Singapore-based robo-advisor Smartly is winding down its operations, a move it attributed to “intense” competition in the digital investment advisory space.
Founded in 2015, Smartly was acquired by Vietnam-based asset management firm VinaCapital in 2019. In a notice on its website, the startup said its decision to wind down operations was guided by its parent company’s strategic considerations.
“Competition in the digital investment advisory space is intense and maintaining a high service standard on the platform has been challenging. Despite initially contemplating core platform improvements…strategic corporate considerations by our parent, VinaCapital Group Ltd, ultimately guided this decision,” it said.
The development was first reported by the Business Times.
VinaCapital told DealStreetAsia the decision followed a strategic evaluation and was made weeks ago.
“After evaluating the investments that would be necessary to continue to build the platform in terms of both technology and talent, we arrived at the decision that this business in Singapore no longer aligns with our group’s strategic objectives,” the firm said late Wednesday.
“We understand that some customers may be anxious about our decision to end Smartly’s operations, given the current market turmoil as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Our decision was made weeks ago and we have been working to develop a process that ensures the wind-down occurs in an orderly manner. We have also notified the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) of our decision to cease the service,” it added.
Smartly’s portfolio includes more than 20 exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and the startup charges its customers annual management fees of 0.5-1 per cent, and the underlying ETF fee charged by the ETF providers (0.1-0.25 per cent per year).
Smartly has arranged the return of all funds held in customers’ accounts and informed them of another service provider with whom it has negotiated a special arrangement, according to VinaCapital.
There is growing competition in the robo-advisory space in Southeast Asia. Last month, regional super-app Grab acquired robo-advisor Bento Invest to enter the retail wealth management realm.
Similarly, in 2019, Gojek’s financial arm Go-Pay formed a partnership with Indonesian mutual fund investment app Bibit.id.
Smartly’s Singapore rivals StashAway and Kristal had raised $12 million and $6 million, respectively, in their latest rounds.
In addition, California-based Acorns has reportedly expressed interest in setting up shop in Southeast Asia.
At the same time, traditional banks have also joined the fray, such as Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) with OCBC RoboInvest and DBS bank with digiPortfolio.