Pearler Review from an experienced and long term investor on the path to Financial Independence. Is this CHESS sponsored investing platform the key to your financial independence?
- CHESS sponsored
- Industry leading brokerage price – $9.50 trades
- Leading tools for investing Automation
- Corporate Culture of Investing NOT trading
- Offers a number of brokerage free ETFs
- AMAZING customer support
- Invite only (will need to use invite code ‘CaptainFI’ to join)
- No mobile app at the moment (currently being built)
- Website is ‘a bit clunky’
Pearler is the share trading and stock brokerage platform for those on the path to Financial Independence. With industry leading $9.50 CHESS sponsored trades and automatic investing features. Pearler’s crowning ‘Pearl’ in my mind, is its Autoinvest feature which lets you automatically invest so you can put your investing on auto pilot and cruise toward Financial Independence hassle free.
“Pearler: Informal, mainly Australian – something impressive: “That landing was a real Pearler, mate!”
This article will review where Pearler is currently at, discuss my use of the platform, and ultimately answer whether it might be a good option for investing on the path to Financial Independence. If you would rather listen, make sure to check out the Interview with Kurt Walkom, one of the founders of Pearler, on the CaptainFI Podcast.
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You can Skip the wait list with an exclusive Pearler invite code for CaptainFI readers: CaptainFI
Pearler have a heap of great features that are specifically tailored to the Financial Independence community, as well as industry leading $9.50 trades.
The Team behind Pearler have big plans to eventually create a ‘Financial Marketplace’ where you can access a heap of free peer reviewed information and access to industry award winning and low cost products for investments, bank accounts, loans, insurance and more – perhaps similar to affiliate review companies like Canstar, Finder or ProductReview, but then going one step further and actually being trusted to provide or broker the product themselves.
“A world without chronic financial stress”Kurt Walkom, Pearler
For now though, they have entered the marketplace as a tailor built investing platform for those on the path to Financial Independence. With competitively low brokerage, no fees and awesome FI features, Pearler’s aim is to help you reach Financial Independence rather than profit off you.
Whilst it is currently in Beta testing, Pearler has nearly 3000 investors and a rapidly growing user base – so much so that you actually need to join a waiting list to use the platform. Due to the Beta Testing, there are bugs being worked out which have given it mixed reviews. Having previously worked in software engineering, I can say that this is a totally normal thing for a start-up, and in my mind this is a company well worth being a part of and I am personally along for the ride. It’s pretty awesome that they recently ticked over $1,000,000 invested through the platform!
Management and team behind Pearler
Pearler was co-founded in 2018 by three University of New South Wales alumni: Kurt Walkom, Nick Nicolaides and Hayden Smith – you can read more about them on the UNSW Founders page here.
“We are building a secure place where you find the right financial products to suit your situation and goals, empowering you with the skill and confidence to use them. Investments, savings, loans and insurance from multiple providers, all in the one place. Starting with investing for all Australians.”Kurt WalKom, CEO and co-founder Pearler
What features does Pearler offer?
Pearler offers a range of features and tools which would be valuable to anyone on the path to Financial Independence. Straight up, I think their automation tools are the most useful; specifically their Autoinvest feature to put your investing on autopilot, and their Autodeposit to build your cash account.
Automation is hands down the most important behaviour to reach Financial Independence; Set and Forget and Collect! Did you know some of the worlds best investors are either people who forgot about their investments, or who had actually died? Check out this article on Business Insider based on information from US investing giant Fidelity. Although this article has been disputed by popular finance blogger Saverocity, everyone agrees that automatic investing and stretching out your portfolio re-balancing intervals as long as possible (such as yearly) is the best way to ’emotion proof’ your portfolio and protect it from yourself!
If I am honest – The reason I switched to Pearler is because when I reviewed my investing decisions over the past three years, I almost never stuck to my regular investment plan. Sure – I ‘roughly followed it’ but it wasnt
You can currently use Pearlers Autoinvest to automatically invest in the following four ways;
- Single share furthest below target weight
- Single share of my choice from my portfolio
- Rebalance to target weights
- Equally across target weights
Pearler also offers a way to help track your progress with Goal Tracking, Compare your portfolio to Financial Independence community leaders with Finfluencer Portfolios and a way to help keep yourself accountable with Shareable Portfolios. They also have Sharesight integration as standard which is handy!
Currently, you can only directly invest in Australian listed shares and not international shares like US giants Apple, Microsoft or Google. But remember – those on the path to Financial Independence rarely directly hold company stock, and instead we choose to buy ETFs and LICs to do that for us. There are many great options for ETFs listed on the ASX that provide exposure to international stocks – check out my Investing Strategy and Net Worth Updates to see the ones I personally use!
Brokerage fees of Pearler
Pearler has a very simple fee structure. They don’t charge fees, and brokerage for share trades costs $9.50 up to a maximum $17,500 trade size. Above $17,500 trades the brokerage then costs .055% of the trade, which is incredibly low – to put it in perspective, most of the big four banks charge percentage rates around 3-4 times this high!
Realistically though, if you are on the path to Financial Independence, you would know the benefit of Dollar Cost Averaging into the market as soon as you earn your money – so unless your Bill Gates your average trade size is generally going to be well under $17,500. Most of us regular folk will be more in the vicinity of under $5,000 per month, so $9.50 trades is a good number to hang your hat on.
Are Pearler CHESS Sponsored?
Yes – Pearler are CHESS sponsored. This is important, as CHESS (Clearing House Electronic Sub-register System) sponsorship ensures you are the legal owner of your investments, and the ASX tracks your personal name and ownership using your Holder Identification Number (HIN) against that individual share holding.
Not all investing or brokerage platforms are CHESS sponsored (for example many MicroInvesting platforms are not CHESS sponsored) and this can create a massive headache if they ever collapse – it is unclear how you will get your shares back and basically you might have to rely on the ‘goodwill’ of the company to get your holdings. Not being CHESS sponsored also means that the company that holds your shares in custodianship could potentially make money using your share holdings in unscrupulous ways – for example they might retain your dividends, profit by ‘lending out’ your shares to short sellers, or use the collective voting rights of its customers holdings for their own interest.
Funding and Margin lending with Pearler
Pearler allows you to fund your trades using an inbuilt Client Trust Account (CTA) arranged through a Macquarie Bank (Macquarie Bank Client Trust Account) do not offer Margin lending.
The Macquarie Bank Client Trust Account contains a sub-holding for each Pearler user account, and this is where your direct debits for the Autoinvest feature is billed. You can top up your Macquarie Bank Client Trust Account using Pearler’s Autodeposit feature.
Because this is a client trust account it is not held in your name individually. This means you do not get an account name, number and BSB, and you do not control the funds or receive interest on your balance like you would with a Cash Management Account (CMA) which some other brokers use. Personally, I would prefer a CMA however this currently does not integrate with their Autoinvest feature. Ultimately, you shouldn’t really bother keeping much money in these accounts anyway, and your best off leaving it in an Online High Interest Savings Account until you need to use it.
How to sign up for Pearler
Pearler is currently working on an invite only basis. They have a wait list that you must join – however, you can request access to Pearler here, and use the code ‘CAPTAINFIBETA‘ to skip the wait list for early access. My general advice to you is that you only sign up under the proviso that you have read this review and understand the service enough to make sense of the Product Disclosure Statment (PDS) and the terms of service. Make sure you read these and that it suits your personal circumstance – noting that I am not a financial advisor and this information is for general information only.
I contacted Pearler and went through this early access request application, and after a few weeks was granted access. The process to sign up overall took about an hour or so, and you will need your phone for two factor authentication. I found it a bit frustrating having to manually type codes across and there were a few bugs which I reported to the development team, but thankfully these were looked into straight away.
Once I got in, I set up my account, FI goals and my target portfolio. Whilst it isn’t perfect, I roughly chucked in my details and it gave me some pretty cool information about time to FIRE.
Setting up your target portfolio is pretty straightforward – you can either search individual ticker codes, or you can do what I did which was to just select from the ‘Popular ETFs’ tab. Once I had added my target holdings, there is simply a sliding scale (or a percentage you can type in) to adjust what your target is – when its what I roughly wanted I clicked ‘lock’ (padlock icon) – and this is what it came out with. Of course, these are just the ETF index funds, setting an equal weight 1/3 split of A200, VTS and VEU.
How to trade with Pearler
To start buying my stocks, I transferred $1000 from my linked bank account into my Pearler share trading account. I didn’t have to do this in my bank at all, and this was all requested and authorized through the Pearler platform with two factor authentication. The money took a few days to clear into my account.
After my first $1000 transfer settled, I logged into Pearler and manually purchased some Betashares A200 ETF. I told Pearler I wanted to spend up to $1000, and clicked ‘Buy’ – they neatly figured out this would get me 9 shares, charged me my $9.50 brokerage, and then settled the trade.
This then neatly replicated on my Sharesight account.
Pearler review: How I use AutoInvest
I have set up my automation by selecting an automated deposit from my bank account and a ‘re-balance to lowest share’. This means when my pay is deposited into my bank account, a chunk of it will automatically be sent to my Pearler brokerage account. This will then be invested straight away into which ever ETF makes up my lowest target split.
Note I will not be including LICs in this, because I currently only ever want to buy LICs ‘ad-hoc’ when they trade below their Net Asset Value (NAV) or Net Tradeable Assets (NTA) – picking up a LIC below cost gives me a mild feeling of satisfaction. I know this is a form of timing the market and I probably shouldn’t be doing so – however I get around it by investing into index fund ETFs if there are no LICs ‘on sale’, so that way I am always investing whenever I have the money.
I actually switched to Pearler purely for this AutoInvest feature. This is awesome and I use it to purchase $2000 of shares every fortnight, against my target allocation. My allocation strategy is simply to buy the lowest share out of an equal one third split of A200, VTS and VEU. Nothing super exciting or crazy here, just simple, automatic investing into three ETFs which give me access to nearly every single stock in the world.
I received my Letter from the ASX in the mail giving me my new Pearler sponsored HIN, and was then able to link Pearler to my Sharesight account. It is OK to have as many HINs as you like, as they can all be tracked by the same share registries and by Sharesight for portfolio tracking,
It is not an issue having multiple HINs and having investments across multiple brokers, especially since I use ShareSight to manage all of my portfolio tracking.
Pearler also offer an option to automatically directly link to ShareSight for portfolio tracking too, so there is no need to manually import trades. This is SUPER simple and for me was literally one click of a button – since when you sign up and verify your identity, everything is on their systems backend and Pearler and ShareSight are integrated through an API.
This means if I make Automatic trades using Pearler’s ‘AutoInvest’ feature that it will be immediately linked to my ShareSight portfolio, alongside any other trades I have made from other share trading platforms.
The linking process worked well, but it looked a little glitch-y from the Pearler user log in side (as if it had not been linked even though it was) – I reported the issue to the Pearler team and they said they would look into it ASAP.
An interview with the founders of Pearler
Because who doesn’t love a good Q and A, right? I have invited Kurt and the team from Pearler to come onto CaptainFI.com and have a chat about the platform, and where its headed. We also had a great chat over Zoom and I expect to have the podcast out for you all shortly.
1 – What is Pearler, and how can it help people in Australia on the path to Financial Independence?
Pearler is an online broker for long-term Aussie investors, founded by 3 friends from Sydney in 2018 after we got fed up with only having two bad options to refer our friends to when they wanted to start investing – confusing trading platforms or expensive micro-investment apps.
Just like other brokers, Pearler allows investors to invest directly into any Aussie or US stocks and ETFs. But where we differ is that instead of designing our platform around the buying and selling (‘trading’) experience, we’ve built Pearler from the ground up to focus on the thing that matters most – helping people achieve their long-term financial goals.
To do this we’ve got features like Goals and Autoinvest, which together allow you to set a goal (e.g. Financial Independence), then automate your investing strategy to achieve it and track your progress along the way.
We’ve also embedded community elements in our platform – we make it easy for our investors to compare and share their portfolios with friends, family and ‘Finfluencers’, or see what the most popular stocks and ETFs for a specific goal are, for example.
Our goal is to make it incredibly easy for every Aussie to invest in shares the right way – incremental amounts in diversified portfolios, for the long-term.
And that makes it perfect for Aussies pursuing FI 😉
2 – Can you tell us a bit about yourself, the team and your background?
We have 3 co-founders: Nick, Hayden and myself. We’re all really passionate about helping people learn to become better with their money.
Nick and I come from a finance background – we used to work together at an investment office in Sydney. We realised that both of our social circles were experiencing similar problems when it came to learning to invest, despite being at different life stages (I was mid-20s and recently graduated Uni, Nick was early 30s and just started a family).
Long-story short, our friends were asking us to help them learn to invest and we had two options to choose from:
- Refer them to an online broker, give them a passive investing crash course and hope they don’t get confused or disillusioned along the way, or;
- Refer them to a micro-investment app, which makes it easy to invest in diversified portfolios for the long-term, but is more expensive and ‘dumbs down’ investing.
As you can see, both are bad options.
The learning curve for #1 is enormous and stressful, while #2 is more expensive and not how we invested ourselves.
We began to realise that there was this big gap in the market for a genuine long-term online broking platform – both for beginners and seasoned investors – and so we set about solving that.
This is where Hayden, our third co-founder, comes in. Hayden and I lived together in our first couple of years of university and he is the most talented software engineer I know. When Nick and I had this idea, we took it to him for advice on how the hell to go about getting it built.
Around this time I was also becoming more and more involved in the Aussie FI Community and saw that FIRE was doing an awesome job of helping people overcome the passive investing learning curve.
I then had the brainwave that Pearler should just start by building the perfect investment platform for FI and if we did that, we would be well on the way to having the ultimate long-term investing platform for all Aussies.
3 – What has your journey to Financial Independence looked like so far?
Reading the Barefoot Investor at age 14 kicked off my FI journey. It was what really triggered my passion for personal finance.
The following year I invested all of my $15,000 of “life savings” in 3 stocks because I’d bitten deep into the “compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world” mantra & “knew” the most important thing was time, so I was in a hurry to invest all I had as soon as I could!
But I didn’t know about ETFs or the importance of low-cost diversification. Nor did I know that most stockbrokers had no interest in me making money – they just wanted to make commission!
So when I got recommended these 3 picks from this “professional”, I was quickly sold (and my parents were too). But then the GFC hit the following year & my share portfolio plummeted in value and never bounced back.
Being the stubborn little shit I was (and still am), I resolved to learn all I could about investing, and why this so-called professional is allowed to lose people’s money. I went on to find that retail investment advice gets it very wrong, very often, which eventually led to me co-founding Pearler.
Of course, I kept my FI journey happening alongside Uni & Pearler too & have a decent nest egg saved up – or rather, invested in a set of ETFs (which I’ll detail later) – although it did get halved to fund Pearler 😂
4 – What are some of the main tools you get to use with Pearler?
We’ve literally designed Pearler from the ground up for long-term investors. Most low-cost brokers focus all their energy on making the trading experience better. Limit orders, market depths, weekly performance updates, the list goes on… none of this helps a long-term investor!
We’ve got rid of all this trading crap and replaced it with genuine long-term investing features like Autoinvest, Goals and Shareable Portfolios. These are some of the main tools, but there are a heap more and I think you’ve mentioned them earlier in this review.
5 – How do you personally invest with Pearler?
You can see everything I invest in on Pearler in my Pearler profile, but as an overview it is;
- A portfolio of ETFs
- I use Autoinvest setting “single asset furthest below target weight”
- I recently swapped buying VTS & VEU for the Vaneck global sustainable ESGI (free brokerage) with a target of 40% (international)
- I invest in A200 for Australian exposure with a target of 40% (Australian)
- I invest in a geared ETFs (Australian and US shares) with a target of 10% portfolio each.
6 – What is the company Pearler all about?
Pearler exists to help everyday people get better financial outcomes.
Most finance companies are set up to sell financial products they own to fit people’s needs. Someone comes in, asks for a loan, an investment, or insurance and they get sold something that the company owns, even when a different product is more suitable, most of the time.
This happens because finance companies are conflicted; they make most of their money from the products they sell, so the advice they give often puts the interests of the company ahead of the interests of the client. This is even true for financial planners – around 85% are bank-affiliated! And the truth is that a lot of good financial products exist! The problem is that there is no “best” ETF, savings account or loan – they depend entirely on the goals and circumstances of the individual!
So at Pearler, we have decided that rather than try to make products, we want to help people find them – ‘The right financial products at the right time, starting with investing’, is our go-to line.
Ultimately, we want to be the company that democratises access to reliable financial advice and helps the 99% take back control of their financial lives.
Actually, all three of us have dug pretty deep into our individual motivations and have posted them on our site. You can check them out here:
In terms of our values, we haven’t yet formalised these, but here’s an exclusive look at the draft version for you mate;
- We build things people love to use, and we know when they do
- We give before we get, and give more than we get
- We make mistakes, but not with people’s money
- We are transparent, radically transparent
- We are passionate, economic and creative; we have an owners’ mentality
- We’re not on the hook to be here. We love what we’re doing, and who we work with.
- We’re for the 99%. We help those who struggle to help themselves.
7 – Is Pearler Chess sponsored, and does this even matter?
Pearler is a CHESS sponsored broker which means that our investors directly own their shares & therefore investing with Pearler is extremely safe.
It also means you can move your shares from Pearler (or to!) in a matter of a couple of days.
Relatively-speaking, CHESS sponsorship is cutting-edge technology. The ASX is one of the few markets in the world that has this direct ownership option & it was able to implement this in 1994 because our market is relatively new compared to most global markets.
The other option is what’s known as a Custodian model where investors aren’t actually direct owners, instead they are the “beneficial owners”. This means that the title to the shares aren’t held in their name, but they still have rights to the benefits of ownership.
This model is all well and good in theory, but it does come unstuck from time-to-time. For example, there are a number of cases of the Custodian (the bank holding title to the assets) or Broker (the platform facilitating the transactions) running into financial or legal trouble & customers’ assets being caught in the mix. The most recent Aussie example I know of is Halifax (2019). And prior to that was BBY (occurred in 2015, court case is still ongoing).
Best case when this happens is that it takes a few months to get access to your shares. Worst case is that you lose some or all of your assets – as highlighted by the examples above.
Because of this risk, CHESS sponsorship is the most popular way for Australians to buy shares on the ASX. All the major banks and share trading platforms use this system for ASX brokerage, and so do we!
Two of the main players who have chosen to use Custodian models in Australia for are IG Markets & Superhero. The main reason they have chosen to go this way is to offer cheaper brokerage ($8.00 & $5.00 respectively for a $5k investment), which they can do because it costs less to run a Custodian model. That said, our brokerage isn’t that much higher – we charge $9.50 and you get peace of mind.
8 – How does Pearler plan to compete with $5 brokerage from other start ups?
This will just be a quick summary (but trust us there is more detail coming).
We are working on a ‘freemium’ service, which means the basic subscription or service will be free, and there will be a potential opportunity to pay for some more detailed tools. However, one of our main principles is not to ‘price people out of Financial Independence’ and we want it to be as accessible as possible – so locking things behind paywalls isn’t really our aim here.
The first version of this is system is “Free purchase ETFs” with 3 ETF managers – VanEck, ETF Securities & eInvest. We do plan to have some sort of freemium service that encompasses more free investment brokerage for both AU & US ETFs next year, so watch this space.
The real question might be how do other share trading platforms plan to compete with us!
9 – Can we buy international shares through Pearler?
Yes, some customers are already investing in US shares & ETFs using Pearler & by the end of 2020 we will have extended this functionality to all of our customers. The US market represents over 50% of the world’s market capitalisation, so it’s the big one. We will add other markets over time too, if they get requested enough. Basically we are highly agile and responsive to feedback*
*CaptainFI says: This is true, I have reported several bugs and they have been fixed quickly.
10 – What is the future of Pearler – where is it going?
You can check out everything in the worlds on our roadmap. So there’s the features you might already expect that are on our roadmap, like:
- Single sign-in for multiple accounts
- Multiple goals and multiple target portfolios
- Calculators to help set each goal
- Advanced automation
- Collaborative goals
- And much more…
The aim of these features is to continue to make Pearler a better long-term investing platform.
And this is where it gets really exciting. We think that as we build our long-term investing platform, we will be able to expand to include other financial assets – superannuation, loans and insurance, for example – and help guide decisions in these areas too.
Essentially, we think Pearler can become a personal finance marketplace – a one-stop shop for all financial products like investments, loans, insurance and a place you can find peer-reviewed high-quality financial services too, when you need them.
Our ultimate goal is to be the company that democratises access to reliable financial advice and helps the 99% take back control of their financial lives.
And now you know how we plan to do it! 🚀
11 – What are your top three financial independence tips?
- Save more than you spend (and invest it!). Can’t say that I do this myself on my current ramen noodle salary, but from what I’ve seen, those who FIRE in less than 10 years almost always do.
- There is no upper bound on income! If you’re in the FI community, you’ve probably already bought into the “no expense is a fixed expense” mindset, but what I think gets missed a lot is the potential for earning more. Seriously, you can only cut expenses so far. Great article here written by the Aussie Firebug on ‘Best Bang for your Buck’
- Enjoy the journey. Sure, FI is the goal, but don’t get so lost pursuing it that you forget to live and enjoy your life today. This is really important – otherwise, you might find you get to your goal & have no friends left to enjoy it with!
12 – What are your top recommendations for leanring more about personal finance, Investing and personal development?
OK, cruel question because there are many good ones. Just to name a few
- The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John Bogle
- Wealth of Common Sense
- The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape
- Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robery Kiyosaki
13 – Where can we get in touch with you, the team from Pearler or learn more about the platform?
Honestly, signing up to Pearler is quick and free and you can skip the wait list using the signup code CAPTAINFI (https://pearler.com/become-a-pearler/request?inviteCode=CAPTAINFI8027) we are highly responsive to any queries from within the platform, and it has a heap of great guides and articles on our associated blog.
If your not quite ready, you can check us out on Social media or shoot us an email at [email protected]
Pearler provides a share trading brokerage platform for those on the path to Financial Independence – and it’s industry leading $9.50 trades (for CHESS sponsored brokers) and FI investing features make it stand out from the competition. Notwithstanding, Pearler’s crowning ‘Pearl’ is the Autoinvest feature. This lets you put your investing on auto pilot and cruise toward Financial Independence stress free!
Whilst it is currently in Beta testing, Pearler has nearly 3000 investors and a rapidly growing user base – so much so that you actually need to join a waiting list to use the platform. Due to the Beta Testing, there are bugs being worked out which have given it mixed reviews. Having previously worked in software engineering, I can say that this is a totally normal thing for a start-up, and in my mind this is a company well worth being a part of or at least keeping an eye on, and I am personally along for the ride!
I have enjoyed learning about Pearler and chatting to the team. I have found the platform easy to use, and I think the company is destined for great things. I actually have so much faith in them that not only have I started investing in ETFs through the platform, I have actually started investing in the company itself. Any affiliate income or revenue I make is being invested into the pearler company, which is going to allow them to grow and scale the platform even quicker.
Do you use Pearler or have you been researching it for shares trading? Let us know your experience in the comments below!
Pearler Sign up code
To skip the wait list, you can use this sign up code (hyperlink will take you to Pearler with the code embedded).
Pearler exclusive invite code: CaptainFI
In the future, Kurt did mention Pearler might be applying a sweet sign up bonus (potentially a number of free trades) but this is still in the works so don’t hold me to anything yet.