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Robo-Advisor News – Spring 2021

Last Updated on May 17, 2021 by Barbara A. Friedberg, MBA, MS

Disclosure: Please note that this article may contain affiliate links which means that – at zero cost to you – I might earn a commission if you sign up or buy through the affiliate link. That said, I never recommend anything I don’t  believe is valuable

Robo-Advisors Continue to Grow, Expand Offerings

Springtime robo-advising news brought us a host of good news. While much of the financial world is still uncertain due to changes in the economy as a result of COVID-19, one thing is very clear: robo-advisors aren’t going anywhere! In fact, the robo-advising field has only grown over the last few months.

Other good news for the spring includes new robo-advisors on the market, an acquisition, and increased ways to ensure your investments align with your values.

Robo-Advisors are Here to Stay

The numbers look very good for robo-advisors in recent years. Robo-advisors have been growing in value consistently over the last few years and are predicted to reach $41.07 billion in the next six years.

This growth is a result of technological improvements, an increased preference for hybrid robo-advisors, and developments or innovations in other countries. Perhaps surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has also helped clients make the leap to robo-advisor investing due to the lack of human emotions and potentially irrational decision marking processes surrounding investments.

New Developments

There are three exciting developments in the robo-advising world this season:

  • Walmart is making large strides to introduce its own robo-advisor, Hazel, to the market. While they are still in the planning stage and are not yet ready to release Hazel, it will be interesting to see what features they choose to include to stay competitive in the U.S. robo-advisor market.
  • Makara, a new cryptocurrency robo-advisor from Strix Leviathan, has recently been released. If you have been hoping to get your hands on some bitcoin, Makara might be the robo-advisor for you.
  • DriveWealth and Aghaz Investments have partnered up to create an Islamic-friendly robo-advisor. Since Islam has some very strict rules about things like debt and interest, as well as some forbidden foods, having a robo-advisor which specializes in Halal investing in a lifesaver.


While at one time we were helping clients choose between Wealthsimple and Betterment, U.S. clients no longer have that option! Betterment has acquired Wealthsimple’s U.S. client base, and all clients will be transferred to Betterment by June. Canadian residents will still be able to invest with Wealthsimple for the foreseeable future.

More Spring Robo-Advisor News

“DriveWealth to Power Robo-Advisor Focused on Islamic Investing” from Financial Advisor

Investors who want or need to ensure their portfolios align with Islamic values will be thrilled to hear about DriveWealth’s new partnership with Aghaz Investmets. Under this new partnership, DriveWealth will help investors screen out ETFs that deal with forbidden goods, such as alcohol, and companies that do not adhere to Islamic law.

The writers at Financial Advisor note that “DriveWealth’s portfolio management system, Autopilot, enables Aghaz to offer customized portfolios and allow planning for goals oriented around the practice of Islam, like saving for Hajj and Umrah, the traditional pilgrimages to Mecca, as well as goals like buying a house or a vehicle.” This ensures that clients who choose DriveWealth are still receiving diversified portfolios to help them reach all their financial goals – just like investors who use other robo-advisors.

Additionally, while Muslims based in the United States are the first target customers for Aghaz, “the company plans to eventually offer customized, values-based portfolios or anyone wishing to invest on their personal values, including climate change and equal rights.” These steps will help DriveWealth stay competitive against values-based investing robo-advisors like M1 Finance.

“Strix Leviathan Spins Out Makara, a Robo-Advisor Company that Helps People Invest in Crypto” by Taylor Soper at GeekWire

“Makara is a new robo-advisor from Strix Leviathan, a cryptocurrency startup based out of Seattle. This new offering joins the ranks of the few – though generally well-known – robo-advisors that allow investors to trade in cryptocurrency such as bitcoin.

Of the new robo-advisor, Taylor Soper writes: “Makara aims to make it more simple to invest in digital assets by creating ‘thematic baskets’ that can meet various goals and interests such as the largest coins or emerging trends.” More specifically, Makara plans to capitalize on the current cryptocurrency craze.

Though new to the market, Makara has already been approved as a registered investment advisor by SEC. The startup has also raised more than $2 million recently to hire further employers and support the project through its release to the general public.”

“Betterment Buys Canadian Robo’s U.S. Book of Business” by Ryan W. Neal at Financial Planning

“Betterment, the largest standalone robo-advisor in the U.S. market, has recently acquired the U.S. customers of another robo-advisor: Wealthsimple.

Though Wealthsimple will continue to manage accounts for Canadian clients, U.S. clients will be transferred to Betterment by June. Though neither company has disclosed the terms of the acquisition deal, we do know that Wealthsimple’s AUM is approximately $190 million across U.S. accounts. We also know that Wealthsimple’s employees, technology, and operations are not part of the deal.

Ryan Neal writes, “Despite significant growth in Canada — Katchen boasts that during the first half of 2020, 18% of new brokerage accounts in Canada were opened at Wealthsimple — the firm has struggled to gain a foothold in the more competitive U.S. robo advice market, says David Goldstone, manager of research and analytics at Backend Benchmarking.

‘This stark difference in adoption between the two markets helps explain why Wealthsimple sold its U.S. assets and is focusing on the Canadian market,’ Goldstone says in an email.”

“Walmart Names its Robo-Advisor ‘Hazel’ and Stocks Up on Talent with Star Hire from Citi, but its Financial Services Venture Still Remains an Enigma” by Brooke Southall at RIABiz

“Walmart has always been a large company with a hand in many fields, but it is now prepared to enter the financial world with a new robo-advisor named Hazel.

While Walmart did not specifically name what inspired Hazel at the trademark filing, “the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) filing contains a voluminous description encompassing ‘financial counseling, financial information and advisory services and financial portfolio analysis,’” according to Brooke Southall. Additionally, “’The list of exact projects and timeline is still being developed,’ said company spokeswoman Molly Blakeman, via email for an earlier RIABiz article on this topic.”

In addition to being a powerhouse when it comes to breaking into new fields, Walmart also has a distinct advantage against other companies looking to create a robo-advisor: Walmart has been collecting high-profile employees from various well-known financial institutions, such as Goldman Sachs, American Express, and Citi. This community knowledge will go far in ensuring Walmart’s robo-advisor launches well.”

“Robo Advisory Market to Reach $41.07 Billion, Globally, by 2027 at 31.8% CAGR: Allied Market Research” from PR Newswire

“Robo-advisor growth has been exponential in recent years, with a projected $41.07 billion expected by 2027.

PR Newswire chalks this growth up to a few different factors, such as the “surge in adoption of advanced technologies, trend of digitization in financial institutions, and favorable government initiatives.”

They also report that “Robo-advisors have been adopted extensively for wealth and assets management during the fluctuating conditions of the market taking place during the Covid-19 pandemic. These advisors assist in preventing investors from illogical and impulsive decision-making during times like these.” We have always identified robo-advisors as a way to eliminate emotional decision making from the investment process, and this research only further emphasizes that point!

Still, not all investors want a traditional web-only robo-advisor. PR Newswire predicts that hybrid robo-advisors – those that combine human and robo financial planning – will lead robo-advisors to that expected $41.07 billion by 2027.”

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Barbara A. Friedberg, MBA, MS

Barbara Friedberg, MBA, MS brings decades of finance and investing experience to Robo-advisor Pros. She is a former investment portfolio manager and taught Finance and Investments at several universities. Barbara Friedberg's published work includes Personal Finance; An Encyclopedia of Modern Money Management (Greenwood Press), Invest and Beat the Pros-Create and Manage a Successful Investment Portfolio and How to Get Rich; Without Winning the Lottery. Follow her on twitter