Review of: E*TRADE Core Portfolios
Reviewed by: Kevin Mercadante
Last modified: April 26, 2018
E*TRADE Core Portfolios offers a robo advisor service at a reasonable cost. If you are an existing E*TRADE customer and are considering an automated investment service, you may want to use Core Portfolios. Unfortunately, you need at least $5,000, and it doesn't offer tax-loss harvesting.
E*TRADE Core Portfolios is E*TRADE’s robo advisor service that provides you with professional investment portfolio management for a small fee. E*TRADE describes this product as “efficient digital portfolios guided by you.” That means you input your goals, investment timeline and risk tolerance, and E*TRADE Capital Management designs a custom investment portfolio for you. It adapts to market changes by rebalancing as needed.
The platform provides a fully managed investment account that’s perfect for a person who wants to invest but does not want to get involved in the daily details of the process. All investment selections and subsequent rebalancing are handled by management.
How Does E*TRADE Core Portfolios Work?
E*TRADE Core Portfolios starts with a three-step process:
- Step 1: Complete your investor profile. This is a series of questions designed to establish your goals, time horizon and risk tolerance. Your portfolio is created based on this information.
- Step 2: Review your investment proposal. You’ll receive a tailor-made proposal. You can choose between a portfolio of all exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or a mix of ETFs and mutual funds.
- Step 3: Implement your portfolio. If you accept the custom-designed portfolio offered and meet the minimum investment requirement, you can activate the portfolio.
Core Portfolios rebalances your portfolio based on E*TRADE Capital Management’s portfolio allocation drift parameters. Your portfolio “self-adjusts” by comparing your portfolio allocations to the target allocation drift parameters each trading day after the markets close. When necessary, trade orders are submitted the following trading day to bring the portfolio into alignment with target allocations.
Unlike traditional managed portfolios, Core Portfolios accounts do not have an individual portfolio manager. Instead, portfolio management is handled by E*TRADE Capital Management through its Investment Policy Committee and with the support of Investment Strategist. They will select, remove and add portfolio holdings and determine rebalancing methodology.
If you want to receive personalized support from a human, you can select one of E*TRADE’s other investing products such as Blend Portfolios or Dedicated Portfolios for a higher fee.
Two Types of Investment Portfolios
You can choose between a portfolio that’s composed entirely of ETFs or one that includes a combination of ETFs and mutual funds.
The all-ETF portfolio is made up of indexed funds with very low operating costs designed specifically to match the performance of the general markets. The portfolio offers an opportunity to achieve broad diversification at a very low cost.
The hybrid portfolio consists of both ETFs and mutual funds. It uses ETFs to provide low-cost diversification but adds mutual funds if it’s determined that actively managed funds may add value to the portfolio. This provides the investor with an opportunity to pursue investment returns that have the potential to outperform the general markets.
Very little cash is held in either type of portfolio. In fact, the cash position is limited to a 1% allocation. Any cash beyond that is moved into funds.
E*TRADE Core Portfolios are totally managed accounts. That means there is no self-directed trading, and you cannot hold investments in the account that have not been specifically chosen for the portfolio. If you want to hold other securities, you can do so through another brokerage account with E*TRADE.
E*TRADE Core Portfolios Fees & Features
|Tax Loss Harvesting|
|Automatic Deposits||— Daily, Weekly, Biweekly and Monthly|
|Socially Responsible Investing|
|Access||Website, iOS App, Android App|
|Customer Service||Phone: M-F 12A-11:59P ET; Live Chat: 24/7|
ETFs used. E*TRADE Core Portfolios uses funds that provide exposure to various market segments. Your portfolio is typically comprised of six to eight funds, whether it’s the ETF portfolio or the hybrid portfolio. The mix can include large- and small-cap stocks, emerging markets, international markets, intermediate- and short-term bond funds, Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) and high-yield bonds.
Portfolios are comprised of funds from iShares, Vanguard and other fund families, while mutual funds are provided by a larger number of fund families. Core Portfolios avoids the use of E*TRADE’s proprietary funds in constructing these portfolios.
Account protection. Accounts are protected by SIPC, which provides coverage for up to $500,000 per account, including $250,000 in cash. This coverage provides protection against broker failure and not against market value fluctuations.
E*TRADE provides additional brokerage protection. They have additional coverage from London insurers with an aggregate limit of $600 million to pay amounts in addition to those returned in a SIPC liquidation, provided that (1) the combined return from the trustee distributions, SIPC and London to any customer does not exceed $150 million, and (2) as a sub-limit, return of cash to any customer by London does not exceed $900,000. Like SIPC, this coverage does not protect against loss of the market value of securities.
Clearing agency. E*TRADE is self-clearing through E*TRADE Clearing LLC.
Annual fees/cost. E*TRADE Core Portfolios charges an annual “advisory” fee of 0.30%. The fee is charged to your portfolio at the beginning of each quarter. You will also pay fund-related expense fees, as will be the case with all robo advisor services. Those fees will be slightly higher on the hybrid portfolio since it also includes mutual funds.
Minimum deposit and account balance: $5,000. If your account balance drops below this level, your account will remain open. However, E*TRADE will eventually request that you add additional funds to bring the account up to $5,000. This is felt to be the minimum balance necessary in order to maintain the portfolio.
E*TRADE Core Portfolios Alternatives
|Fees||0.30%/year||Digital – 0.25%/year; Premium – 0.40%/year||First $10k managed free; 0.25%/year for $10k+|
|Promotions||None||Up To 1 Year Free||$5k Managed for Free|
|Review||—||Read the Review||Read the Review|
E*TRADE Core Portfolios Mobile App
E*TRADE Core Portfolios is available for mobile apps for both iPhone and Android, as well as tablets. The apps provide:
- Research for stocks, ETFs and mutual funds, including E*TRADE’s All Star Fund List and screener
- Real-time streaming quotes, including Level II, and charts
- Enhanced quote details for stocks, ETFs mutual funds, options and indexes
- Conditional orders, including one-triggers-other (OTO), contingent and stop-loss
- Mobile check deposit by snapping a picture
- Customizable dashboard that can include your top portfolio performers, open orders banner, portfolio and watchlist-related news stories and more
- In addition to the above, the iPhone and iPad apps provide logon using Touch ID and Security ID
Pros and Cons
- Hands-off Management — If you're looking for someone else to handle your investments, E*TRADE Core Portfolios is for you.
- Excellent Customer Service — E*TRADE has consistently earned high marks in the area of customer service. I contacted them from their chat line and received an immediate response.
- Brick-and-Mortar Locations — E*TRADE has 30 office locations in 17 states. That's something other robo advisors don't have.
- Generous Bonus — The bonus offer is quite generous, up to 1% cash plus half a year’s fee waived.
- High Initial Account Minimum — The $5,000 minimum initial account deposit is high for new and small investors.
- Higher Management Fee — The fee of 0.30% is comparable to some other robo advisors, but is by no means the lowest. For example, Betterment charges a fee of 0.25% on all portfolios, while Wealthfront is at 0.25% across the board, with the first $10,000 managed free.
- No Financial Consultants — Core Portfolios doesn’t offer the kind of human contact that comes with traditional investment management services. But then you'd pay a lot more for that privilege than you will pay with Core Portfolios.
- No Tax-Loss Harvesting — Other robo advisors, including Betterment and Wealthfront, offer tax loss harvesting, which is a process by which some investment positions are sold at a loss in order to offset gains elsewhere. This strategy reduces short-term capital gains, which are subject to ordinary income tax rates. At this time, E*TRADE Core Portfolios does not offer this service.
E*TRADE Core Portfolios offers most of the advantages that are typical of robo advisor investment management platforms. However, the fees are a little bit above the norm, while the minimum initial required deposit is definitely on the high side. A tax-loss harvesting service would be a good addition to the mix.