The debate on VirtualWealth and Wealthsimple has been ongoing for a long time in the Canadian robo-advisory industry.
Even though both VirtualWealth and Wealthsimple are among the best robo-advisors in Canada, the two robo-advisors differ considerably in terms of their investment strategies, portfolios, account types, fees and so on.
So the fact that VirtualWealth and Wealthsimple rank among the best robo-advisors in Canada doesn’t make them suitable for every investor.
In this article, I provide a side-by-side comparison of VirtualWealth and Wealthsimple to help you understand their key differences and decide which of them is suitable for you.
Let’s start with the overview of each of the two robo-advisors.
Table of Contents
Overview of VirtualWealth
VirtualWealth, currently known as Qtrade Guided Portfolios, is an actively managed robo-advisor that was launched in 2017.
Despite being rebranded to Qtrade Guided Portfolios, many Canadians still refer to the robo-advisor by its old name (VirtualWealth). As such, we shall be using the old name throughout this article.
Operating as the trade name of Credential Qtrade Securities Inc., VirtualWealth is owned by Aviso Wealth, a reputable wealth manager with over 100 billion in assets under management and administration.
The activities of the robo-advisor are regulated by the Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). In addition, assets with VirtualWealth are covered up to $1 per insured category by the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF).
As a robo-advisor, VirtualWealth handles the entire investing process for its clients using an actively managed strategy. Its portfolios include ETFs, mutual funds and Responsible Investing (RI) portfolios.
Pros and Cons of VirtualWealth
The following are the top pros and cons of VirtualWealth that are worth considering:
- Active management: Although several robo-advisor advisors use a passive approach, the active strategy of VirtualWealth could maximize your investment returns.
- Diversification: The robo-advisor invests funds in low-cost ETF portfolios that provide exposure to different markets and sectors.
- Multiple portfolios and accounts: Whether you’re a value-centric investor or otherwise, the robo-advisor has pre-built portfolios that may suit your needs. In addition, the robo-advisor has a wide range of taxable and non-taxable investment accounts to accommodate your needs.
- Automated contributions: This feature allows you to set and forget your investment completely with the robo-advisor without worrying about regular contributions.
- Quarterly management fees: Most robo-advisors in Canada charge management fees annually. However, VirtualWealth charges quarterly. This means that you will have to pay the management fee four times a year. As a result, VirtualWealth management fees are way higher than those of other actively managed robo-advisors in Canada.
- Minimum investment requirement: Although the robo-advisor doesn’t require a minimum balance on account opening, it requires a minimum balance of $2,000 to start investing with it. Several robo-advisors in Canada allow you to start investing with less than that balance. Some robo-advisors, including Wealthsimple Invest, don’t even require a minimum investment balance.
- Restricted information: The robo-advisor restricts some key information for public consumption. This includes information about its past returns. As a result, potential clients may find it difficult in making informed choices when comparing VirtualWealth with its peers.
Overview of Wealthsimple Invest
Wealthsimple Invest is also a robo-advisor like VirtualWealth. However, it automates the investing process using a passive approach.
Not only does Wealthsimple Invest automates deposits, but it also automates dividend reinvestment and portfolio rebalancing.
The use of a passive investing strategy doesn’t prevent the robo-advisor from offering access to expert financial advisors who can help customize your portfolio.
From classic ETF portfolios, and socially responsible investing (SRI) portfolios, to halal portfolios — Wealthsimple Invest is one of the pacesetters in the Canadian robo-advisory industry.
With no minimum investment requirement, tax loss harvesting, transfer fee waiver and so many other factors, there are many things to like about Wealthsimple Invest.
Pros and Cons of Wealthsimple Invest
The following is a quick view at some of the top pros and cons of Wealthsimple Invest:
- Autopilot investing: The automation level of Wealthsimple Invest is seamless compared to those of the competition. With this robo-advisor, you don’t have to bother about manually contributing to your account or reinvesting your dividends. Everything is on autopilot!
- Passive management: This approach helps reduce your investment costs and risks in exchange for average returns.
- Multiple portfolios and accounts: Wealthsimple Invest has multiple pre-built portfolios tailored to different investment objectives and risk levels. It also has registered and non-registered accounts to accommodate different needs.
- No minimum investment required: You’re not obliged to start investing with a given amount on the robo-advisor. You can start investing with as little as $1 without any restriction.
- Diversification: Wealthsimple also invests funds in low-cost ETF portfolios that provide exposure to different markets and sectors.
- Tax-efficiency: With the tax-loss harvesting feature on Wealthsimple Invest, the tax rate on your non-registered account capital gains will be reduced.
- Human advisor: Investing through the robo-advisor doesn’t mean that you will leave everything to a robot. You can give your portfolio a human touch by asking for professional support from Wealthsimple expert financial advisors.
- Transfer fee waiver: You will get the $150 transfer fee back if you switch up to a $5,000 investment to Wealthsimple Invest.
- High fees: One of the major reasons why investors use a passive investing strategy is to reduce costs. However, Wealthsimple management fees are higher than the fees of some actively managed robo-advisors.
VirtualWealth vs Wealthsimple Invest: The Key Differences
|ETFs, mutual funds and RI
|ETFs, SRI and Halal
|Taxable, TFSA, RRSP, RLSP, LRSP, LIRA and RESP accounts
|Taxable, TFSA, RRSP, RRIF, LIRA and RESP accounts
|0.35% – 0.60%
|0.4% / 0.5% annually
|Less than 0.15%
|0.13% – 0.16%
So far we have discussed what each of the two robo-advisors entails. From the above, we can see that VirtualWealth and Wealthsimple Invest have more differences than similarities.
The only few similarities that exist between the two robo-advisors cut across zero inactivity fee, CIPF coverage and IIROC regulation.
Beyond these, there are a lot of differences that exist between VirtualWealth and Wealthsimple. Let’s take a look at them.
VirtualWealth vs Wealthsimple Invest: Management Style
The management style of the two robo-advisors differ. This is because VirtualWealth uses an active strategy while Wealthsimple Invest uses a passive strategy.
VirtualWealth portfolios seek to outperform the market by actively researching and adjusting for fluctuations.
As a result, VirtualWealth has to charge higher management fees than Wealthsimple Invest to cover the cost of active management by portfolio managers.
In the case of Wealthsimple Invest, the passive strategy means less human intervention as portfolios are only adjusted when they fall 30% of their benchmark.
The low human intervention on Wealthsimple Invest is supposed to drastically lower the management fees of the robo-advisor which is the case with other passively managed robo-advisors.
VirtualWealth vs Wealthsimple Invest: Portfolios
Both VirtualWealth and Wealthsimple Invest have pre-built portfolios tailored to different investment objectives and risk tolerance.
With VirtualWealth, your funds will be invested in ETFs, mutual funds or Responsible Investing (RI) portfolios — depending on your investment objective and risk tolerance.
The ETF portfolios of VirtualWealth are defined by assets allocations as shown on the following table:
|80% fixed income and 20% equity
|65% fixed income and 35% equity
|Income & growth portfolio
|50% fixed income and 50% equity
|65% equity and 35% fixed income
|Growth & balanced portfolio
|80% equity and 35% fixed income
|Maximum growth portfolio
The Responsible Investing portfolios of VirtualWealth also have similar allocations on asset classes but invest in different companies. The RI portfolios invest in companies that adhere to environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards.
That being said, Wealthsimple Invest portfolios are categorized into three — classic ETF portfolios, SRI portfolios and Halal portfolios.
Each of these portfolio categories has different asset allocations according to conservative, growth and balanced arrangements.
The bottom line is that the two robo-advisors differ slightly in the portfolios they support. Your best bet is to consider the one that supports your desired portfolio.
VirtualWealth vs Wealthsimple Invest: Investment Accounts
To invest with any of the two robo-advisors, you will be required to have an investment account. This could be a registered or non-registered account. The two robo-advisors support both.
With VirtualWealth, you have the option to invest through cash, TFSA, RRSP, RLSP, LRSP, LIRA or RESP accounts.
On the other hand, Wealthsimple Invest allows you to invest using personal, joint, business, TFSA, RRSP, RRIF, LIRA or RESP accounts.
With the tax-loss harvesting feature on Wealthsimple Invest, the tax rate on your capital gains on non-registered accounts will be reduced. This feature is not available on VirtualWealth at the moment.
Overall, Wealthsimple Invest is more tax-efficient than VirtualWealth when it comes to investment accounts.
VirtualWealth vs Wealthsimple Invest: Minimum Investment
Another key difference between the two robo-advisors lies in their minimum investment requirements.
It’s worth noting that both robo-advisors don’t require a minimum balance on account opening. However, you must have a minimum balance of $2,000 to initiate an investment in VirtualWealth.
On the other hand, you can start investing with as low as $1 on Wealthsimple because there’s no minimum investment required.
Even though the minimum investment doesn’t impact the performance of the robo-advisors, it will directly affect your investment volume with them.
VirtualWealth vs Wealthsimple Invest: Returns
One of the drawbacks of VirtualWealth discussed earlier is that it restricts information about its returns. This could be easily interpreted to mean that the robo-advisor is not proud of its past returns.
Of course, past returns don’t guarantee future returns. But by concealing its past returns to the public, VirtualWealth could hinder potential investors from making informed decisions.
That being said, the past returns of Wealthsimple Invest are publicly available on its platform. As of October 31, 2022, the classic ETFs of Wealthsimple Invest provided the following returns:
Since VirtualWealth doesn’t disclose its portfolio returns, we can’t tell how they compare with those of Wealthsimple Invest.
Notwithstanding, the past returns of Wealthsimple Invest are decent as per the passive investment strategy.
VirtualWealth vs Wealthsimple Invest: Fees
The cost of managing and operating your investment on a robo-advisor is categorized into management fee and management expense ratio (MER).
These fees are usually charged annually. But as noted earlier, VirtualWealth charges management fees every quarter. On the other hand, Wealthsimple Invest charges annually.
While the management fees are charged by the robo-advisors, the management expense ratios are charged by the fund providers.
That being said, management fees on VirtualWealth are tiered. That’s, they depend on the amount you invest in. Below is the management fee schedule of VirtualWealth:
|First $2,000 to $100,000 balance
|Above $1 million balance
It goes without saying that the lower your investment balance on VirtualWealth, the higher the management fees. Compared to other actively managed robo-advisors, VirtualWealth has a higher management fee considering that the fee is charged quarterly.
Note that the management fees could be higher if you were introduced to VirtualWealth by an investment advisor. This is to cover the service fees of the investment advisor.
However, the management fee is reduced for those that have multiple accounts with VirtualWealth, be it with their names or households.
That said, the management fees of Wealthsimple Invest also depend on your investment balance as shown below:
- 0.50% on less than $100,000 balance
- 0.40% on balance above $100,00
As on VirtualWealth, the lower your investment balance, the higher your management fee on Wealthsimple Invest.
Because Wealthsimple Invest uses a passive approach, its management fee schedule is relatively high compared to the fees of other passively managed robo-advisors.
But since the VirtualWealth management fees are charged quarterly, multiplying the quarterly fees four times will mean higher annual management fees than what’s available on Wealthsimple Invest.
As per MERs, the two robo-advisors also have different rates although the fees are charged by fund managers.
The following table shows the differences between VirtualWealth and Wealthsimple MERs:
|0.72% to 0.96
|0.13% – 0.16
The above table shows that ETF MERs could be higher on Wealthsimple Invest. However, VirtualWealth has a higher MER on RI portfolios.
VirtualWealth vs Wealthsimple: Which to Choose?
The differences between VirtualWealth and Wealthsimple outweigh their similarities. This points to the fact that the robo-advisors are not in the same class.
From a far distance, you will notice that Wealthsimple Invest is ahead of VirtualWealth on various grounds.
With the exception of the management strategy, all the benefits available on VirtualWealth are attainable on Wealthsimple Invest.
And from the overview of Wealthsimple Invest, we were able to establish only one drawback compared to the three drawbacks of VirtualWealth. A lot are pointing to the direction of Wealthsimple Invest.
However, the best investment decision is one that suits your situation and risk tolerance. As such, you’re in the perfect position to determine which of the two robo-advisors suits your needs.
To help you make an informed decision, consider the following factors when choosing between VirtualWealth vs Wealthsimple Invest.
1. Investment Strategy
Investments in VirtualWealth are managed actively by portfolio managers. On the other hand, Wealthsimple Invest manages investment passively.
One simple explanation of this is that your investment will require more human intervention on VirtualWealth than on Wealthsimple Invest. While this will translate to a high management fee, you have the potential of earning higher returns.
But we have seen on several occasions how passively managed funds outperform active ones. So there’s no guarantee that you will earn higher on VirtualWealth than on Wealthsimple.
But if you want to keep your investment cost and risk low, you may want to go with Wealthsimple Invest rather than VirtualWealth.
2. Portfolios and Accounts
The two robo-advisors support different portfolios and accounts. The common thing is to choose the one that supports your needs. But you have to have a broader view.
With Wealthsimple Invest, you can’t invest in mutual funds. On the other hand, VirtualWealth doesn’t support halal portfolios.
Even though the two robo-advisors support the popular investment accounts, they treat them differently.
Non-registered accounts on Wealthsimple Invest come with a tax-loss harvesting feature. This helps reduce capital gains tax on non-registered accounts. The same can’t be said of VirtualWealth non-registered accounts.
3. Minimum Investment Requirement
While you can start investing with $1 on Wealthsimple Invest, you need a $2,000 minimum balance to start investing on VirtualWealth.
Isn’t the difference so obvious? Absolutely!
Depending on your budget or net worth, the minimum investment requirements of the two robo-advisors could help you easily determine the one that suits your situation.
4. Management Fees
By charging management fees quarterly, VirtualWealth positioned itself as one of the most costly robo-advisors in Canada.
Usually, actively robo-advisors have higher management fees than passively managed ones, but the quarterly fee schedule of VirtualWealth makes the robo-advisor highly expensive.
That’s not to say that Wealthsimple Invest is significantly better. Compared to other passively managed robo-advisors, Wealthsimple Invest has a higher management fee.
Factoring all of this will make it sensible to consider the alternatives of the two robo-advisors. But then it’s not safe to finalize your decision by considering the management fees alone.
Without knowing how the VirtualWealth portfolios performed in the past, you can’t judge their potential.
Although the previous returns of Wealthsimple Invest portfolios are on average, you may want to dig deep to understand how VirtualWealth portfolios performed in the past. This may require you to request the information by contacting VirtualWealth.
This is essentially critical if you’re looking to go with an actively managed robo-advisor. Else, you should consider other robo-advisors that use an active approach. This includes Questwealth Portfolios and Justwealth.
For obvious reasons, VirtualWealth and Wealthsimple Invest are not in the same class.
The above comparison makes it clear that you will be better off with Wealthsimple Invest if you’re comfortable with passive management.
But if you’re looking for an actively managed robo-advisor, it’s better to know the returns of VirtualWealth before finalizing.
Alternatively, you may want to consider other actively managed robo-advisors that disclose their past returns to the public. This is in addition to having low management fees and low minimum investment balance requirements.
Hopefully, now you can make an informed decision on whether to go with VirtualWealth, Wealthsimple Invest or an alternative.
Kindly let me know in the comment section the robo-advisor you’re going with.
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