Best digital investment apps for small-time investors

Investment apps are becoming a popular way for new investors to get involved in the stock market, providing everything from beginners advice and minimal to no investment fees.

Gone are the days of stock investments being the preserve of people earning above a six-figure salary - with new digital investment apps users can invest as little as £1 a day.

Times are changing, and a crop of fintech startups have launched investment platforms aimed at the average wage earner looking to savvily invest those spare pennies. These include apps allowing users to buy company stocks and shares, as well as invest money in new startups through fundraising platforms.

It may seem like small fry, but remember the Wolf of Wall Street paved his way to success on penny stocks.

Returns are generally not guaranteed, and dabbling in stocks can sometimes prove dicey, but more often than not this is part of the fun. Here are some of the best options out there for small-time investors looking to make those money moves.

Read next: Top fintech startups in the UK

Stash
iStock

Stash

Stashmobile investment app was launched in 2015, offering a digital landing spot for investors in search of the best financial market tools.

It offers a low-cost method for users to build a diverse portfolio, whilst providing educational content that is customised to individual investment preferences.

Stash is particularly good for beginners in the investment world, with 84 percent of users noted as first-time investors.

It breaks down whole investments into smaller and more affordable fractional shares, enabling users to begin investing with as little as $5 (£4.03).

Pricing starts from $1 (81p) a month.

Clink
iStock

Clink

Clinkis a no-fee investment and savings app, which was launched in 2016 with an automatic investment program.

Users can create a personal investment plan with a preset amount of money that will automatically be invested into the account every time a credit card is used.

The funds are then invested into a portfolio of Vanguard based Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs), with the opportunity for users to easily change the percentage that is invested at any time.

Clink has no minimum investment amount, but a maximum limit of $10,000 (£8,055.10) daily.

WiseAlpha
© WiseAlpha

WiseAlpha

WiseAlpha, which was founded in 2014, offers everyday investors and savers access to corporate bonds issued in the institutional debt market.

The startup was born with the idea of bringing an online marketplace to the corporate debt markets and broadening access to investors of all sizes, in a transparent and responsible manner.

Founder and CEO Rezaah Ahmad previously worked in M&A and leveraged finance a Deutsche Bank and Alpstar, while CTO Aidan Hamade previously built applications for multinationals like HSBC, Deutsche Bank and ANZ.

WiseAlpha has raised £3.6 million in funding to date.

Fees:There is a 1% annual servicing fee on all accounts.

Sign up for WiseAlpha here.

Acorns

Acorns

Acornstakes all the stress out of investing by automatically rounding up your daily credit and debit transactions and investing the spare change for you.

Through the micro-investing platform, you can also set up repeat investments on a daily, weekly or monthly scale, one off investments or 'acorns later', a retirement investment scheme poignantly illustrated by a red sunset icon.

Your investments are automatically diversified across over 7,000 stocks to increase the safety of the investment and likelihood of return. These portfolios of stocks were compiled with expert guidance from Nobel Prize winning economist, Dr. Harry Markowitz, reassurance that your money is in safe hands.

It's free to trade securities although an account costs $1 per month, and a flat rate of 0.25% is levied on accounts of over $5000 annually.

Sign up for Acorns here.

Robinhood

Robinhood

The essence of Robin Hood, famed for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, is encapsulated in this app, named for the titular outlaw. And while it doesn't quite let you dip into the funds of investment bankers (boo), the app offers commission-free stock trading with no minimum amount enforced.

You can interchangeably buy and sell stocks and crypto, without waiting the standard three day time limit to execute transactions.

While the app may be basic (offering little analysis on stocks), the tradeoffs are probably worth it, and an aggregate 4.8 stars from over 350,000 reviewers on the App Store is hard to argue with.

Sign up for Robinhood here.

ETFmatic
© ETFmatic

ETFmatic

ETFmatic takes its name from ETF, short for 'exchange-traded fund'. As the name suggests, the startup provides ETF portfolios in the UK and 31 other European countries, via its online robo advisor platform and a mobile app. Its aim is to enable people to easily convert their savings into investments. Users can get started with a GBP, EUR or USD account in five minutes, adapting it to their requirements as they go.

The startup was launched in 2014 and now claims to have the most downloaded robo advisor app in Europe, with over 160,000 downloads so far.

Fees:0.48% per year for portfolios up to GBP/EUR/USD 25,000, and 0.29% for those worth GBP/EUR/USD 25,000 and above.

Sign up for ETFmatic here.

Chip
© Chip

Chip

Chipis an AI powered app that automatically saves money for you. It links to your current account, then every few days calculates what you can afford to save based on your spending habits. It then transfers that money to a Barclays savings account for you – without you having to do anything. It has 20,000 UK users already.

While not technically an 'investment' app per se, Chip will help you save a pot of money so you can get started with investing.

Chip works with Barclays, HSBC, Santander, Lloyds, NatWest, Nationwide, RBS, TSB, Halifax, First Direct, Co-operative Bank and Metro Bank accounts.

Fees:None. However, when you first sign up you start with 0% interest earned on your savings. You can increase that to 5% by inviting friends - you get an extra 1% for each person, valid for a year.

Sign up to Chip here.

Nutmeg
© Nutmeg

Nutmeg

Former CEO Nick Hungerford founded Nutmeg to make investments accessible as an online platform. Nutmeg acts as an online wealth manager from as little starting capital as £500 and charges a management fee of 0.3% to 0.95% compared to a UK active fund average of 1.58%.

Read next: Meet the team behind Nutmeg: the fintech upstart that hopes to democratise investing

When you register you tell the platform what you are saving for and how much risk you want to take before being presented with a portfolio of Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) in equities, corporate and Government bonds and cash. You can then check in on your portfolio 24/7.

The investment decisions are made by the Nutmeg team on your behalf, no algorithms. You can withdraw your money whenever you want with no exit fees. All the hallmarks of a good fintech company are there: an user-friendly online interface, transparent pricing and a mission to bring down barriers.

Nutmeg charges between 0.35% and 0.75% depending on the size of your portfolio. So 0.75% anything below £100,000 and 0.35% for anything you invest over £100,000. There us ask an average 0.19% in underlying fund costs.

Sign up for Nutmeg here.

Wealthsimple
© Wealthsimple

Wealthsimple

Toronto-based Wealthsimple launched its investment management platform in the UK on September 19, 2017.

Wealthsimple takes a 'hybrid' approach to investing client money, like Nutmeg, with a central investor committee which constructs various portfolios made up of ETFs, which are then assigned to customers depending on their risk profile.

It's easy to get started on desktop or mobile. You answer a few questions to assess your risk and investment appetite. Then the Wealthsimple algorithm crunches through these responses and recommends a portfolio with an asset mix that complements your risk appetite. Everything is explained in plain English and transparent, and users can tweak the portfolio if they want.

Finally, you agree to some terms. Wealthsimple will run a KYC check and you are ready to open an account, like an ISA, and fund it with a direct debit or bank transfer.

Now you will have access to a personalised investing dashboard, including a graph showing current performance, with the ability to drill down into individual assets to see how they are performing.

In January 2018 Wealthsimple launched socially responsible investing portfolios. These allow their customers to invest in companies that make social responsibility a business priority, for example cleantech innovation, fair labour standards and low carbon emissions. The company claims these portfolios are the 'first of their kind in the UK'.

Fees:Wealthsimple is free for the first £5,000 and then charges a flat annual fee of 0.7% until £100,000 and 0.5% above that. The fund cost is then charged on top and is typically 0.2%, so the most you pay in fees is 0.9%.

Sign up to Weathsimple here.

Moneyfarm
© Moneyfarm

Moneyfarm

Moneyfarmstarts with a questionnaire to assess your investment goals, risk appetite, and financial history. Then, through a combination of algorithms and human wealth managers the platform suggests a range of investment options in low-cost, liquid, exchange-traded funds (ETFs). The Moneyfarm team then manages the funds to ensure they stay on track as the market shifts.

There is no minimum to get started but Moneyfarm suggests starting with £1500 "so that you have an optimally balanced portfolio".

All three of Nutmeg, Wealthily and Moneyfarm are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, which means your first £50,000 of investments are protected if the startup goes bust.

Fees:Moneyfarm charges no management fees on portfolios worth less than £10,000 or more than £1 million, and between 0.4%-0.6% for anything in between. You will also pay an average of 0.3% a year in fund costs. Portfolios worth £10,001 to £100,000 are charged 0.6% a year, while investments worth £100,001 to £1 million pay 0.4% a year.

Sign up to Moneyfarm here.

Wealthify
© Wealthify

Wealthify

Cardiff-based fintech startup Wealthify has built a hybrid investment platform, combining humans and algorithms to offer investment portfolios with lower barriers to entry.

CEO Richard Theo told Techworld: "We’re trying to democratise investing to make it accessible with a much lower starting point at £250 [Nutmeg starts at £500] and the whole simplicity of design is to target the mass market."

Wealthify will ask you to select a risk proposition, which is presented in plain language. This is then backed up by a suitability test to validate their own logic on risk models, "so a safety net to make sure people aren’t going in the wrong direction," says Theo.

Then Wealthify will invest in a range of asset classes, like Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs), with the algorithms defining which asset classes to invest in and when, depending on market information and your risk profile.

Wealthify claims to have made customers returns of between 8.86% to 28.5% on average, depending on the risk proposition taken and after fees.

Fees:Wealthify charges a management fee of 0.7–0.5% based on the value of your investments and fund charges of typically 0.17% per year.

Sign up to Wealthify here.

Moneybox
© Moneybox

Moneybox

UK startup Moneybox has developed a micro-investing app that rounds up your purchases and saves the difference, before investing the money into a stocks and shares ISA.

So if, for example, you buy a £1.50 coffee, Moneybox will suggest a saving of 50p. You can choose to link it to as many bank accounts and round up as many transactions as you wish, swiping right to save and left not to from a list that shows every individual item you have spent over the past week.

Read next: Meet Moneybox: the app that hopes to make it radically easier to save and invest

The total you have chosen to save is then transferred from your bank account to your Moneybox ISA every Wednesday. How this money is then invested depends on you and whether you choose 'cautious', 'balanced' or 'adventurous' as a strategy, which balances between risk and potential rate of returns across a range of corporate bonds, property funds, government bonds, unit trusts and so on.

Fees: Moneybox charges two fees: a fixed subscription fee of £1 per month after three months, and a platform fee of 0.45% of the value of your investments per year.

Sign up to Moneybox here.

Seedrs
© Seedrs

Seedrs

If you back yourself as a budding venture capitalist Seedrs is a platform for investing in businesses via crowdfunding rounds. You can create an investor profile, participate in funding campaigns and ask entrepreneurs questions before investing.

Success stories include adtech company Adludio and ice cream startup Oppo.

Fees:Seedrs charges a fee of 7.5% on any profit made on investments held by Seedrs as nominee. It does not charge any ongoing administration or management fee for acting as nominee.

Sign up to Seedrs here.

Funding Circle

Funding Circle

Funding Circle'speer-to-peer platform lets savers invest in small UK businesses and earn an estimated return of 7.1%, while the businesses themselves get access to loans of between £5,000-£1 million without having to deal with banks.

You can deposit money with Funding Circle and it will even diversify your portfolio for you with the Autobid feature.

Fees:Funding Circle charges a 1% annual servicing fee based on the amount outstanding on any loan and collected when the borrower makes a payment.

Sign up to Funding Circle here.

CrowdCube
© CrowdCube

CrowdCube

Another popular crowdfunding site is CrowdCube. Users of Crowdcube can play venture capitalist, but on their financial terms by investing in startups, early stage and growth businesses and receive equity, debt and investment fund options in return.

Since 2011 the platform has funded companies to the tune of £138m already via 245,690 registered investors, including tech startups like Rentify and Luxtripper. Digital challenger bank Monzo infamously crashed the CrowdCube site when it raised £1 million in record time back in February 2016.

Crowdcube itself has raised £6 million from stockbroker Numis, Draper Esprit and Balderton Capital.

Sign up to CrowdCube here.

eToro
© eToro

eToro

Branding itself the "social trading and investment network", eToro allows users to invest in the stock market, currencies, indices and commodities, all from your mobile.

Once signed up you can create a practice portfolio before taking the plunge with actual money. Users may also 'follow' and copy successful traders on the network, essentially like backing a hot roulette player in a casino.

The Israeli startup is headquartered in the London as well as Tel Aviv and Cyprus.

Sign up to eToro here.

Finimize
© Finimize

Finimize

London-based startup Finimize started life as an email newsletter for bitesized financial news and has built up an audience of more than 100,000 people. Now it has launched a financial planning platform called Finimize my Life, which is currently in beta and has a waiting list of more than 24,000 people.

The platform is free to use, for now, and helps users create a financial plan by answering a few questions about their financial position, setting goals and then laying out personalised options, be that opening an ISA or investing with a partner like Nutmeg or Moneyfarm.

Finimize founder Max Rofagha says that he is looking to invest in data science in the future so that the platform can make more tailored product recommendations for users, once it has built out its data set. He also hasn't ruled out charging a subscription fee further down the line.

Sign up to Finimize here.

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