Disclaimer: This non-sponsored article is updated as of 24 Feburary 2021. Do note that the information provided by Cherie Tan serves as an educational piece and does not constitute an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any investment product(s). It does not take into account the specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any person. Readers should always do their own due diligence and consider their financial goals before investing in any investment product(s).

First off, I'm a happy to disclose that I’m a customer of both Endowus and Stashaway. Both platforms are boast features that work great for most passive investors. I decided to take a deeper look into both platforms over a long coffee break just to get a better idea of where my investments were going. Truth be told, I didn't hesitate putting my funds into either Stashaway or Endowus. Even with little research, you and I would already realise that these platforms currently offer some of the best investment options for passive investing, with minimal cost associated to them.

In this post, I’m going to assume that you’re already aware of basic investment terms and fintech terms.

The Obvious, Comparable Features of Stashaway and Endowus

The Minimum Investment

Stashaway has no minimum investment (except on their Income Portfolio, with a $10,000 SGD minimum deposit), while Endowus has a minimum investment requirement of $10,000 SGD (Feb 2021 Promo: $888 minimum investment). Comments: The minimal investment factor may be an inhibitor for young, fresh graduates who are currently focused on establishing a emergency fund or paying down their first home renovation, so I’m counting on these roboadvisors to offer promos from time to time such that more millennials and the younger generation can get started on retirement planning as soon as possible.

The Fees, At First Glance

Both Stashaway and Endowus display their fees very clearly.

Stashaway

Total Investment (SGD)

Annual fee rate (incl. GST)

First $25,000

0.8%

Any *additional amount above $25,000, up to $50,000

0.7%

Any *additional amount above $50,000, up to $100,000

0.6%

Any *additional amount above $100,000, up to $250,000

0.5%

Any *additional amount above $250,000, up to $500,000

0.4%

Any *additional amount above $500,000, up to $1,000,000

0.3%

Any *additional amount above $1,000,000

0.2%

Stashaway Pricing Table, https://www.stashaway.sg/pricing

Endowus (Cash Only)

Total Investment (SGD)

Annual fee rate (incl. GST)

Up to $200,000

0.6%

$200,001, up to $1,000,000

0.5%

$1,000,001 to $5,000,000

0.35%

$5,000,001 and Above

0.25%

Endowus Pricing Table: https://www.endows.com/pricing

While both roboadvisors also claim that they do not have any hidden charges or fees, I still attempted to dig a little (a lot) deeper into the fee structure, and managed to find nuggets of information on additional charges that are not included / not displayed as clearly as the fees in the table of fees you see displayed on both Endowus and Stashaway’s pricing page.

Not so hidden, hidden fees:

1. Stacked vs Tiered Pricing

Notice the * I’ve placed next to the word “additional” on Stashaway’s pricing table? Stashaway works with what they call "stacked pricing".

Here's how Stacked Pricing works:

Your first $25,000 is managed at 0.8%. This works out to be $200. Anything above that is charged not at 0.8%, but 0.7%. So, for example, if you have $30,000 held in Stashaway, your fees are not actually 0.7% of $30,000 = $210. Your fees would work out to be: $200 (0.8% of $25,000) + (0.7% of the amount above $25,000, which is $30,000-$25,000=$5,000 = $35) =$235. This is what is known as "Stacked" pricing and it is the pricing structure that Stashaway currently uses.

Here's how Tiered Pricing works:

For Endowus, it's pretty clear cut: with Tiered pricings, your pricing levels are entirely dependent upon which investment amount band you fall into. For example, if you had an investment value of $200,001, you would pay 0.50% in Fees for that entire amount, and not 0.60% on the first S$200,000 and 0.50% on $1 (aka Stacked Pricing).

2. There are charges on the ETFs transactions (Stashaway) and charges on the funds known as “Fund Level Fees” (Endowus)!

Let's leave the access fees / platform fees (the fees you see on the pricings page, basically) out of the question for now, as you would have guessed correctly: they are not the only fees you will be paying. When it comes to investing, it is always our top priority to keep costs as low as possible. Thus, it is important for us to know the whole picture of exactly what we'll be paying for.

Stashaway's ETF Transaction Prices

When ETFs are traded in the market, it incurs the following:

• transaction fees and

• the implicit bid-ask spread fees (the fee if you sell at the bid or buy at the ask)

ETFs also carry the annual expense ratio (used to pay the ETF fund management and operating costs). For ETFs charge, on average, have an expense ratio of 0.15%-0.25%. This is charged over the course of the year, in the form of adjustments to the Net Asset Value. This is not an actual cash flow borne by you. It is offset by the ETF funds before distributing the returns back to you. This expense ratio is incurred regardless of what platform you use to purchase ETFs.

“Why aren’t these fees mentioned on the website?”

In fact, they are mentioned on the pricings page of Stashaway’s website. You’ll see it right under the pricings table and in Stashaway’s FAQs. These fees are fees which you do not explicitly pay for. They are already accounted for in your returns on your investment. In other words, these fees are deducted from the value of your assets (hence, you do not see these fees classified as “fees payable”).

Endowus Fund-Level Fees

For unit trusts, you will similar be required to incur the annual management fees of the fund, similar to the annual expense ratio of an ETF. This refers to the ongoing costs of operating a fund, expressed as a percentage of the fund's average Net Asset Value (NAV). These costs may include investment management fees, trustee fees, and audit fees. The Fund-Level fees are charged by the fund manager of the fund

Unit trusts also incur trailer fees. Trailer fees are paid by fund managers to distributors (i.e. your broker/financial advisor), and are more commonly known as the “agent’s commission”. This, Endowus claims, to fully rebate 100% to you.

4. Currency Conversion Charges Exist too!

Stashaway boasts ETFs from all over the world – particularly the ones in the US. This means that they have to be purchased in US Dollars. When a trade is executed in a foreign currency, you will expect that your currency will first be converted from a non-USD currency to the USD currency, thus incurring a small foreign-exchange fee on your transaction.

Other than incurring the fee, you’re also exposed to currency risks due to the SGD-USD currency exposure: this refers to the potential losses that an international financial transaction may incur due to currency fluctuations (changes in value of the currency).

The currency risk you are exposed to may not always work against you. In fact, the US Dollar can act as a hedge against other foreign currencies, giving you a possible edge in times of economic crisis where the US Dollar may stand a chance to outperform other currencies.

Endowus mainly invests in SGD-denominated or SGD-hedged funds by various reputable fund managers. Essentially, it means that you save on foreign currency conversion costs that may incur in the process, as the fund manager will manage all the foreign exchange transactions at the fund-level, resulting in greater cost efficiencies.

3. Consider the Withholding Tax Implications!

Withholding tax implications are important considerations to factor in when planning your portfolio of investments. ETFs and funds in general have a country of domicile which the fund’s holding company is legally incorporated.

Investing in US securities (stocks, bonds, ETFs) will expose you to US tax regulations. These regulations will affect global citizens investing in US securities: i.e the US will withhold taxes through your broker on dividends received by you. Singaporean investors who invest in a US security, such as some of Stashaway's US-domiciled ETF, will have their dividends payments withheld at 30%. This means that your dividends will be taxed at 30%, reulting in a larger loss on your returns as they compound over the long run. However, Stashaway is confident that US-based ETFs may produce better results and investment views.

Endowus, on the other hand, boasts a variety of Irish-domiciled funds, which unlike the US-domiciled securities and ETFs, are more tax optimized for the typical Singaporean investor, making them an attractive choice.

Updates - 26th February 2021: Transaction Fees

The key question: "Will I be charged each time I top up my portfolios on Stashaway / Endowus?

Stashaway:

As per Stashaway's statement on their platform's transaction fees: There are no charges for deposits. However, if you are depositing into a USD denominated portfolio (i.e. our General Investing or Goal-based Investing), the currency conversion fee of 0.08% charged by our broker will apply.

Endowus

As per Endowus' statement on their platform's transaction fees: There are no transactional charges for top ups via Cash and SRS. However, every buy or sell transaction placed with Endowus for CPF will incur a $2 to $2.50 agent bank charge.

Of course, while these sound great, let's remember that roboadvisors are still relatively novel and terms are subject to potential changes in the future.

Summary

Some concluding thoughts: Personally, like I've mentioned before, I'm a happy customer of both platforms. I love the flexibility of both platforms in that it gives me the freedom to select the types of securities I'll have in my portfolio, without the looming large costs and effort required in tracking.

However, I'd like to caution new investors that with every investment you make, some level of tracking will still be required. If you're completely new to investments and would like to try out Roboadvisors like Stashaway and Endowus, please ensure that you're financially prepared for the risks involved in investing.

Disclaimer:

The Website is for informational and educational purposes only. The Website is not intended to be a comprehensive or detailed statements concerning the matters addressed, and is not professional advice or recommendations (including financial, legal or other professional advice). It is your responsibility to obtain appropriate advice suitable to your particular circumstances from a qualified professional before acting or omitting to act based on any information obtained on or through the Website.

This site was made with by Yours Truly, Cherie Tan.