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Understanding investing, part three: The platforms

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How to stop procrastinating and actually (finally) get on top of investing. Because there’s a good chance if you’re reading this, you don’t know a single thing about it.Read the full series here.Now that we know what investing is and why we want to do it, we can start to figure out which investment channel […]

How to stop procrastinating and actually (finally) get on top of investing. Because there’s a good chance if you’re reading this, you don’t know a single thing about it.

Read the full series here.

Now that we know what investing is and why we want to do it, we can start to figure out which investment channel we might want to use to put our theories into practice. Nowadays, online, do-it-yourself platforms are all the rage, and for good reason: unlike traditional routes which involve hiring a middleman or having vast amounts of disposable wealth, online platforms have opened up investing to a whole new set of people in large part due to their low fees, low investment minimums and high levels of user convenience.

Today, there are dozens of options on the market. But to help make it a little easier to find the platform that best suits you, we’ve rounded up some key features of five online investment platforms sweeping the market right now.

Sharesies

Arguably the most widely-known out of all the investment platforms, Wellington-based Sharesies has played a pretty big role in the rise of New Zealand’s retail investing scene since launching in 2017. As the country’s first low-fee online share investing platform, Sharesies quickly racked up thousands of customers in its first few months before exploding in popularity. Currently, there are more than 350,000 investors signed up to Sharesies, and that success is largely thanks to its accessibility (a user-friendly website that tracks investment performance) and low barriers to entry (no minimum investment amount required) making it ideal for newbies who don’t have a whole lot of money to spare or want to start small while they learn the financial ropes. 

When it comes to the range of investments on offer, Sharesies gives you access to a huge number of ETFs, or Exchange Traded Funds, in New Zealand, the US, and Australia. There are also eight managed funds on offer as well as hundreds of individual companies listed on the New Zealand, Australian and US stock exchanges. Depending on what you’re like, the amount of choice can feel overwhelming (personally, as a pretty indecisive person with very little investment experience, honing in on even just a handful of assets feels like a lot to contend with). But with no investment minimums and the freedom to buy and sell and you please, Sharesies can be good for trying out a range of different options on a single platform without the burden of having to make a significant financial commitment. 

Image: Sharesies

To buy and sell shares in companies and ETFs, there’s a 0.5% transaction fee for orders up to $3,000, plus a 0.1% fee for orders over $3,000. For example, a $6,000 transaction will incur an $18 fee – $15 for the first $3,000 (0.5% x $3,000), and $3 for the remaining $3,000 (0.1% x $3,000). For overseas shares, Sharesies also charges a 0.4% exchange fee to convert between currencies while some fund providers will also charge management fees for various ETFs and managed funds. 

InvestNow

InvestNow is another Wellington-based DIY investment platform that started in 2017, but unlike Sharesies, InvestNow is primarily focused on providing online access to managed funds (and, more recently, KiwiSaver and term deposit options). Currently, there are more than 150 managed funds on offer from 26 local and global providers including big names like Milford, Fisher Funds, AMP, and Vanguard Investments.

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The biggest drawcard for InvestNow is that there are no membership or transaction fees – only management fees which vary between providers. These fees can range from as low as 0.2% to as high as 3.02%, and can differ, for example, based on whether the fund is managed actively or passively (the former generally commanding higher fees) and whether there are any additional performance fees too.

Image: InvestNow

For one-off investments, the minimum is $250. Alternatively, if you set up a plan to contribute on a regular basis, the minimum is $50 per fund instead. As a result, InvestNow tends to be ideal for those who want to grow their money over time (minus any platform fees) in a diverse range of assets rather than those looking to buy and sell over a short period of time or invest in certain companies or industries. It’s also great for those wanting access to funds with high barriers to entry, such as Fisher Fund’s International Growth fund which usually requires an initial $2,000 minimum investment.

With that said, there are hundreds of managed funds on offer in New Zealand and not all of them are on the InvestNow platform so it’s worth looking around  (Sorted’s SmartInvestor tool can help) before narrowing down your options.

Hatch

Focused exclusively on US shares, Hatch was launched in 2018 as Kiwi Wealth’s digital investment platform*. With more than 4,000 listed companies and 900 ETFs to choose from, Hatch has proven hugely popular over the last few years for those wanting an easier and more affordable way of investing in the global market, particularly in household names like Amazon, Google, Apple, Netflix, Microsoft, Uber, Disney, and Zoom. There are no investment minimums, no subscription fees, and any US tax obligations are sorted for you before your dividends arrive in your account (in addition to a one-off US$1.50 fee followed by an annual US$0.50 fee to cover tax reporting purposes).

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For each transaction, Hatch charges a flat US$3 fee (up to 300 shares) plus a 0.5% exchange fee. Because of this flat fee, investing via Hatch isn’t always ideal for those looking to put in relatively small amounts of money (eg less than US$500 for a transaction). But for those with a sizeable sum of money to invest and aren’t looking to trade too frequently, that can mean value for money.

Image: Hatch

Hatch also reasons that since the goal of buying shares is for those shares to increase in value, users shouldn’t have to pay more when selling those shares if those shares increase in value. “With percentage fees, the more your shares increase in value, the more you’ll have to pay to sell your shares,” explains Hatch co-founder Natalie Ferguson. “With Hatch’s flat fees, you’re not penalised for growing your money when you sell your shares.”

*Disclaimer: Kiwi Wealth is a sponsor of The Spinoff’s Money section

Stake

Another option for investing in US shares and ETFs is Sydney-based platform Stake. While Stake is a relative newcomer to New Zealand having only launched last year, the company has actually around since 2017 in Australia before expanding to the UK and Brazil. Globally, the platform currently has more than 330,000 customers (including almost 40,000 customers in New Zealand) which is set to rapidly grow having just announced a successful AU$40 million funding round to boost its global expansion.

Stake’s main drawcard is its zero transaction fee structure which means you can make as many trades as you want for free. There are also no foreign exchange fees for transactions – only for deposits and withdrawals which both charge a minimum fee of US$2. Because of this, Stake can be a great option if you want to regularly trade in multiple companies and adopt a more proactive approach to investing (Stake also offers a mobile app that encourages this, something which none of the other platforms currently offer).

Additional costs to be aware of include a US$2 bank processing fee for withdrawals (minimum of $10), a one-off US$5 fee for tax reporting purposes, and an optional 0.5% fee for “express funding” which shortens processing times for deposits from three days to just one. For the truly committed, there’s also the option of paying an extra US$9 a month (or US$90 per year) for Stake Black – a premium membership that gives you access to analyst ratings, detailed financial data and instant buying power.

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Image: Stake

Stake’s pricing structure – which is designed more with the active investor in mind – won’t exactly appeal to a lot of newbie investors. But if you’re looking for a crash course on the rough-and-tumble US markets, Stake could be worth a try. Plus, if you sign up to Stake and fund your account within 24 hours of it being open, you’ll have the chance to get free Nike, Dropbox or GoPro stock worth up to over $130.

Kernel

Launched in Auckland in 2019, Kernel gives New Zealanders the chance to invest in a handful of local and global index funds (a type of fund with a portfolio constructed to match or track a financial market index, such as the S&P 500). Currently, it offers eight funds with specific investment profiles, such as funds focused on commercial property, infrastructure or electric vehicles, as well as those focused on the biggest companies listed on NZX or US markets. There are also three sustainability-focused funds that are set to launch in June this year.

For those investing under $1,000, Kernel charges zero membership, transaction or foreign exchange fees. Meanwhile, those investing over $1,000 also have zero transaction or foreign exchange fees but do have a $3 per month membership charge (or $36 per year). Management fees for investments up to $25,000 range from 0.39%-0.55% per year depending on the fund, or 0.29%-0.45% per year for investments over that amount.

Depending on how much you have to invest, Kernel can be a viable option, especially if you’re looking to invest in the long haul and prefer the more limited set of options to choose from. However, alternatives such as InvestNow (which has no membership fee), Simplicity (which has a lower membership fee for investments over $1,000), and SmartShares (available via Sharesies and which offer some ETFs with lower fees overall) sees Kernel face stiff competition. Finding the right pricing structure for you can make a huge difference so it pays to do a close comparison of fees before diving into Kernel or any other platform on offer, particularly if you’re a small-scale investor.


Read more:

Understanding KiwiSaver, part one: The basics


Read the full series here.

Source: The Spinoff https://thespinoff.co.nz/money/31-05-2021/understanding-investing-part-three-the-platforms/

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Finance Advice 2021