Citigroup unveils free robo-adviser for customers with at least $50,000 at the bank

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Michael Corbat, CEO, Citigroup, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 21, 2020.

Adam Galica | CNBC

Citigroup is making a push for investors’ dollars with a new digital robo-adviser that’s free for customers with at least $50,000 in deposits or investments at the bank.

That’s the threshold needed to qualify for the bank’s Citi Priority bundle of banking services, which will soon include access to an automated investing program, according to documents viewed by CNBC.

The program works like most robo-advisers: Users answer a few questions related to risk appetite and investing timelines, and the software puts them into a pre-made portfolio of investments. Customers with Citi Priority or higher status can use the program, called Citi Wealth Builder, for one free portfolio; those who don’t qualify are charged a fee of 0.55% of assets under management.

While Citigroup is among the last of the biggest six U.S. banks to launch a robo-adviser offering — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley have all released one — Citigroup undercuts its rivals on price. The banks typically charge from 0.35% to 0.45% of assets under management.

The move is in line with a broader race to zero in the retail investing world. In October, Charles Schwab announced it was abolishing stock trading commissions, a move that was quickly followed by competitors. One copycat was TD Ameritrade, which agreed to be acquired by Schwab within weeks of cutting its commissions.

Citigroup leaned on an external provider, a digital advisory company owned by Invesco called Jemstep, for the software powering its robo-adviser.

The program, which will be accessible through the bank’s website and mobile app, puts users into one of six portfolios composed of ETFs. The ETFs themselves carry management fees of 0.18% to 0.24%. There is a $1,500 minimum investment.

Citigroup, the third-biggest U.S. bank by assets, is in the midst of a push to grow deposits and assets under management, two essential ingredients fueling the industry’s profits. It has been adding benefits to its banking bundles and rolling out new products including digital checking accounts.

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