SoFi, which began life in 2011 offering refinancing for student loans, then expanded into personal loans and mortgages and robo-advisory services, has now moved into the brokerage business.
SoFi, short for Social Finance, is now offering stock and ETF trading with no fees.
According to Bloomberg, which obtained a copy of a letter CEO Anthony Noto wrote investors in the fourth quarter, SoFi Invest had “released an alpha version” of its new brokerage platform inviting employees and select members to “buy and sell individual stocks and ETFs with the tap of a button.” That brokerage platform is now available to anyone using the app, for no fee.
Investors can currently trade only individual stocks and ETFs on the platform; individual bonds and mutual funds are expected to be added in the future.
David Goldstone, analyst at Backend Benchmarking, which publishes The Robo Report, says SoFi is “trying to leverage” its initial success in refinancing student loans “to expand its share of [a client’s] wallet.” Like other fintech firms, SoFi wants to become the “single platform where an individual interacts with their money,” says Goldstone.
It’s a sentiment that other robo-advisors, such as Betterment, have been espousing as they all compete for investor assets, offering more services for little or no fees.
In addition to its robo-advisory service, which is free, and loan operations, including refinancings, SoFi offers a hybrid banking product, called SoFi Money, which it says “functions like a checking account but pays a higher interest rate on deposits like a savings account” — currently 2.25%. It also reimburses clients for ATM fees on an unlimited basis.
“No management fees for robo-advisory, no transaction fees for brokerage, no banking fees, including ATM fees …. It makes me nervous,” says Goldstone. ‘It’s important for a client to know how a company is generating revenue.”
He adds, “It is a great time to be a consumer of financial services products, but is the revenue model sustainable?”
According to its latest Form ADV, dated Aug. 29, 2018, SoFi had $43.46 million in assets in 9,844 accounts belong to 9,163 clients. That’s substantially less than most other robo-advisors. Even WealthSimple and Ellevest have more assets, based on their latest Form ADV filings.
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