Cute robots (Image: Thinkstock)

Two relative newcomers to the robo-advisor space are among the industry’s top three performers in the first quarter,  according to the latest Robo Report from BackEnd Benchmarking.

SoFi Wealth Management, which launched in May 2017 as an offshoot from the SoFi online lending platform, took first place; TIAA SRI, the socially responsible investment portfolio of its TIAA Personal Portfolio robo, placed third; and sandwiched between the two was Schwab Intelligent Portfolios.

(Related: These Are the Top-Performing Robo-Advisors Over the Past 2 Years)

All three robos lost money in the first quarter in their taxable, balanced portfolios, split roughly 60/40 between stocks and bonds, but they performed better than other digital advisors and the overall stock market, which was down 0.76%, for the S&P 500. Their losses ranged from 0.14% for SoFi and 0.45% for TIAA SRI.

(Related: TIAA Launches Robo-Advisor With Socially Responsible Options)

“Volatility returned to domestic equity markets in the first quarter of 2018” with six trading days ending with gains or losses of 2% or more, the Robo Report explains. Portfolios with larger allocations to international equities, such as SoFi’s, tended to fare better than others.

Schwab Intelligent Portfolios excelled largely because of its fixed income allocation, which included high-yield bonds and international debt, according to the Robo Report. It placed first for fixed income performance not only for the first quarter of 2018 but for the one-year and two-year trailing periods.

Other top performers for bond portfolios in the first quarter were FutureAdvisor, which placed second, and SoFi, taking third place, supported by its majority allocation to a single high-yield muni bond fund, according to the Robo Report.

SoFi also ranked third for its equity portfolio performance in the first quarter, making it the only robo-advisor to take top honors in all three categories. The robo startup is led by CEO Anthony Noto, a former former chief operating officer of Twitter and former managing director at Goldman Sachs.  

SigFig placed first for equity performance in the first quarter followed by TIAA SRI and United Income, which tied.

Both SigFig and Sofi had some of the highest allocations to emerging market equities, which reflected a broader trend among robo-advisors to increase allocations to international equities while reducing exposure to U.S. stocks, according to the Robo Report. The TIAA SRI portfolio also increased its allocation to emerging market stocks.

(Related: Wells Fargo Finally Launches Its Robo-Advisory Service)

The first quarter was also the first full quarter for two new robo-advisors: Morgan Stanley’s Access Investing and Wells Fargo’s Intuitive Investor, which are profiled in the Robo Report along with USAA and United Income.

(Related: Morgan Stanley Undercuts Rivals With Robo)

The report calls the Morgan Stanley robo “a compelling offering,” due to its “breadth of investing options,” which include impact, robotic and biotech-themed portfolios.

It applauds Wells Fargo’s robo for the strength of its planning tools and easy navigation but notes its relative high fees and account minimums: 50 basis points and $10,000 compared to Morgan Stanley’s 35 basis points and $5,000 minimum.

USAA also has a 50 basis-point fee but a lower $2,000 minimum, and United Income charges 50 basis points for most accounts and requires a $10,000 minimum but also provides access to live advisors, as does Wells Fargo. Morgan Stanley’s robo and USAA’s provide access to only live customer support rather than advisors, according to the Robo Report.

(Related: UBS Launches Robo-Advice Platform

The report notes that more digital advisory services are expected to launch later this year from “incumbent financial firms” like JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs following UBS’ move earlier this month.

(Related: Overstock.com Launches Robo-Advisor)

In February, Overstock.com, an incumbent retailer with a finance hub, introduced its digital advisor.