David Goldstone, an analyst who specializes in the robo advisor industry at Backend Benchmarking, a financial-services research firm, Martinsville, New Jersey. BackendBenchmarking.com
Bottom Line: You should act quickly
Robo advisors were supposed to make long-term investing easy. But with nearly 100 of these low-cost, software-based portfolio management services sprouting since 2008, fierce competition could drive many out of business. Several have already folded, including not only start-ups such as Hedgeable, LearnVest and WorthFM but also SmartWealth, which UBS Group offered to its British customers.
Steps to take if your robo advisor says it is closing…
Act quickly. You typically have at least 30 days from the time the firm gives you notice to decide what to do with your investments. Otherwise, the firm will close your account by selling your investments and cutting you a check or transferring your investments to a self-directed account.
If your robo holdings are in a tax-deferred account, open a new tax-deferred account with a leading robo advisor that seems unlikely to close such as Betterment…Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios…Fidelity Go…Personal Capital…TD Ameritrade Essential Portfolios…Vanguard Personal Advisor Services…or Wealthfront. Once your new account is set up, ask your old advisor to liquidate your investments, and ask both advisors to facilitate the transfer of the cash directly to the new account—this is required to prevent the transfer from being considered a distribution that might incur taxes and/or penalties.
If your robo holdings are in a taxable account and you want to sidestep any capital gains from selling them, choose a new robo advisor that will accept and manage existing investments. Most won’t, but FutureAdvisor, owned by the very large asset manager BlackRock, will work with existing holdings when possible.