Cake Financial Thursday introduced a $99-a-year automated service that attempts to tailor a mutual fund portfolio to an investor’s existing holdings, salary, age and desired retirement age by showing them lower-cost, less risky and better-performing choices.
It’s easy to use, as investors can just plug in their existing accounts at any major brokerage using their existing usernames and passwords for those accounts. Immediately after inputting that information, even without subscribing to the service, the proprietary algorithm, based on data on 18,000 funds across 70 investment categories, grades the funds in an investor’s portfolio, indicates whether the fees are too high and, if so, in a dollar amount, how much Cake Financial could save.
The company estimates that consumers have the potential to save as much as $200,000 in fees over the course of their investment cycle.
It also shows what existing choices would deliver by the time of retirement, how much an investor should have saved by that time, and, as a teaser, how Cake could beat those figures. The summary also categorizes holdings by strategy and risk, and tries to entice visitors to subscribe to the premium service to find out Cake’s recommended substitutes that it projects would do much better.
The trouble, as The Wall Street Journal notes, is that while Cake Financial touts its recommendations as “trusted advice,” it isn’t a registered adviser or broker. Also, its recommendations may very well be funds not available to an investor in their existing 401(k) plan. It also doesn’t let users input information from brokerages not already programmed into the software.
Finally, it doesn’t ask personal information, so its recommendations may not be put in complete context. For example, where it asks users to input “other assets,” instead of asking users what type of assets these are, such as real estate, bonds, stocks, etc., it labels them as “brokerage” and projects a future value for these holdings at a rate that is not transparent.
However, as Cake CEO Steven Carpenter said, future versions of the software will be more personalized. For now, he said, “Investing is intimidating and a chore for people of all ages. It doesn’t need to be that scary or difficult. With Cake Premium, our goal is to give consumers an easy way to do better by providing a clear asset allocation strategy and putting more money back into their pockets by strategically identifying the highest-yielding funds with the lowest management fees.”