Wealthfront, the Palo Alto-based robo advisor pioneer with about $2.5 billion in assets under management, has dropped one zero from its minimum account balance requirement.
Now, investors will only need $500 to open an online advisory account, as opposed to the previous $5,000 minimum.
“Although $500 can’t even purchase one share of Google, now with just $500 you can get exposure to a globally diversified portfolio across multiple asset classes representing thousands of securities, all in a simple, convenient and automated Wealthfront account,” wrote Elliot Shmukler, the company’s vice president of product and growth, in a blog post.
Wealthfront’s investment platform is based on low-cost ETFs that track 11 asset classes. The first $10,000 of each account is managed without charge. After that, accounts are charged 25 basis points annually.
By comparison, retail clients at Schwab can open a brokerage account with a $1,000 minimum, and a $2,500 minimum at Fidelity.
In the post, Shmukler said the decision to lower the minimum came from requests from prospective, younger customers.
“A year ago, 60 percent of our clients were under age 35. Lately, the rate at which we attract young investors has increased dramatically, which has increased the frequency of requests for a lower minimum,” he said.
While other robo and brokerage services have equally low minimums, Wealthfront has taken aim at the competition by highlighting the monthly service fees they charge.
Betterment, another robo advisory service based in New York, charges a $3-per-month fee, and claims one-third of its revenues from such charges, according to another post by Adam Nash, Wealthfront’s founder and CEO.
Nash also took aim at Charles Schwab’s new robo offering when its rollout was announced last spring, claiming a requirement that accounts allocate a percentage of assets to cash could result in massive losses over an investor’s lifetime.
Schwab quickly took to its blog to defend its model, saying its Intelligent Portfolio platform charges no advisor fees, but only expense ratios on ETFs. The required cash allocations earn interest that is returned to the investor, argued Schwab’s post.
“Adam (Nash) wishes he could build a moat around Wealthfront and protect it against competition. But misrepresenting the facts isn’t the way to do that,” said the unnamed author of Schwab’s post.