Personal Capital

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Expert Review

Barbara FriedbergPersonal Finance Contributing Editor

Barbara Friedberg, MBA, MS is a former investment portfolio manager with decades of financial experience. Friedberg taught Finance and Investments at several universities. Her work has been featured in U.S. News & World Report, Investopedia, Yahoo!Finance and many more publications.    More about Barbara→

Personal Capital is an automated investment service that targets the mass-affluent and those with a minimum of $25,000 of investable assets. Their platform is distinct from many of the other automated investment advisors as they offer access to financial advisors as well as individual stocks.

  • Easy setup: Setting up a profile and connecting accounts is secure and fast on the Personal Capital site. Once the user synchs their accounts, they have free access to the dashboard.
  • Free dashboard: The Personal Capital free money management and investment dashboard offers useful financial information to consumers for free, regardless of net worth.
  • Free financial reports: Users get access to detailed free information on the following reports; account balances, income, spending, investment returns, asset allocation, fees and net worth.
  • Investment management: This feature is available for users who opt in to their paid service and have more than $25,000 of investable assets. Users receive access to their own personal financial advisor and investment management in accord with the Personal Capital tactical sector approach. Investors holdings are in individual stocks, bond ETFs and alternative investment asset classes.
  • Fees: The investment management fees range from 0.89 percent down to 0.49 percent for portfolios greater than $10 million.
  • Special tools: Personal Capital offers a cash flow analyzer, retirement planner, investment checkup, net worth calculator and a fee analyzer.
  • Clearing company: Pershing Advisor Solutions, one of the largest US investment custodians takes custody of Personal Capital’s client access and only the client has access to their own funds.
  • Best for All investors will benefit from the free Personal Capital dashboard. Also, higher net worth investors may gain value from the paid automated investment management.

Question and Answers - Personal Capital

What problem is Personal Capital trying to solve?

We at Personal Capital get that management is complicated and our financial lives are chaotic. There are more investment products in the US than individual companies to invest in, and a typical person* has 10 different financial accounts, ranging from bank accounts to credit cards to investments to mortgages and student loans. Traditional financial services companies make it more complicated with confusing products, hefty fees and lack of personalized advice, unless you’re super rich.

Personal Capital gives people a clear and simple way to manage their money through a combination of technology and personalized service:

Our free app lets you see all of your money in one place. By linking your accounts, you get a clear and concise picture of your money. Easy-to-read graphs of your assets and liabilities help you make smarter, more responsible financial decisions. Our users report that our app has revolutionized the way they keep track of their financial lives as a whole.

Our advisory service disrupts traditional wealth management. Our advisors work one-on-one with clients to design and implement custom-tailored investment strategies, communicating virtually via our app, the computer, or the phone. We’re a registered investment advisor (RIA), so we give conflict-free advice.

* Based on active Personal Capital users.

What sets Personal Capital apart from the competition?

Personal Capital is truly unique with our people plus technology approach.

We are fundamentally different from incumbents because of our cutting-edge technology. Access to data through the app enables our advisors to design and implement investing strategies that are truly appropriate for each client. Because of our virtual approach, we can offer high-caliber advice at a lower investment minimum and for a lower cost. We put consumers first: unlike brokerages that lack transparency and steer customers into products with excessive fees, we build conflict-free investment strategies.

We’re unlike new online-only players because personal relationships are central to our business. Every investment client is assigned a two-person advisor team. That team of advisors works with the client to create and implement an investment strategy, and provides ongoing advice over the life of the relationship.

What needs does Personal Capital fulfill, and how do you fulfill those needs better than your competition?

We give people a better way to manage their money with our unique combination of high tech and high touch. We have state-of-the art technology and the people to go along with it.

High Tech: Our free apps give people a clear, complete picture of their financial lives. Having a single view of your money gives a new perspective on your financial condition. Our users report that we’ve revolutionized the way they keep track of their financial lives as a whole.

High Touch: When it comes to managing money, we believe we can meet your needs better with individual attention and oversight. With a team of dedicated advisors, clients get long-term investing plans that are truly tailored to their needs.

How does Personal Capital measure success?

Our mission is better financial lives through technology and people. We measure success based on how we improve the financial lives of our users and our clients. We know when people engage with our app, they get better clarity on their financial conditions. A recent independent study shows mobile usage led to better savings habits (mobile users dropped their spending by over 15%).

For our clients, we measure success by how well the asset allocation we design suits a client’s needs, how well we’re able to lower their fees, and ultimately by the portfolio’s after-tax, risk-adjusted returns.

What’s the most common misconception consumers have about your industry? About Personal Capital?

There is a huge misconception about broker-dealers and RIAs. RIAs and broker-dealers are subject to different standards when providing investment advice (under federal law): RIAs have a fiduciary standard (a legal obligation to do what’s in the best interest of their clients), and broker-dealers do not. In terms of compensation, RIAs charge a fee for advice, and brokers charge commissions. A U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission report confirmed that the difference is a big source of confusion: many people do not know how their advisors are being compensated.

Another misconception folks have about Personal Capital is that we are a “robo-advisor.” We offer much more than just an automated financial advising service. We have sophisticated apps that let you see all of your money in one place, and we offer personalized advice through human advisors.

How has your industry changed in the last 5 to 10 years?

There have been several shifts worth noting:

· Shift from physical to virtual distribution of financial services. Banking and brokerages have already both shifted online. Now, wealth management is too: the days of receiving financial advice on the other side of a mahogany desk are ending. Today people want access at their convenience.

· Mobile. Mobile phone banking has rapidly become more popular over the last several years, increasing 50% in 2013. One hundred million Americans use mobile banking in 2014, with 31% of mobile banking users accessing their mobile data daily.

· The rise of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and passive investing. The growth of ETFs has significantly exceeded every other asset management category. That’s because paying for someone to pick stocks or picking your own stocks (active investing) doesn’t pay off, and most mutual funds have large fees attached and tend to underperform the market.

What is something you wish every consumer knew about Personal Capital?

We have something for everyone. For those who want to track their money, they can take advantage of our free app. For those who want hands-on, deeply personal investment advice, they can use our dedicated team of advisors.

Has your business received any awards or recognition your customers would like to know about?

Personal Capital was recognized as one of the leading disruptive companies across any industry: we were ranked number 17 among all tech companies on the CNBC’s 2014 Top 50 Disruptor list. In October 2014, we were named a 2014 Meffy Finalist for revolutionizing “Mobile Money” and we’ve been listed as the Best Online Tool to Track Your Investments by Forbes. We were named one of Time Magazine's 50 Best Websites in 2012.

From the users of our app, we have received over 4,000 five-star reviews in the Apple App store. Here are a few:

· “Great application. Makes finances fun again and keeps you on track.”

· “Love this app. So far it has really helped me see my weak spots regarding my finances and has helped me improve my net worth. I use it almost every day.”

· “Helps me save money and keep tabs on my accounts. Does it beautifully at that!!”

· “I am using Personal Capital more and more each day. It delivers enormous value in helping me to understand where I can and should be doing better.”

· “So there’s finally a GOOD financial management app.”

How has Personal Capital grown or evolved?

Our business has grown at 10% each month since the beginning of 2012 (based on revenues). We now have over 700,000 people track over $100 billion of assets through our app. To keep up with the high demand of our services, we now have 3 offices; in Redwood City, San Francisco, and Denver and have 150 employees.

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Personal Capital Company Profile

Company Name:
Personal Capital
726 Main Street
Redwood City
Postal Code:
United States