SigFig and Personal Capital are unique robo-advisors in a field that is becoming crowded with very similar competitors. SigFig stands out as a type of bolt-on robo-advisor that some brokers offer. This add-on approach saves SigFig from having to build out things like an education center, allowing the platform to focus on helping you with your portfolio. Personal Capital is unique in almost the opposite direction, offering an extremely robust platform designed specifically with high-net worth clients in mind. The fact that the account minimum starts at $100,000 puts Personal Capital out of reach for many investors. That said, we’ll take a look at these two unique platforms to see which of them is the better choice to manage your portfolio.
- Account Minimum: $2,000
- Fee: 0.25% (first $10,000 is free)
- Best-suited for investors with current accounts at Schwab, Fidelity, or TD Ameritrade
- Ideal for people who need hand-holding as they can speak with financial advisors and utilize the handy Guidance app
- Designed to be attractive to new investors with free asset management until the account value exceeds $10,000
- Account Minimum: $100,000
- Fees: 0.89% to 0.49% for accounts over $1 million
- Ideally for sophisticated investors with a high net worth
- Designed to give affluent investors a high level of diversification at a very competitive fee when compared to traditional top tier wealth management
- The Personal Capital Cash program should appeal to investors looking for higher-than-average FDIC-insured interest
SigFig asks you questions about age, income, risk tolerance, and investment horizon. There are no tools, calculators, or goal breakdowns, and the investment horizon is limited to short, intermediate, and long-term. Retirement and wealth-building sections can assist you in goal planning, and a well-populated but stale blog can be tough to find because it’s poorly linked to the main pages. Prospective clients can consult with a financial advisor for 15-minutes before funding an account while active clients with at least $10,000 in managed assets can speak with an advisor at any time.
The blog contents feature a variety of goal planning topics but few calculators or tools. The account management interface offers plenty of hand-holding through the Guidance app as well as information about funding levels and portfolio mix if your goals aren’t on track. You can also review monthly transactions, paper trade model portfolios, and build extensive watch lists through the platform.
Personal Capital provides articles and guides for goal planning but they’re verbose, bombarding you with industry words. Personal Capital also publishes a daily blog with market news and developments. You are prompted to import third party financial accounts, including banking, investment, and credit cards, generating a broad picture of your finances and an analysis of current asset allocations. This is primarily used to help inform the retirement planning, which is the main goal setting that Personal Capital offers. You can add non-retirement goals to the platform, although there is little assistance deciding on the size of the goal or contribution requirements.
Personal Capital shines when it comes to retirement resources, which include the proprietary Smart Withdrawal tool, designed to maximize retirement income by breaking out taxable, tax-deferred, and tax-free income. In addition, Personal Capital will advise you on asset allocations in 401K accounts and also help you with charitable gift preparation. Charitable gift support is a rare offering in the robo-advisory industry, but it fits the target market Personal Capital has in mind.
SigFig provides a useful blog with many retirement planning articles but no calculators or tools. However, clients also have access to extensive retirement planning resources at Fidelity, Schwab, or TD Ameritrade.
Personal Capital and SigFig both cover the most commonly used account types. Personal Capital, as a full-service robo-advisor rather than a bolt-on, does offer a wider range of accounts, including a 529 college savings plan. With account types, of course, it only matters that the robo-advisor offers the ones you intend to use.
Personal Capital account types:
- Individual taxable accounts
- Joint taxable accounts
- Traditional IRA accounts
- Roth IRA accounts
- SEP retirement account
- Cash management accounts
- 529 college savings plans
SigFig account types:
- Individual taxable accounts
- Joint taxable accounts
- Traditional IRA accounts
- Roth IRA accounts
- SEP retirement accounts
Features and Accessibility
Personal Capital and SigFig both offer the human touch as a key feature. SigFig comes with a free 15-minute consultation with an advisor before funding an account, along with regular access after signing up. All Personal Capital clients get unlimited access to financial advisors, as is expected with a top tier advisory. SigFig offers full-featured mobile apps for iOS and Android as well as access to Fidelity, Schwab, or TD Ameritrade apps while Personal Capital apps are missing some key features available only on the website. There is no clear winner in terms of features, however, as it depends on which features you’ll actually end up using.
- Financial planner: The client can speak with a dedicated advisor at any time.
- Competitive pricing for high net worth individuals: The program competes well with similar wealth management services at top tier rivals.
- Socially-conscious investments: Portfolios can include sustainable exposure through individual stock and socially-conscious ETFs.
- Access to a financial advisor: Clients with at least $10,000 in managed assets can consult with a financial advisor at any time.
- Free portfolio tracker: A handy portfolio tracker lets prospective clients “kick the tires” with no obligation.
- Top tier brokers: They manage current assets at Schwab, Fidelity, or TD Ameritrade while new accounts are opened at TD Ameritrade.
Personal Capital’s 0.89% management fee and $100,000 minimum deposit effectively limits the service to high net worth individuals. The fee drops to 0.79% for assets between $1,000,000 and $10,000,000, and 0.49% for assets over $10 million. The fee covers your trading costs but you might incur termination costs if transferring funds and you pay ETF expenses that average 0.08%. It is worth noting that Personal Capital’s free planning tools require no financial commitment.
SigFig charges a 0.25% fee on managed assets above $10,000 and is free below that threshold. Clients also have to pay fees on ETFs with expense ratios that average between 0.07% and 0.15%. SigFig doesn’t charge trading or termination fees but ETF sales may generate early termination costs.
Personal Capital and SigFig are very far apart when it comes to minimum deposits. Personal Capital’s $100,000 minimum will force many investors to look elsewhere while SigFig’s $2,000 minimum lets clients review key features with limited risk.
- Personal Capital: $100,000
- SigFig: $2,000
Personal Capital and SigFig have the same broad approach to building and maintaining a portfolio, but Personal Capital has both a more robust methodology and a deeper selection of assets. Personal Capital security analysis methods include:
- Screening relevant baskets of securities or indices in order to select desired attributes.
- Evaluating historical relationships of securities or market segments in relation to each other.
- Evaluating securities based upon historical and projected financial performance.
- Determining desirability based on the performance of an issue within the price cycle
Personal Capital offers 12 types of portfolios, with the majority based on classic Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT) principles and adjusted for nearly unlimited strategic variations and the client’s risk profile and financial goals. On the downside, you cannot see portfolio recommendations until after you’ve spoken with the assigned advisor at the time of account set-up. Portfolios are monitored and rebalanced when they drift outside asset allocation boundaries. The overall goal for portfolio turnover is 15% or less, which is intended to maximize tax savings.
Personal Capital’s investment philosophy goes a step beyond tax-loss harvesting, seeking to optimize the client’s tax burden. Portfolios are designed to be tax-efficient and the advisory uses individual securities to add value when it comes to tax matters. Investments with higher yields are placed in IRAs and other tax-deferred accounts whenever possible to lower tax bills. Mutual funds are not used in any managed portfolios.
SigFig’s MPT-based investment methodology features the following elements:
- Find asset classes that perform well in different market and economic conditions.
- Select investments that provide diversification at lower cost.
- Create portfolios matched to a range of risk tolerances.
- Balance investing risk with expected returns.
- Monitor and rebalance portfolios to maintain intended asset allocations.
The process follows typical MPT methods, increasing exposure to allocations that have shrunk below targets while decreasing exposure to allocations that have expanded above targets. You cannot add or subtract from portfolios but the advisory agreement allows reasonable restrictions that may replace one ETF with an alternate from a similar asset class. The fine print states that rebalancing may occur at different time intervals, based on portfolio characteristics.
SigFig populates portfolios with low-expense and commission-free ETFs on the security list at the brokerage holding client assets but the majority of exposure is taken through Vanguard, iShares, and/or Schwab funds. Personal Capital portfolios may include individual stocks (U.S. equities), ETFs, fixed-income investments, and private equity for qualified investors.
SigFig offers tax-loss harvesting on all taxable accounts at no extra cost. By default, SigFig’s platform considers capital losses and wash sale rules before the sale of securities. Personal Capital provides similar tax-loss harvesting and additional tax optimization services for accounts of $200,000 or more in managed assets.
Both SigFig and Personal Capital utilize heavy-duty 256-bit SSL encryption. Fingerprint, face recognition, and two-factor authentication are available in mobile apps at both advisories as well as third party broker apps. Personal Capital funds are held at Pershing Advisor Solutions LLC, providing Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) and private excess insurance. Sigfig client assets are held at Fidelity, TD Ameritrade or Schwab, who provide the SIPC and private excess insurance.
The dedicated advisor handles Personal Capital customer service issues, so there is no generic phone number to call after the account is established. Prospective clients can speak with a sales or service representative by phone but Personal Capital does not offer live chat. Phone calls made during market hours averaged a slow 4:14 to speak with a knowledgeable customer service representative.
SigFig customer service hours are listed from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and you can reach out by phone, live chat, or email. However, most contact with the financial advisors is done through a web conferencing app. The website includes a tiny box with two men and the word “Questions”, leading to a live chat link that’s easily missed. Phone calls to customer service during market hours averaged a relatively fast 1:33 minutes to talk with a knowledgeable representative.
When comparing Personal Capital and SigFig it comes down to the fact that you get what you pay for. Personal Capital takes a very thorough approach to ensuring optimal diversity in your portfolio by going far beyond a simple mix of ETFs. However, the big knock on Personal Capital is that most people can’t afford it. If you are a high-net-worth individual looking for a robo-advisor to replace pricey wealth management boutiques, then Personal Capital is the robo-advisory for you. This is no surprise, as it was our overall pick for sophisticated investors. The services that matter, like portfolio management, tax optimization, and customer service are well above the average robo-advisor.
If you are not a high-net-worth individual, however, then SigFig makes a decent pitch on average not being that bad. The fact that it bolts on for existing customers of TD Ameritrade, Schwab, and Fidelity, coupled with the lack of fees between $2,000 and $10,000 in assets under management makes it an easy transition to automated portfolio management for the robo-curious. If you are not already with one of those three brokers, however, it is worth taking a look at some of SigFig’s competitors at the 0.25% management fee level before making your decision.
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