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TD Ameritrade Goes Robo With Launch of Essential Portfolios

Nov. 1, 2016
Advisors, Investing
TD Ameritrade Goes Robo With Launch of Essential Portfolios
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TD Ameritrade is the latest online broker to enter the robo-advisor market, announcing Tuesday a soft launch of its new digital advisory service, Essential Portfolios.

The service will match clients with portfolios based on their goals and risk tolerance. It will launch officially early next year, but it’s available now to new accounts. As with other robo-advisors, the portfolios will be built out of low-cost exchange traded funds that are monitored and rebalanced automatically. TD Ameritrade says it expects to add tax-loss harvesting in the coming months.

Essential Portfolios has a minimum investment requirement of $5,000 and charges a management fee of 0.3%. Both fall in line with the online advisor offerings from other online brokers.

Five portfolio options

There are five portfolio options, each containing five nonproprietary ETFs recommended for the service by Morningstar Investment Management, a well-respected investment research and advisory firm. The funds have an impressively low weighted average expense ratio of 0.06% to 0.08%. Portfolios also contain an allocation to cash, depending on the investor’s self-assessed risk tolerance.

TD Ameritrade said it sees Essential Portfolios as a new option for its investors who prefer a digital experience, though live support will be available via phone, email and chat.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s top robo-advisors

“Today’s investors want more choices for investment advice. Some want that guidance to come from a human, partnered with digital platform, while others might prefer an all-human or all-digital approach,” Tom Bradley, the company’s president of retail distribution, said in a news release.

Shift to digital advice

Investors increasingly are showing a preference for digital advice, and TD Ameritrade is just the latest in a long list of established online brokers chasing that shift. E-Trade, Fidelity, Vanguard and Charles Schwab all have robo-advisor offerings, following a path paved by startups like Betterment and Wealthfront.

Vanguard and Charles Schwab were the first online brokers out of the gate with online advice offerings, and both services have seen impressive growth. Vanguard’s Personal Advisor Services has over $40 billion in assets under management. Schwab Intelligent Portfolios recently passed $10 billion.

The launch of Essential Portfolios follows TD Ameritrade’s June re-release of Amerivest Managed Portfolios after a digital upgrade. Amerivest pairs digital advice with guidance from human advisors, tailored to as much or as little interaction as investors want.

Essential Portfolios compared with other online advisors

AdvisorManagement feeInvestment expensesAccount minimum
TD Ameritrade Essential Portfolios0.30%0.06% to 0.08%$5,000
Fidelity GoAll-in fee of 0.35% to 0.40%Included in all-in fee$5,000
Betterment0.25% to 0.50%, depending on plan0.09% to 0.17%
WealthfrontFirst $10,000 is managed free, then 0.25%Average 0.12%$500
Personal Capital 0.49% to 0.89%, depending on account balanceAverage 0.10%$25,000
Vanguard Personal Advisor Services0.30%0.05% to 0.19%$50,000
Schwab Intelligent PortfoliosNoneWeighted average of 0.08% to 0.24%$5,000
E-Trade Adaptive Portfolio0.30%0.20% to 0.45% for hybrid mutual fund/ETF portfolio; all-ETF portfolio averages 0.20%$10,000

» Read more: How to find the best financial advisor for you

Arielle O’Shea is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @arioshea.