts (IRA) types, but Personal Capital also supports estate, custodial, business/corporate, conservatorship/guardianship, and health savings accounts (HSA). Personal Capital offers more account types than SigFig.
SigFig account types:
- Individual taxable accounts
- Joint taxable accounts
- Retirement accounts (all IRA types and the ability to roll over a 401(k) account into an IRA)
Personal Capital account types:
- Individual and joint taxable accounts (non-retirement)
- Retirement (all IRA types and the ability to roll over a 401(k) account into an IRA)
- Health Savings Account
SigFig and Personal Capital both handle auto deposits, transfers, and moving money into and out of the account. Beyond this basic functionality, SigFig does not offer account services such as margin accounts, debit/credit cards, or bank accounts for cash and bill payment services, although investors may have access to these account services from the platform chosen to hold the assets (Schwab, Fidelity, or TD Ameritrade). Moreover, SigFig does not allow individual stock positions in their robo-advisor accounts, and doesn’t pay interest on cash balances.
In contrast, Personal Capital provides all the services expected from a full-service financial services company. While margin is not available, two lines of credit can be accessed that have competitive interest rates and no setup or closing costs. Personal Capital also pays interest on cash positions. Personal Capital Advisors also create a personalized list of financial tasks the customer should consider, such as plan analysis, debt review, insurance analysis, and planning for retirement cash flow. Personal Capital’s financial planning software is available to anyone who signs up for the platform, even if they don’t fund the account. Personal Capital pays 0.65% for their Personal Capital Cash program, while Personal Capital’s advisory clients receive a 0.75% interest rate for advisory program account cash balances.
Personal Capital clearly has stronger account services, most notably its full suite of banking and related services, such as cash management and bill payment. SigFig does not offer these banking products, although such services are likely available from the account custodian (Schwab, Fidelity, and TD Ameritrade).
Personal Capital is the clear winner for cash management solutions because they offer cash management services with bill pay, direct deposits, and other common amenities, while SigFig does not offer cash management services.
Both Personal Capital and SigFig use modern portfolio theory when constructing portfolios, but Personal Capital’s approach is more comprehensive. In addition to assets, risk tolerance, and time horizon, Personal Capital’s portfolio construction process also includes incorporating health status, tax laws, legacy goals, net worth and income needs, retirement age, and marital status into the portfolio construction algorithm. In addition to Personal Capital’s impressive portfolio construction process, they also utilize a wide range of assets when building a portfolio, including individual equities, fixed income securities (as opposed to exposure through mutual funds or ETFs), and alternative investments such as real estate and commodities. Accounts with $500,000 or more also have access to private equity opportunities at Personal Capital. Personal Capital also offers a socially responsible investment option, which is unavailable at SigFig.
|Socially Responsible or ESG Options||No||Yes|
|Alternative investments, including real estate and commodity exposure||No||Yes|
|Private Equity (for accounts with at least $500,000)||No||Yes|
The level of personalization from Personal Capital is impressive. This personalization includes the investment advisor helping to establish a portfolio that matches your needs and takes into account external holdings and other special circumstances. Portfolio customization is not available through SigFig.
SigFig and Personal Capital both offer the ability to link to external accounts to allow you to see a full picture of your finances, but neither platform automates the incorporation of this data into the construction of the portfolio. You can choose to take action yourself or work with the financial advisors to help make decisions about asset allocation, including if changes to the portfolio should be considered. Neither digital investment advisor allows the customer to request a rebalancing, but the portfolio criteria can always be changed and that will result in changes to the portfolio’s composition. Both companies rebalance portfolios if they drift too far from the portfolio’s allocation. Otherwise, Personal Capital rebalances semi-annually while SigFig will rebalance monthly.
|Key Portfolio Management Features|
|Automatic Rebalancing||Monthly or if drift criteria is triggered||Semi-annually or if drift criteria is triggered|
|Reporting Features||Monthly statements, performance reports, tracking graphs, and tax reporting||Monthly Statements, dashboard, tax documents, and custom reports|
|External Account Syncing/Consolidation||Yes - automatically updated. Synced assets are not included in the automated portfolio construction and allocation process. Financial advisors are available to assist with review of the consolidated financial picture||Yes - automatically updated. Synced assets are not included in the automated portfolio construction and allocation process. Financial advisors are available to assist with review of the consolidated financial picture|
Personal Capital provides users with stronger security than SigFig, although this is partially owing to the fact that Personal Capital is a full-service broker while SigFig bolts onto accounts through brokerages with their own comprehensive security. Personal Capital utilizes firewalls and perimeter security comparable to that found at other banks and card processors. Personal Capital also sends daily transaction emails so users can confirm accuracy and offers two-factor encryption, which SigFig does not make available. Both robo-advisors provide account holders with Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) insurance. The security overview page on SigFig’s website shares their pledge to not sell your personal financial information.
We give Personal Capital the edge over SigFig because of the daily confirmation email, two-factor authentication, and overall security.
SigFig has an easy-to-use website that has all the information you need. The pages are not crowded, so it is easy to find what you are looking for. The FAQ section is comprehensive and similarly easy to navigate. It is also simple to find numbers for support, and they even have an unobtrusive chatbox with the number for support and an opportunity to schedule a meeting with an investment advisor.
Personal Capital also has a well-designed website that is quick and uncluttered. The Personal Capital website has much more on it than SigFig, including links to key areas such as wealth management, financial tools, cash management, and additional educational content. While both desktops were excellent, we give the small advantage in the desktop to Personal Capital because of how effectively they organized multiple functional areas.
SigFig’s mobile app is also easy to use, and the functionality and navigation on the mobile and desktop versions offers a consistent user experience regardless of device.
Personal Capital’s mobile version also works well. It provides access to multiple portfolio analysis tools and other content, but it does not have all the content contained on the desktop.
Overall, we give SigFig the nod for having a slightly better mobile app.
Both Personal Capital and SigFig have helpful and responsive customer support that includes telephone and email support, as well as the ability to schedule a meeting with a financial advisor. We give SigFig the edge on customer service because they have a better FAQ section and a more intuitive website to navigate.
|Phone contact available||M-F, 6AM to 3PM PT||M-F, 9am to 6pm EST|
|Pre-funding phone consultation with certified advisor||Available, but not required||Yes - required|
|Scheduling an appointment with a financial advisor||Yes - can be scheduled directly from the website||Phone calls by appointment; 2 dedicated financial advisors if account has $200,000 or more, otherwise you have access to a pool of advisors|
|Online chat available||Yes||No|
|Website FAQ section||Yes||Yes|
The fee structures differ significantly between Personal Capital and SigFig, but so does the level of advising offered. There is a large premium to choose Personal Capital over SigFig. SigFig does not charge a management fee until account assets reach $10,000, and then charges a simple flat management fee of 0.25% of assets. In contrast, Personal Capital charges a 0.89% management fee for accounts between $100,000 and $1,000,000. On a $100,000 account, the management fees would be $890 with Personal Capital versus $250 with SigFig, which is more than 3.5 times higher. SigFig’s fee structure is the obvious winner for most investors, but higher net-worth investors may want to consider how much personalized support they are looking for from their digital investment manager.
|Management fees for $5,000 account||$0 – No management fee for account with less than $10,000, then 0.25% management fee||N/A - $100,000 minimum investment amount|
|Management fees for $25,000 account||$62.50||N/A - $100,000 minimum investment amount|
|Management fees for $100,000 account||$250||$890 – 0.89% management fee for accounts between $100,000 and $1,000,000|
|Expense ratios||0.07% to 0.15% ETF expense ratio||0.08% average ETF expense ratio|
|Mutual funds||N/A – Mutual Funds are not on the platform||N/A – Mutual Funds are not on the platform|
Many robo-advisors are designed to reduce the need for human interaction in order to keep costs low for account owners, but both Personal Capital and SigFig are bucking this approach with access to financial advisors. Beyond that core similarity, however, these digital investment advisors are very different. SigFig is closer to a more traditional automated robo-advising platform. Despite a relatively high account minimum of $2,000, SigFig’s management fee remains low at 0.25% for accounts with a balance of $10,000 or more (and free between $2000 and $10,000). This makes it an attractive digital investment advisor, particularly if you already have holdings at TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, or Schwab.
Personal Capital’s approach is closer to a full service broker for determining the portfolio because their financial advisors work closely with investors to determine the right customized portfolio for each individual investor. These portfolios allow customized holdings, and can also provide access to other asset classes such as commodities and private equity. However, once the portfolio has been determined, the account is managed automatically, like other digital investment advisory accounts. There is, of course, a high minimum investment of $100,000 and management fees that are 3.5 times higher than SigFig’s.
While there are reasons people would choose Personal Capital, especially as an alternative to traditional wealth management firms with even higher fees, we feel that SigFig would fit the needs of most investors looking for portfolio automation. It isn’t the most comprehensive robo-advisor, but it is a solid platform with a very competitive fee structure and access to human financial advisors.
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Personal Capital. "Form ADV Part 2."
SigFig. "FAQ: Where is my money held?"
SigFig. "Which account types do you support?"
Personal Capital. "One Secure Place for Your Cash."
SigFig. "Tax Loss Harvesting."
Personal Capital. "FAQ: How can you help optimize my taxes?"
SigFig. "Put your money to work and your mind at ease."