US-based micro investments platform Acorns, which lets you build an investment portfolio with what is effectively your small change, is set to launch in Australia next year.
Acorns was started in the US last August by father and son founders, Jeff and Walter Cruttenden, where they’ve quickly amassed some 750,000 members – Australia is their first market outside of the US.
To enter the Australian market, Acorns has partnered with Instreet Investment, whose Managing Director, George Lucas, has 30 years of experience in the financial industry both here in Australia and across the globe.
The micro investment idea is quite simple – we all purchase goods which don’t quite add up to whole dollar amounts all the time. $2.85 here, $4.95 there; if you took the 15c from the first transaction and the 5c from the second, and squirreled it away into an account you’d barely notice — this is the basic premise of Acorns.
The transactions don’t come out each time – instead Acorns links to your savings account and monitors your various credit cards and debit cards for transactions; keeping track of these remainder amounts and removing the total when it hits $5 – or you can set up more regular inputs.
Your Acorns account is invested into a Investor Directed Portfolio Services (IDPS) investment portfolio, meaning that you even though your $5 at a time investment is minimal, you can still technically be invested in a company with shares worth hundreds of dollars each, with your stake increasing each time you put more money into the pot.
When you start your Acorns account, you can select between five portfolios, ranging from Conservative to Aggresive, depending on how aggressively you want to invest – remember this is the share market after all and there are risks associated. The portfolio theories are based on work from Nobel Prize Winner, Dr. Harry Markowitz, the father of Modern portfolio theory.
George Lucas says that the aim is to fit in with your usual investment strategy, which often is linked with your financial advisor, Acorns doesn’t replace them, rather works in concert with them. Mr Lucas also said that the investment portfolio is specifically Australian focused.
The Australian focus also means you’ll get a report at the end of every financial year that you can use to report to the tax man. The ATO will definitely want to know about any investments you’ve been making.
Acorns is dealing with your bank account, so right away there’s some questions to ask, but Acorns have gone a great ways to lessen any concerns. You do have to enter your Netbanking credentials into the Acorns app, but the credentials are handled by Yodlee, a world leader in online and mobile personal finance management – who handle the credentials, while Acorns simply holds a token, as well as account details.
On the back end, Acorns uses 256-bit SSL connections, with high-level encryption guarding everything else. Their Android app doesn’t use fingerprint authorisation, however their Android development team is working on the app, and Mr Lucas said that he had discussed with the team and they will look to integrate once the technology is standardised. So recent announcements of fingerprint APIs in Android M could be implemented quite quickly.
Fees and access
Acorns is fairly cheap to run for customers as well, with a free app for Android (and iOS), with Android a particular focus for the Acorns team, which George Lucas says sees more time spent on it than the iOS app. There’s also the Acorns website which you can use to access your account.
Fees are something associated with investment, but this side of things is also kept to a minimum. On fees, Acorns says:
For a small monthly fee and no commissions on trades, users simply use their smartphone to watch their portfolio grow. The app is free and for the first AUD$5,000 in an account, the expected annual fee is just AUD$15.00. The flat fee also means users will be able to add or withdraw money without incurring extra costs, and for savings beyond $5,000, a small fee of 0.275% will be charged.
With Acorns, there’s also the freedom to come and go. Your money isn’t locked in, you can come and go, deposit or withdraw at any time.
Acorns is looking to launch in Australia in Q1 2016 – under the name Acorns Grow Australia Limited. Before the broader launch they will be running a beta trial with around a thousand users. They will be signing in up to 200 users in waves to get to this point which should provide quite a well rounded test of the system.
If you’re interested in learning more about Acorns, or signing up to the Beta program (I have), then head over to the Acorns Australia website acornsau.com.au and enter your email address. You can also follow them at all the usual social media links which are available on their website.