Twine is an online brokerage focused on providing simple, hassle-free portfolio investment options. Built to be a mid-point between big brokerages like Vanguard and full-service robo-advisors like Betterment, Twine’s creators shifted the focus of this investment app to appeal to a younger user.
Twine’s user experience is focused on progressing toward specific goals, either solo or with a partner. The nitty gritty of the investment process – asset analysis, portfolio allocation, glidepath adherence, rebalancing – is largely kept out of the user experience. Instead, Twine presents a modern, streamlined interface that keeps the focus on what the user is trying to achieve, not how progress is being made behind the scenes.
Launched in November of 2017, Twine has thousands of users and hundreds of thousands of downloads in the Apple App Store, and the broker says an Android app is coming soon.
'Set it and forget it’ solution for new investors
Customized allocation based on goals and risk tolerance
Portfolios reduce risk as you near your goal
No past performance info available
Account minimum required to explore investment options
Limited support, difficult to track down
Twine is federally regulated and insured. Cash accounts are insured by the FDIC for up to $250,000 per account, while investment accounts are insured against loss due to brokerage failure (not loss of value due to market movements) by the SIPC for up to $500,000.
Twine is a product of John Hancock Financial and is operated by John Hancock Personal Financial Services, LLC (“JHPFS”), which is an SEC-registered investment advisor (RIA). A separate entity, Apex Clearing Corporation, provides clearing and brokerage services to JHPFS and Twine.
Twine takes account protections seriously. From two-factor authentication and fingerprint ID login features to strong TLS encryption, Twine’s user info is protected.
Unlike other popular brokerages, Twine does not offer any detailed information on how their portfolios have performed in the past. Future projections are readily available for each suggested portfolio, but details on how they calculate those projections are limited.
A short menu allows users to set-up or change direct deposits, add or remove bank accounts, and view statements. Clicking on a goal allows you to view more detail about your progress, account activity, current direct deposit settings, and recent deposits from you and your partner (if applicable). Depositing or withdrawing funds is quick and easy, requiring just a few clicks to confirm. Twine also provides encouraging messages upon login to let users know how much progress they’ve made during the month.
One drawback of using the Twine desktop platform is that two-factor authentication (via a code sent to your registered phone number) is not optional. A new code will be sent to your phone every single time you log in, and there are no other options for authentication, such as setting up a passcode or answering security questions.
Though only available for iPhone users, the mobile app is much more robust than the desktop platform, allowing users to add, remove, or edit goals at any time. You can also use Fingerprint ID for quick access.
To edit a goal, simply click Edit and adjust your account type (from cash to investment if you have $100 or more), risk profile, goal settings, and portfolio allocation.
The app menu provides a quick Help link to a mobile Support page, with all the same FAQ and how-to information provided on the desktop version.
While Fingerprint ID login is a very useful feature, it’s an option that Twine has made not optional. Upon initial log-in, users set up both the Fingerprint ID and a passcode. However, users cannot choose which of these authentication factors to use. The app will always ask for your fingerprint and only prompt you for your passcode if it cannot read your print.
Since Twine is not designed for investors who want to do a lot of legwork themselves, it should come as no surprise that the platform is light on research and analysis tools. You won’t find charts, performance metrics, financial statements, or simulated trading tools, because Twine is not a platform for active traders.
The recommended portfolio options do provide some information about projected returns and asset allocation, but users cannot alter weights or fine-tune their portfolios, so adding in-depth research functionality would have been unnecessary and likely confusing for Twine’s target user.
While Twine’s research functions are minimal, there is a bit more in the way of educational resources. You won’t find articles on how to time entries and exits or on the tax benefits of ETFs vs mutual funds, but there is a decent FAQ section that provides information on how Twine works and why.
Though not comprehensive, Twine’s Support page does offer some basic information about the assets they invest in. Articles like “What is a stock?” and “What’s in a moderate portfolio?” offer the kind of baseline knowledge Twine’s target demographic would need to feel comfortable using the platform.
Twine does not provide any information on strategy, tax-efficient investment practices, or how to choose investments. Support articles in categories like ‘Investing’ and ‘Advice’ are focused on educating users about the Twine product more than on smart investing.
Twine also has a blog, though its 20+ posts are primarily focused on user success stories, Twine in the media, and general updates.
Twine’s simplicity is a big draw for its target demographic, but it does mean that the platform is fairly lean.
While the Twine cash accounts do provide higher interest rates than standard savings accounts (which average less than 0.1%), they do not support IRAs or other tax-advantaged accounts. Though ETF-based portfolios offer some downside protection in the form of diversification, and automatic rebalancing is included, you won’t find other features like tax loss harvesting or socially responsible portfolio options.
Twine offers two types of accounts: savings and investment. Savings accounts are held in cash, with no annual fee or account minimum, and provide a variable 0.95% interest rate.
Investment accounts offer three portfolio profiles: conservative, moderate, and aggressive. Each profile allows you to see a general allocation breakdown (between domestic and international stock ETFs, bond ETFs, and cash). Conservative portfolios are more heavily weighted toward cash and bonds, while more aggressive portfolios carry a heavier load of stocks.
Each recommended portfolio profile also provides return projections based on ‘Unusually Good’, ‘Most Likely’, and ‘Unusually Bad’ performance, the amount you want to invest, and how much you will be contributing each month. Twine makes it clear at every step that higher returns necessitate higher risk, and that projected returns may not line up with actual performance.
Once you choose a portfolio and confirm your investment, you can see which specific assets Twine has invested in by clicking the allocation categories (stocks, bonds, international, and cash). However, there is no additional information provided. Users cannot access activity charts, past performance data, or prospectuses. No other asset types are available, and users cannot manually alter or fine tune their portfolios.
Twine’s customer support services are limited. While they do offer both live phone and email support, it is fairly difficult to track down contact information. A link to the Support page is found at the bottom of the homepage, but this takes you to Twine’s searchable FAQ page, rather than to a traditional contact page. The one contact page available, once you find it, is an email form.
To find Twine’s phone number, you must search “contact” on the Support page and click on FAQ articles until you find one that includes it. Tracking down Twine’s support hours required a call after navigating a single automated menu. Staff were friendly and very helpful. According to Twine staff, phone and email support are available Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5pm ET, with normal bank holiday closures.
It does not appear as though Twine offers direct access to any financial or investment professionals.
Commissions and Fees
Twine’s investment portfolios are comprised only of ETFs and some mutual funds, like money market funds. No other assets are available.
What You Need to Know
If you're a couple looking to build wealth together, Twine is a good option. If you're a self-directed investor who doesn't need company, you may want to look elsewhere.
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