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After launching RBC InvestEase on a trial basis in late 2017, RBC officially rolled-out its robo-advisor platform to new and existing customers across Canada in November 2018. RBC says it developed the platform in response to the growing segment of clients who want investment advice but also want to do it all online.
RBC InvestEase fits perfectly in-between the bank’s full service (yet expensive) line up of mutual funds, and its self-directed RBC Direct Investing platform for do-it-yourself investors. Backed by the clout and security of a big bank, RBC InvestEase is not only a great option for RBC clients to save on fees and grow their portfolios, but it also rivals the best robo-advisors in Canada. In fact, their annual fees match those charged by Canada’s leading robo-advisor, Wealthsimple.
As an investor, all you need to do is choose your account type and deposit money into your account. RBC InvestEase’s team of accredited advisors recommend the appropriate investment plan for you, invest your money in a portfolio of carefully selected ETFs on your behalf, and monitor and rebalance your funds to help you stay on track.
RBC InvestEase Features
Here are some of the features that make RBC InvestEase stand out to investors:
|Minimum investment||$0 to open (Invested at $100+)|
|Accounts||RRSP, TFSA, Non-registered|
|Tax loss Harvesting||No|
|Advice Type||Mostly automated, with access to RBC portfolio managers|
|Socially responsible investing||Yes|
|Access||RBC Online Banking|
|Transfer fees||Reimbursement for transfers $15,000+ (up to $200 in fees)|
|Customer Service||Good. Call centre open 8am to 8pm ET|
Best-In-Class Investments: RBC InvestEase portfolios are built with RBC iShares ETFs – Canada’s most comprehensive ETF offering. It has a combined total of 150 ETFs and $60 billion in assets under management.
Reliability and Security of RBC: While most robo-advisors are start-ups that have launched within the past five years, RBC InvestEase is backed by RBC, the largest bank in Canada that’s been in existence for more than 150 years.
Responsible Investing Portfolios: RBC Invest Ease’s Responsible Investing Portfolios are built with passive exchange-traded funds (ETFs) from RBC iShares RBC iShares, which combine traditional investment approaches with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) insights. The RBC iShares’ Responsible Investing ETFs are screened to exclude companies involved in tobacco, controversial weapons, and civilian firearms.
Automatic Re-Balancing: When your portfolio becomes unbalanced with too much of one asset class or too little of another, RBC InvestEase automatically buys or sells the required (ETF) units to bring you back to your original target allocation. Rebalancing ensures that your portfolio stays in line with your objectives.
Professional (Human) Advice: RBC InvestEase clients can access a team of accredited Portfolio Advisors by calling 1-800-769-2531 during regular hours of operation from 8am to 8 pm ET.
RBC InvestEase Fees
Clients of RBC InvestEase pay an annual management fee of 0.50% + applicable sales tax (billed monthly, based on your account’s average Assets Under Management). The management fee is the same for both a Standard Portfolio and a Responsible Investing Portfolio.
As with all robo-advisors, the next layer of fees is comprised of the weighted average management expense ratio (MER) of the ETFs held in your portfolio. The Standard Portfolio comes with ETF MERs ranging from 0.11% to 0.22%, depending on the asset allocation you have set-up. The Responsible Investing Portfolio access different ETFs that come with MERs ranging from 0.18% to 0.30%.
Altogether a client would pay fees of between 0.61% to 0.72% for the Standard Portfolio and between 0.68% and 0.80% for the Responsible Investing Portfolio.
|Fees:||0.50% management fee|
|ETF MERs:||Standard: 0.11% - 0.22% MER |
Responsible: 0.18% - 0.30% MER
Unlike other robo advisors, RBC InvestEase does not offer tiered pricing discounts based on higher assets under management. Note that if you’re currently enjoying a “no management fee” promotional offer, RBC InvestEase will notify you 60 days before prior to charging fees to your account.
Pros and Cons
Here’s a look at the pros and cons of opening an account and investing with RBC InvestEase.
|Backed by the reliability and security of RBC||No financial planning option for clients|
|Access to the largest, most comprehensive suite of ETFs from RBC iShares ETFs||No tiered price discount for larger accounts|
|Ultra-competitive fees for portfolios under $100,000||Limited account selection and portfolio options|
|Access to a team of accredited Portfolio Advisors||No mobile app|
|RBC will cover any transfer fees up to $200 (when transferring $15,000 or more.|
RBC InvestEase’s Investing Model
RBC InvestEase bills itself as a hands-off, automatic investing platform that anyone can use – no investing experience required. The ETFs recommended for your portfolio depends on your answers to a short online questionnaire. For example, someone investing for retirement with 30 years to save will get a different portfolio recommendation than someone investing for a house down payment and needs the money in five years.
Their portfolios are built using RBC iShares ETFs. It should be noted that this is a huge shift compared to when RBC InvestEase was first launched and used ETFs exclusively from RBC Global Asset Management. In early 2019, RBC and iShares combined their ETF business to create a massive strategic alliance with more than 150 ETFs and $60 billion in assets under management.
RBC InvestEase uses ETFs because they offer diversification across asset types, sectors, industries, and geographies. They have lower fees than mutual funds, and they offer liquidity, meaning they are easily bought and sold on the market.
Your money is invested in a portfolio of low-cost ETFs and cash. To meet your goals, your investment portfolio will hold a diverse mix of asset classes. You can hold your investment portfolio in a TFSA, RRSP, or non-registered account.
RBC InvestEase offers two portfolio options: The Standard Portfolio and the Responsible Investing Portfolio.
The Standard Portfolio is appropriate for those who want to achieve their investing goals and minimize fees. Here’s a run-down on what it includes:
- Globally diversified and built with low cost, passive ETFs
- Low fees (management fee of just 0.5% per year on your investment balance, plus a weighted average MER of 0.11%-0.22%)
- Professionally rebalanced and managed by RBC InvestEase
The exact mix of assets will be determined by your risk tolerance, investment experience, and time horizon. What we do know is your investment portfolio will include a mix of fixed income and equity ETFs and cash to meet your financial goals and tolerance for risk. The ETFs used in the Standard Portfolios include:
- iShares Core Canadian Short-Term Bond Index ETF
- iShares Core Canadian Universe Bond Index ETF
- iShares Global Government Bond Index ETF (CAD-Hedged)
- iShares Core S&P/TSX Capped Composite Index ETF
- iShares Core S&P 500 Index ETF
- iShares Core MSCI EAFE IMI Index ETF
- iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets IMI Index ETF
The Responsible Investing Portfolio is meant for investors who want to achieve their future goals and make a positive impact on the world. It’s based on the following:
- Globally diversified and built with low cost, passive ETFs with an in-depth environmental, social, and governance (ESG) integrated assessment
- Excludes companies involved in tobacco, controversial weapons, civilian firearms, and other companies involved in severe controversies
- Low fees (management fee of just 0.5% per year on your investment balance, plus a weighted average MER of 0.18%-0.30%)
- Professionally rebalanced and managed by RBC InvestEase
Here are the ETFs used in the Responsible Investing Portfolios:
- iShares ESG Canadian Short-Term Bond Index ETF
- iShares ESG Canadian Aggregate Bond Index ETF
- iShares Global Government Bond Index ETF (CAD-Hedged)
- iShares ESG MSCI Canada Index ETF
- iShares ESG MSCI USA Index ETF
- iShares ESG MSCI EAFE Index ETF
- iShares ESG MSCI Emerging Markets Index ETF
While two portfolio options might seem limited, know that RBC InvestEase tailors each portfolio based on the investor’s goals, time horizon, risk tolerance, and investing experience. The result is a portfolio that includes a mix of the above ETFs in different combinations and weightings depending on the client’s profile.
Portfolio Asset Mix
Unlike other robo advisors, RBC InvestEase doesn’t have a set of ready to go pre-packaged portfolios; instead, each portfolio is customized to the investor. I went through the steps to open an account and fill out the initial questionnaire to see what type of portfolio would be recommended for me. Based on my age, investing experience, and time horizon my recommended portfolio consisted of 70% equities, and 30% cash and fixed income securities (bonds).
The equities included 24% weighting to Canadian stocks, 24% to U.S. stocks, 14.5% to International stocks, and 7.5% to Emerging Markets. The fixed income component included 18% Canadian Bonds, 10% Global Government Bonds, and 2% Cash.
Here’s a screenshot breakdown of the asset mix:
How Does RBC Invest Ease Compare?
First, RBC InvestEase has the edge over BMO Smart Folio, the only other big bank in Canada with a robo-advisor platform. RBC InvestEase has lower fees, and thanks to their strategic partnership with iShares, now boasts a huge line-up of ETFs from which to build its portfolios.
But RBC InvestEase also compares favourably to our pick of best robo advisors in Canada. In terms of fees, at 0.50% plus a very reasonable 0.11% – 0.22% MER, RBC InvestEase is right on par with Wealthsimple for investors with less than $100,000 to invest. The difference is that RBC InvestEase does not offer price breaks for investors with larger accounts – it’s a flat 0.50% management fee for every client. For RBC clients currently invested in a managed mutual fund portfolio, switching to InvestEase is an absolute no-brainer to save on fees and achieve better investor outcomes.
Finally, the Responsible Investing portfolios offered by RBC InvestEase are constructed with passive exchange-traded funds (ETFs) from RBC iShares. The RBC iShares’ Responsible Investing ETFs are screened to exclude companies involved in tobacco, controversial weapons, and civilian firearms. Socially conscious critics may argue, however, that the Extended ESG Focus methodology used by RBC iShares is less rigid than it could be. The end result is that companies like Exxon Mobil will sneak through the fund's screens. It's obviously up to each investor to decide what is sustainable ‘enough'.
One major plus for RBC InvestEase is that they’re backed by RBC. It goes without saying that RBC is Canada’s largest bank and one of the largest companies in Canada. It has been around for more than 150 years and can offer the kind of security and reliability that is unmatched in the relatively infant field of robo-advisors.
For a more in-depth comparison, check out our guide to the best robo advisors in Canada.
User Experience: A Peak Inside RBC InvestEase
Existing RBC clients will have no trouble navigating the RBC InvestEase platform. It can be accessed and viewed from RBC online banking. Unfortunately, there is no RBC InvestEase mobile app, but clients can verify their account balance through their RBC Mobile app.
The main dashboard is what you’d expect from a robo-advisor online platform. A seamless design that clearly shows your investment plan, performance, portfolio balance, and latest transactions in an easy-to-navigate front page.
There is a live chat option on the dashboard to reach RBC InvestEase customer service. I used this option and was connected in just a few seconds.
While lacking the bells and whistles of an upstart robo-advisor platform like Wealthsimple, RBC InvestEase is an upgrade over a typical “big bank” website experience.
Here are the criteria needed for you to open an RBC InvestEase account:
- You are a resident in Canada
- You’ve reached the age of majority in your province/territory of residence
- You have a Social Insurance Number that starts with a number from 1 to 7
- You are opening this account on your own behalf and are not a General Power of Attorney, Public Trust or third party
- You’re the only person with a financial interest in and exerting control over the assets in this account
The sign-up process for RBC InvestEase was incredibly fast and seamless. Fill out a short questionnaire starting with your age and investment goals (retirement, a major purchase, the future). Then select whether you’re a new investor, if you own some investments through a financial advisor, or if you’re a self-directed investor.
From there you answer a question about your investing knowledge and whether you’re a novice or have been investing for some time. Explain how often you fund your account and what your plans are for your investments (time horizon).
Finally, choose a risk level you are comfortable with for your investments:
From there you’ll receive a personalized portfolio based on your answers to those questions. Then you choose whether you’d like a Standard Portfolio type or a Responsible Investing Portfolio.
The last step before opening an account is to either sign-in to RBC banking (if you’re an existing client) or sign in with a fresh account so you can easily transfer money from your current financial institution.
Is RBC InvestEase Safe?
There’s no question that having the backing of RBC carries a lot of weight. RBC Direct Investing provides custodial services for the money you invest with RBC InvestEase. That means RBC Direct Investing Inc. is responsible for keeping your financial assets safe, maintaining your accounts, record keeping, trade settlement and reporting.
Through RBC Direct Investing Inc., your account is protected up to certain limits by the CIPF in the event of the insolvency of RBC Direct Investing Inc. Under the Online Security Guarantee, if an unauthorized transaction is made in your account through the RBC InvestEase online dashboard, you will be reimbursed 100% for any direct losses in your account. Terms and conditions will apply.
RBC InvestEase is definitely worth a look for new investors looking for a hands-off, automated online solution to investing. Any RBC client who is tired of paying high mutual fund fees should absolutely switch to the robo-advisor platform to save on fees. Furthermore, RBC InvestEase stacks up well against the best robo-advisors in Canada for investors with less than $100,000 to invest.
Socially conscious investors may find the Responsible Investing Portfolio lacking in rigour compared to other SRI options offered by Wealthsimple, ModernAdvisor, WealthBar, and Questwealth. That said, the RBC iShares’ Sustainable Core ETFs are a decent option for those looking for a sustainable investing portfolio.
The bottom line: RBC InvestEase is a terrific option for new investors who want to save on fees and get a truly great online investing experience without having to manage their own portfolio. Backed by the largest bank in Canada, RBC InvestEase arguably offers the most credible robo-advisor service in Canada offered by a big bank. Start investing with RBC InvestEase.
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