- Best Canadian Robo Advisors
- What is a Robo Advisor?
- How to Choose The Best Robo Advisor For You
- Robo Advisor Pros and Cons
- Robo Advisors In Canada – FAQ
Robo advisors are perfect for Canadians who want to grow their investments but aren’t interested in paying high fees for a financial advisor or figuring out how to trade on their own (if you’re more of a DIY person, check out the best online brokers in Canada instead).
We compiled our list of the best robo advisors in Canada from hundreds of reviews as well as the MDJ Editorial Team’s personal experience. We’ll give you a rundown of the best robos on the market today, and explain why we think Canada’s robo advisors are the easiest, most user-friendly way to automate investments.
Canadian Robo Advisors Quick Comparison
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Before we dive into more detail in our 2023 Best Canadian Robo Advisor picks, let’s take a step back to decide if robo advisors are the best fit for you.
If you are:
1) Looking to get into investing but not sure how to start.
2) Looking for the easiest possible way to get math-backed investment returns for the long term.
3) Looking to “set it and forget it” when it comes to your investments – as opposed to checking your online brokerage account each month.
4) An experienced investor, but simply looking for a passive investment strategy that requires minimal effort.
Then Canada’s top robo advisors might be the perfect way to build your nest egg.
Wealthsimple – Canada’s Best Robo Advisor
Wealthsimple is the MDJ editorial team’s top pick for the best robo advisor in Canada – and it’s not even close to be honest.
Why? Read our full Wealthsimple Review (which includes a unique promo) for all of the details, but here’s a quick breakdown of just why they are head and shoulders above their competitors.
1) Their user experience is simply one of the best of any online product we’ve ever seen. Both their website and app are objectively beautiful and efficient, while being newbie-friendly at the same time.
2) They make it so easy to get on board and start investing. Wealthsimple has consistently refined their onboarding process and while other robo advisors have improved, Wealthsimple Invest is still the quickest and easiest to get started with.
3) Wealthsimple’s fees are amongst the lowest in Canada for any level of assets.
4) They continue to innovate new products and bring them to their platform. With everything from Wealthsimple Tax to crypto now under one umbrella, the company has proven it can continue to evolve.
5) Having just closed a record round of funding, Wealthsimple has virtually guaranteed that it will have more resources to continue to grow and improve than any other Canadian robo advisor.
- Account Options: RRSP, TFSA, Non-registered, RESP, RRIF, LIRA, Joint, Business
- Management Fees: 0.40% – 0.50%
- MER: 0.1 – 0.2% (standard ETFs), 0.25 – 0.4% (SRIs)
- Minimum Investment: None
- Mobile App: Yes
- Full Review: Wealthsimple review
Questwealth Portfolios – The Cheapest Robo Advisor
Questwealth is considered to be a hybrid robo advisor – which means their accounts are more actively managed than than a traditional robo.
As an investor, you get to choose from five different portfolios (from Aggressive to Conservative) depending on your risk tolerance. They also offer socially responsible investing options.
What makes Questwealth one of the top robo advisors Canada is their fees.
Questwealth Portfolios have some of the lowest fees on the market. Management fees are 0.2-0.25% per year and the average MER is 0.19% (although MERs for SRIs are higher). So if you are someone who wants a robo with rock bottom fees, Questwealth might be your best pick.
- Account Options: TFSA, RRSP, Non-registered, LIRA, RIF, LIF, Joint, Business
- Management Fees: 0.25% for accounts up to $99,999, then 0.20%
- MER: 0.17 – 0.22% (standard ETFs), 0.21 – 0.35% (SRIs)
- Minimum Investment: $1,000
- Mobile App: Yes
- Full Review: Questwealth review
CI Direct Investing – Best For Canadian Expats
CI Direct Investing was formerly known as WealthBar, but rebranded in August of 2020. They are currently the only robo advisor in Canada that caters to expats – so they have a special place in our hearts.
Although they do require a whopping $25,000 minimum investment for expats, CI Direct Investing makes it otherwise incredibly easy to use a robo advisor while abroad.
You don’t need a Canadian address and you only have to worry about paying the same taxes as you would anywhere else as a Canadian non-resident.
Like a couple other robo advisors on this list, CI Direct operates as a hybrid robo and offers investors unlimited financial advice. CI Direct offers five portfolio options ranging from conservative to aggressive.
They currently have a very attractive welcome bonus offer where you get $10,000 managed for free for the first year after you join. The offer is only for new clients and can’t be combined with other offers.
- Account Options: TFSA, RRSP, Non-registered, RRIF, LIRA, Joint, Business
- Management Fees: 0.35% – 0.60%
- MER: 0.17 – 0.19% (standard ETFs), 0.51 – 0.64% SRIs
- Minimum Investment: $1,000 or $25,000 for Canadian expats
- Mobile App: Yes
- Full Review: CI Direct Investing review
BMO SmartFolio – Best Option Out Of The Big Banks
BMO SmartFolio is our pick for best robo advisor at a Canadian big bank. Many Canadians feel safe using the BMO robo advisor because it combines a well known brand with the new technology of the fintech world.
Due to their big bank roots, BMO SmartFolio is a little more expensive than some of the other robo advisors on this list – but their fees became more competitive during 2022.
Another important factor to consider with BMO SmartFolio is that existing BMO clients can keep their whole “financial life under one roof,” so to speak.
Online banks have a lot of perks – there is no denying that – but, there is also a lot of value in simplicity and a sense of security in keeping your chequing, mortgage, loan, and investments all in the same place.
It’s a lot easier to keep tabs on all of your financial information and accounts in one place (or on one app!) than to continually toggle back and forth between multiple institutions.
- Account Options: TFSA, RRSP, RESP, RDSP, RRIF, LIRA, LRIF, Non-registered, Corporate, Joint
- Management Fees: 0.40 – 0.70%
- MER: 0.20 – 0.35%
- Minimum Investment: $1,000
- Mobile App: No (BMO banking app only)
- Full Review: BMO Smartfolio review
RBC InvestEase – Good (But Pricey)
RBC’s robo advisor is relatively new; it rolled out Canada-wide in 2018 (yes, you can use this robo advisor in Quebec!), but it’s another big bank robo that’s worth noting, especially if you’re an RBC client.
RBC collaborated with BlackRock Asset Management Canada Limited and created RBC iShares ETF which is the largest and most comprehensive ETF offering in the country. With more than 150 ETFs, they have quickly become a powerhouse when it comes to Canadian robo advisors.
RBC InvestEase doesn’t have the most account options or the best fees. However, they make it really easy and straightforward to invest, plus, they have the bonus of having a well-known reputable name behind them.
We prefer SmartFolio when it comes to the head-to-head clash of big bank robos, but try them both out if you want to go the big bank route. More than anything, the massive advantage that RBC Investease has is that so many Canadians use their other products, and it’s just simply easier to go with what you know!
- Account Options: TFSA, RRSP, Non-registered
- Management Fees: 0.50%
- MER: 0.11 – 0.13% (standard ETFs), 0.18 – 0.23% (SRIs)
- Minimum investment: $100 (balances of $100-$1499 will be invested in a Small Balance portfolio)
- Mobile app: No
- Full Review: RBC Investease review
JustWealth – Best for Portfolio Selection
JustWealth is a standout in the Canadian robo advisor field because of their portfolio selection and customization options.
JustWeath offers a fairly standard range of 4 portfolio types (Starter to Aggressive). But here’s the difference: within those categories, they offer 60 different customized portfolios made up of ETFs from 9 different providers.
They also have an innovative RESP portfolio that features educational target dates to help make sure tuition is covered when you need it to be. That’s always a bonus in a world where tuition keeps increasing!
While we love these features, JustWealth has some major drawbacks: all accounts except RESPs have a huge $5,000 minimum investment. JustWealth also has the clunkiest user interface and no app.
But if you’re in the market for RESPs only, or if you really love customization, JustWealth is still worth a look.
- Account Options: RESP, RRSP, TFSA, RRIF, LIRA, LIF, Non-registered
- Management Fees: 0.40% – 0.50%
- MER: 0.25% average
- Minimum Investment: $5,000 except RESPs
- Mobile App: No
- Full Review: JustWealth review
ModernAdvisor – Best for Skeptics Who Want to Try Passive Investing Out
A great choice for people who aren’t quite sure about this whole “robo advisor” thing, ModernAdvisor is the only robo on our list that gives new users a free trial.
For 30 days ModernAdvisor gives you an account with $1,000 of their own money. If you choose to open and fund a real account within the trial period, they’ll let you keep any gains you accrued.
ModernAdvisor also features no management fees for accounts under $10,000, which is another plus if you’re just starting out.
ModernAdvisor has a more active approach to portfolio management than many robo advisors on our list. This may or may not appeal to you – but if it does, be aware that they have a $1,000 minimum balance to begin investing.
- Account Options: RRSP, TFSA, RESP, LIRA, RRIF, Non-registered
- Management Fees: Free for accounts under $10,000 then between 0.35% and 0.50%
- MER: 0.25% average
- Minimum Investment: $1,000
- Mobile app: Yes
- Full Review: ModernAdvisor review
Nest Wealth – Best for High Balances
The thing that really sets Nest Wealth apart is their flat fee structure. Instead of charging a percentage-based management fee, Nest Wealth has a tiered approach.
While predictable fees seem like a good thing, they’re a double-edged sword. Investors at the lower end of each tier will pay a higher percentage in fees than investors at the higher end.
Say you have two investors, one with $10,000 and one with $74,000. Both of these investors will pay the same $25/month fee ($300/year). That means the investor with $10,000 is paying a whopping 3% management fee (higher than traditionally managed mutual funds) while the investor with $74,000 is paying a much more reasonable 0.4%.
That’s why we say Nest Wealth is best for investors with high balances. Once you get well over $325,000 invested, your savings are impressive. For example, an investor with a $900,000 balance would be paying 0.02% in fees, which is an unbelievable rate.
- Account Options: RRSP, RESP, TFSA, LIRA, RRIF, Joint, Corporate, Non-registered
- Management Fees:
- $5/month ($60/year) – $150/month ($1800/year) based on account size
- MER: 0.13% average
- Minimum Investment: None
- Mobile App: No
- Full Review: Nest Wealth Review
What is a Robo Advisor?
Robo advisors are digital investment platforms. The best robo advisors in Canada collect information about your personal goals and risk tolerance and use it to invest your funds in a diversified portfolio of ETFs.
They monitor your portfolio and rebalance it as needed so you never have to worry about your investments – but don’t pay nearly as much as you would for a personal financial advisor.
Using a robo advisor is simple. You add money to your account (whenever you choose) and it is invested into exchange-traded funds (ETFs) based on your chosen risk level. You can do everything from adding money to your account to tracking your process online via the website or app.
Robo advisors are ideal for those who are more interested in a set it and forget it type of strategy. One of the biggest draws for robo advisors is that, because they’re automated, they’re often quite inexpensive and require low or no minimum opening balance.
Are Robo Advisors Safe?
The short answer is yes.
The top robo advisors in Canada take pains to safeguard your funds and personal information. They use bank-level encryption, institution-level firewalls, and two-factor authentication to help protect your data.
All the robos on our list are trustworthy, and most are members of The Candian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF) and/or the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC).
Which is a more-long-winded way of saying yes, all the best robo advisors in Canada are safe. They’re also well established in the industry and are trusted by thousands.
Where Do Robo Advisors Invest Your Money?
Robo advisors invest your money in portfolios of ETFs, or exchange traded funds. Studies have shown that passive investments like ETFs show growth as consistent as actively managed portfolios.
Robos use your financial goals and risk preferences to match you to the ETF portfolio that fits you best.
These ETFs (exchange traded funds) track big indexes and invest your money into hundreds of the largest companies in the world, as well as hundreds of government bonds. This “own the whole market” strategy is known as index investing or “couch potato investing” and is based on the mathematical solutions developed by Nobel Prize winners.
The largest pool of money in the world (Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund) and nearly all major university endowments (such as the billions that Harvard manages) are invested using index investing. So not only is this approach Nobel prize-winning, it’s trusted by major financial players worldwide.
Robo Advisors or Online Brokers?
When you’re wondering whether to choose a robo advisor or an online broker to invest your funds, the real quesiton is how involved you want to be:
Robo advisors are largely hands-off. You answer some questions, deposit your money, and sit back and watch your account grow (literally – you can check the robo advisor’s app or online platform to monitor your portfolio).
Meanwhile, online brokers are DIY trading platforms for people who want complete control over their asset allocation and stock market purchases. This is a much more active management style – so if you don’t already know about the market, you’re going to have to do a load of research.
Canada has excellent discount online brokers as well as great robo advisors. You can read about our favourites in our lists of the best online brokers in Canada or the best stock trading app for Canadians.
So, with great choices on both sides, it really comes down to your personal preference. Dig in and get involved, or sit back and relax? The choice is up to you.
Robo Advisors vs. Financial Advisors
If you’re not interested in buying and selling assets yourself, you’ve got a choice between financial advisors and robo advisors.
Financial advisors choose asset allocations, invest funds, and monitor portfolios for clients. They’re hands-on, working to maximize your returns. Being able to draw on their expertise is amazing—but the price tag for management is (understandably) higher.
Robo advisors’ portfolios are selected and managed by experts—but they don’t give you the same one-on-one attention. For some investors, the personal attention a financial advisor gives you can be worth it. Others will prefer to pay a fraction of the price for a robo advisor.
If you have a complex financial situation, it could be worth it to pay for one-on-one advice. But for any straightforward investment account, a robo advisor is usually all you need.
Robo Advisor vs. Mutual Funds
When considering robo advisors, which offer automated ETF trading versus mutual funds, which feature human beings picking stocks, there are a few things you will want to take note of.
First of all, fees.
As discussed above robo advisor fees for MERs range from 0.1%-.7%. For mutual funds, you are generally looking at 2%+ for those same MERs. That’s a pretty significant difference.
Beginning investors should be aware that minimal investments for mutual funds are significantly higher than those required for robo advisors.
Of course, it’s not all about fees. Another thing to note is that robo advisors do the managing for you, whereas with mutual funds, they need to be managed by humans; either yourself or with a financial advisor.
How to Choose The Best Robo Advisor For You
We’ve already given you details on each of the best robo advisors in Canada, but how can you choose which robo is best for you? Here are some guidelines:
Robo Advisor Fees In Canada
Yes, we did just talk fees, but when you’re comparing robo advisors, it’s also important to compare costs.
When it comes to robos, you’ll pay a management fee (usually a percentage of total assets).. You’ll also pay the Management Expense Ratio (MER) which is charged by the ETF.
The MER isn’t billed the same way as management fees are, and sometimes the numbers can be hard to find unless you dig – which is why we included them in our mini reviews.
Robo advisor management fees vary from Questwealth’s 0.2% to BMO SmartFolio’s 0.7%. MERs vary widely and can depend on whether you’re looking at standard ETFs SRIs.
While we don’t recommend basing your choice of robo advisor solely on cost, it’s still a good idea to check the fees and make sure they’re in line with what you’re willing to pay.
Canadian Robo Advisor Investment Returns
We get asked about robo advisor returns pretty often and people don’t always love our answer, but it’s a fact: Canadian robo advisor returns are a useless metric.
Robo advisors usually rely on passive investing in exchange traded funds, and many of them feature similar ETFs, so you aren’t likely to see a big difference in investment returns between competitors. And because ETFs follow the market and are diversified among hundreds of companies, you won’t see staggering growth or huge returns like you do with some single-company stocks.
According to The Millionaire Teacher author Andrew Hallam in his article for the Globe and Mail, history and studies both show that humans are pretty good at sabotaging their investments, even those who think they are going to rely on a passive strategy. We feel compelled to tinker, even if we really should know better.
Making tweaks based on what you hear on the news or your own personal biasesdoes more harm than good. Research shows that passive management outperforms active management – and that means you’re better off ignoring short-term fluctuations and focusing on the big picture.
While the term “robo advisor” conjures up (inaccurate) images of robot bankers, the fact is that there are teams of real, experienced people behind each of Canada’s best robo advisors.
Most of the best robo advisors in Canada offer some form of person-to-person contact, whether that’s accredited financial advisors who are reachable by phone or customer service teams who can give you basic advice.
When you’re trying to pick the best robo advisor for you, you need to consider how much personal contact you’re going to want and whether the robo you’re considering offers that.
At the very least, you’ll find detailed FAQs and resource pages – when you’re picking the best robo advisor for you, it helps to consider how much help you’re likely to need.
- How complicated is your financial situation?
- How well versed are you in financial terms?
- Can a site like this one help you brush up your knowledge, or do you need to speak to someone personally?
In our experience, the folks behind the screen at robo advisor offices can help answer all but the most niche/advanced questions that Canadians have. For example, they can answer any TFSA vs RRSP questions, but perhaps aren’t yet ready for your income trust “tax management” follow-ups.
Robo Advisor Account Types
You’ll also want to take a look at the different account types offered by the robo advisors as some have more choices than others.
If you’re just looking for a robo advisor for your TFSA or RRSP, then you have a lot to choose from. But, if you’re looking for something more specific, like a robo advisor for your RESP or RDSP, then make sure to check whether that type of account is offered.
A few robos, such as RBC InvestEase, only offer a couple of basic account options. They do an excellent job with the accounts they do have, but their selection is limited. On the other hand, my top pick, Wealthsimple, has the most account options, all of which are very easy to open and start.
Halal, SRI (Social Responsible Investing)
Some robo advisors also offer offer values-based investing options. This includes socially responsible investing (SRI) which is an investment strategy that considers both your financial returns, and the social/environmental impact of the industries involved.
Wealthsimple Invest also offers halal investing which follows Islamic principles.
Platform and Mobile App
Ideally, a robo advisor will have both an online platform and a well-designed mobile app. But that’s just not always the case. Even within the top robo advisors on our list, you’ll see a range of availability:
Some robo advisors like Wealthsimple, Questwealth Portfolios, and CI Direct Investing have both a mobile app and an online platform.
The big bank robos, BMO SmartFolio and RBC Investease, don’t have standalone apps but give investors access via their main banking apps.
JustWealth and Nest Wealth don’t have mobile apps at all.
Simply having an app is only one part of the equation- the other part is considering how good the app is. For example, Wealthsimple Invest’s app has 4 stars on the Apple App Store while Questwealth Portfolios has 3.5 stars.
You get to decide how important mobile access is to you. Maybe you don’t mind having to check your portfolio on your computer – or maybe it’s a total deal-breaker. Either way, it’s worth considering.
Canadian Robo Advisor Promotions
Finally, it’s always worth your while to keep an eye on any promotions being offered by robo advisors.
Similar to how credit cards offer occasional incentives and bonuses for people to sign up to their cards, robo advisors also have added perks to entice you to choose them. Typically, when it comes to robo advisor promotions, you’ll see cash bonuses or some of your investment (up to a certain amount) managed for free for a period of time (normally a year).
Like everything on this list, a promotion on its own isn’t enough to validate choosing a specific robo advisor. But, if you can get some extra perks thrown in then you may as well take advantage!
Our Best 2023 Canadian Robo Advisor Promotion is featured below!
Robo Advisor Pros and Cons
Many Canadians are turned off from investing (with robo advisors and otherwise) because they either don’t know how and think they need to be an expert, or they assume they need a big chunk of cash to get started.
Robo advisors take these barriers away by making investing accessible and easy for everyone. Minimums are low. Investing is automated. It’s straightforward without any of the intimidating factors. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of investing with the best robo advisors in Canada:
Now, robo advisors are great, but they aren’t perfect. There are definitely a few downsides to robo advisors that, perhaps, will be rectified in the future but, for now, are something to be aware of. Here’s a breakdown of the main pros and cons of robo advisors.
|Super easy to get started||While robo advisors do answer 98%+ of the personal finance questions that Canadians have, they don’t offer full financial planning.|
|You can fully automate the wealth-building process. Just “set it and forget it”||Slightly more expensive than managing your own passive ETF portfolio through a Canadian discount brokerage.|
|Questions answered quickly and efficiently – no need to meet up in person.|
|Low Investing Minimums|
|Robo advisors are not ‘one size fits all’|
|Very easy to use|
Basically, robo advisors take care of wealth-building for you. They do what they’re designed to do extremely well, and they’re perfect for investors who just want to grow their wealth without worrying about the nuts and bolts.
Robo advisors aren’t designed to handle extremely complex financial planning issues (in that case it’s best to consult a financial advisor). And if you want to dig in and make your own decisions on a DIY trading platform, they’re not the best option for you. But otherwise, we don’t hesitate to recommend passive investing with one of the robo advisors on this list.
Robo Advisors In Canada – FAQ
American Robo Advisors: Betterment vs Wealthfront
I remember going to a trade show back in 2014, and being amazed at this relatively new company called Betterment. I loved the ideas that American robo advisors were bringing to the table and I asked when they were coming to Canada. They said they had actually had preliminary discussions with the folks behind Power Financial up in Canada.
Well, we now know how that one turned out. Power decided to throw its considerable weight behind Wealthsimple, and that company grew in leaps and bounds. In fact, it grew so fast that it decided to take the fight to American and British robo advisors in their own markets.
Unfortunately, at this time, Canadian residents cannot invest in Betterment or Wealthfront unless they are an American Citizen with a US address and a Social Security Number. Even in that situation, I wouldn’t advise heading down the path due to tax complications.
The good news is that to some degree in the USA, the Betterment vs Wealthfront battle has really transitioned into the Betterment vs Wealthfront vs Wealthsimple battle – and consequently, Wealthsimple’s platform and overall product will continue to get pushed forward in competition with those American robo advisors.
Canada Robo Advisors in 2023 – Final Thoughts
Robo advisors are perfect for investors who prefer to be hands-off without paying for a personal financial advisor. Their passive investing approach is based on Nobel Prize-winning theories and has been proven to be at least as effective as actively managed portfolios.
One of the most common mistakes that I see Canadian investors make is think that they have to be experts on investing before they even get started. The minutiae of investing can be overwhelming and the truth is that the average person will never have the time or energy to understand it all.
What you really need to know is that on average, the world’s stocks and bonds have done really well over the past 200+ years. Canada’s best robo advisors are the best way for the average Canadian to avoid paralysis by analysis and capture the spread investment risk out over a huge pool of stocks and bonds.
The best robo advisors in Canada are affordable, safe, and reliable. They’re great for both beginners and established investors. Canada has a range of robo advisors that offer different account types, portfolio selections, fee structures, and levels of customer service.
Our top recommended robo advisor is Wealthsimple. It has great account selection, reasonable fees, interesting additional features, and stellar customer service.
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