Pearler Review: Auto-Investing & Brokerage-Free Investing

Pearler Review; a complete review of the Pearler investment platform from an experienced and long term investor on the path to Financial Independence. Updated and republished 6th June 2022.

The Good

  • CHESS sponsored Australian share market trading
  • $5.50 Flat fee trades* and brokerage free ETFs
  • US share market trading
  • Auto invest for investing Automation
  • Culture of long term investing
  • No investing experience is necessary – portfolio example templates and educational materials
  • Over 55,000 users

The Bad

  • Pearler account sign up can take a few hours
  • UX can be a bit ‘Clunky’ and slow at times
  • Not well suited for active traders / day trading

*$5.50 Flat fee trades if pre-purchasing Brokerage credits using Pearler Cash, otherwise $6.50 flat free trades with ‘Pay as you go’

Verdict: Pearler has been built specifically for the FI community – long term investing with Pearler is simple and can be automated. Pearler is the share trading platform I use for my ETF portfolio, but you should consider whether it is right for you.

Get $10 Pearler credit with code “COMMUNITY”

Pearler investment platform

This article is general information that reviews where Pearler is currently at, discusses my use of the platform, and ultimately aims to help you answer for yourself whether it might be a good brokerage option for investing to build wealth on the path to Financial Independence.

Pearler is a share trading (stock brokerage) platform specifically built for those on the path to reaching Financial Independence. With $5.50 CHESS sponsored trades (pre purchased in pearler credit, otherwise $6.50) and free trades on some ETFs, access to global markets, microinvesting, round ups and automatic investing features (auto invest), it is specifically designed for those on the path to Financial Independence and wanting to passively grow wealth.

Pearler: Informal, mainly Australian – something impressive: “That landing was a real Pearler, mate!”

Pearler’s crowning ‘Pearl’ is its Autoinvest feature which lets someone automatically invest so they can put investing on auto pilot and cruise toward FI hassle free. Read on for my full breakdown of the Pearler brokerage platform and my experience using it.

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.

CaptainFI is not a Financial Advisor and the information below is not financial advice. This website is reader-supported, which means we may be paid when you visit links to partner or featured sites, or by advertising on the site. For more information please read my Privacy PolicyTerms of Use, and Financial Disclaimer.

Pearler review

Pearler review: Introduction to the Pearler investment platform

The Pearler investment platform has a heap of great features that are specifically tailored to the FI community that help you invest in shares, as well as CHESS backed $5.50 trades (pre-purchased Pearler credit, otherwise $6.50). Actually, the founders designed Pearler to be the clear choice for those on the path to FI out of all brokerage platforms, wanting to help you make better financial decisions and build wealth through long term investing.

Pearler Key Metrics: May 2022

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 FI. With competitively low brokerage costs, no fees and awesome FI features, Pearler’s aim is to help you reach Financial Independence rather than profit off you.

Using Pearler you can invest in global stocks through both the ASX and US share market.

Management and team behind Pearler – Founded by 3 friends.

Founded by 3 friends: 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

Pearler review: Features of Pearler

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 automated investing tools are the most useful; specifically their Autoinvest feature to put your investing on autopilot, and their Autodeposit to build your cash account.

Comparing Pearler to other Australian brokerage platforms below shows how Pearler is a great choice for long term investors on the path to FIRE.

pearler review
Features of Pearler compared to other Australian Brokerage platforms

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 wasn’t perfect – and as a result I did myself a disservice. Previously I had used online brokers to manually lodge my trade (purchase)

Pearler review: Auto invest feature

Automated investing using auto invest is a game changer for passively building wealth. Not only will Pearlers Autoinvest to automatically invest in the following four ways to meet your target allocation, but the Auto deposit tool will allow a direct debit from your bank account into your Pearler CTA account.

Pearler Auto invest
  • Single share furthest below target weight
  • Single share of my choice from my portfolio
  • Rebalance to target weights
  • Equally across target weights
Pearler auto invest
Setting up your Pearler Autoinvest function

Other features of Pearler

Pearler also offers a way to help track your progress with Goal Tracking, You can track your progress , compare your portfolio to Financial Independence community leaders with Finfluencer Portfolios, and an awesome way to help keep yourself accountable is 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 FI 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 when compared to other online brokers. They don’t charge fees, and brokerage fees for share trades is a flat $6.50, or for the brokerage free ETFs it is $0 (as the fund providers will pay the brokerage for you to entice you into buying the ETF), and for US share trades it is $6.50.

You can also prepay and save – by buying $55 in Pearler Credit for brokerage, you can get an additional $10 worth of brokerage for free, making your total cost only $5.50 per investment, which is a pretty cool perk.

Pearler has industry leading brokerage amongst online brokers with CHESS sponsored trades

To put it in perspective, most of the big four banks charge sliding scale brokerage which can end up costing hundreds (or even thousands of dollars on a huge transaction!). Realistically though, if you are on the path to FI, you would know the benefit of Dollar Cost Averaging into the market as soon as you earn your money – so your trade size will usually not be ridiculous so we need a fair comparison. Most of us regular folk will be more in the vicinity of under $5,000 per month, so $5.50 is a very fair price IMO.

For a share parcel of $2,000, Pearler provide the following table for brokerage, including US conversion costs – showing how you still get ahead investing through pearler in the majority of cases, with Stake providing the cheapest alternative for current Australian CHESS sponsored share trading (but lacking an Auto invest feature).

Brokerage Free ETFs with Pearler

Pearler offer Brokerage Free ETFs (ETF securities) when you buy and hold, as a way to encourage long term investing. Pearler are able to achieve this because they have partnered with like minded ETF managers at eInvest, ETF Securities and VanEck, and the ETF managers absorb the cost. This is because the ETF managers actually really want long term investors in their ETF securities as it greatly helps their business model. They pay the brokerage on your behalf to Pearler (so Pearler get paid!), the ETF manager gets a long term client, and you get brokerage free ETFs – everyone wins!

You can now invest into over 43 brokerage free ETFs, which means you can invest more regularly (benefitting from compound interest), and your investments work harder as you don’t lose any money to transaction costs. This is especially important for investors who are wanting to regularly invest with small amounts, as previously brokerage costs would have eaten away at your returns since they are such a high percentage of investing small amounts.

So what’s the catch on brokerage free ETFs? Well you just have to hold the ETF securities for more than a year. If you decide to sell before the year is up, you will get charged the standard $6.50 or $5.50 (prepaid) brokerage on each transaction (buy and sell).

Pearler review: Are Pearler CHESS Sponsored?

Yes – your Pearler account is 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 could create a 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. Pearler doesn’t do any of this nonsense, and your shares are securely held by you.

It is worth noting that Pearlers micro investing tool, Pearler Micro, is not CHESS sponsored because it uses a managed fund style custodian account to hold the underlying ETFs, so its just the main Pearler Shares platform which is CHESS sponsored.

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) and do not offer Margin lending.

The Macquarie Bank Client Trust Account contains a sub-holding for each Pearler 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 which supports a regular direct debit (which you can conveniently line up with your pay day).

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. I quite like having the funds direct debited from my outside bank account into the CTA and then invested through the auto invest tool.

Joint investing with Pearler

Pearler offers digital joint accounts, which mean you can complete a joint application step (even if you already have an individual account). You just need to complete your co-holders details and you can then hold individual and a joint accounts simultaneously. To switch between them use the ‘accounts’ tab under ‘settings’ – this way you can track your progress to FI using both individual and joint accounts.

Trust investing with Pearler

Pearler as of 2022 now offers the option to invest via a trust. This is useful if you have a family or discretionary trust and use this as an investment vehicle, as you can now open a Pearler trust account.

Investing for kids – Pearler Minor Trading Account

Pearler now offer Minor trading accounts which means you can invest in your child name. This can have some tax saving implications however it is best to do some research and consult a financial advisor and tax accountant before investing for your kids, as there can be some interesting little quirks and complications under Australian tax law when it comes to investing for kids.

US share trading on Pearler

Pearler recently expanded to provide US share trading. All you need to do is follow the prompts on your Pearler account to open an OFX account (the company which contracts the foreign exchange side of the house). You simple place orders as you would for AUS shares, and OFX takes care of the US funding side of the house.

US market (NYSE/NASDAQ) opens at 1:30am – 8am Sydney time during the wintertime (First Sunday in November to the second Sunday in March) or at 11.30pm – 6am Sydney time during the summertime (First Sunday in April to the first Sunday in October).

US market Opening times, Pearler
  • US share trading costs $6.50 per trade.
  • US order brokerage will always be deducted in AUD from your primary AU cash account (Not Pearler Primary cash USD).
  • Pearler only supports individual or joint accounts for us share trading
  • You can buy and sell fractional units of US shares
  • W8-BEN tax form is automatically completed and filed by Pearler for free when you open your Pearler US share trading account
  • US Dividends are credited to your Primary Cash (USD) account
  • US shares are custodially held under your name by Pearlers brokerage partner Drive Wealth. DriveWealth is a member of the SIPC and according to the Pearler website, investors are insured for cash and securities up to $500,000.

DriveWealth custodies Securities and Other Assets held in your Account at approved Depository Trust Company Custodians (“DTC Custodians”). DriveWealth holds all positions in nominee name with the DTC Custodians; DriveWealth maintains all records related to the holdings in your Account.

Pearler, 2022.

Pearler mobile app

Pearler now has a mobile app now for both Android and iOS (apple) users available on both the Apple app store and Google Play store.

I downloaded it and had a play around – it works fine and you can do everything. But then I deleted it.

Why – because I don’t want easy access to Pearler on my phone. The whole point was to automate my investing using the Pearler Auto invest feature and then let it tick away in the background. Having the app on my phone is just a distraction and potential temptation to log in and hawk eye my shares (this may be tempting and fun with a little dopamine rush, but it is bad from a long term investor behavioural mindset point of view).

Pearler Micro Microinvesting with Pearler

On Monday, 21st March 2022 Pearler launched their Microinvesting option, Pearler Micro. Pearler Micro was created to help you start investing, and features 8 diversified portfolios to choose from and no minimum transaction size.

The Good

  • Choice of 8 different ETF funds
  • No fees if your balance is below $100
  • All-in-one, Ethical and thematic investment options
  • No brokerage costs
  • Round up and Auto invest features.

The Bad

  • Not CHESS sponsored
  • Does have a monthly fee which erodes your balance
  • Transferring from Pearler Micro to Pearler Shares is a capital gains event for taxation purposes
  • Not linked to Sharesight yet.

You can make investments via once off financial transactions, by using the round-up or with automated investing using the auto investing feature.

Pearler micro doesn’t have a brokerage fee, but instead has a small monthly fee depending on the number of funds you hold. Pearler Micro is all about helping you master the passive investing learning curve

Pearler Micro is now live

However, there is a monthly fee, which puts Pearler Micro in a similar category as Raiz Invest and Spaceship Voyager, but making it the cheapest of these three. It is important to realise that monthly fees can eat away at small balances – on a two fund $1000 portfolio, the Pearler Micro fees would be $2.30 a month or $27.6 per year, or 2.8% of the portfolio’s value – which is pretty high when we consider investing in a general sense we want to keep it well below half a percent! If we look at a 10% theoretical long term average return on this hypothetical portfolio being $100 per year, we can see the fees actually gobble up one quarter of our return, or 27.6%!

We must realise though, that micro investing is not a sensible long term investing strategy, it is purely an educational tool for those at the start of their investing journey. I personally would not keep more than a few thousand invested in micro-investing platforms due to this fee drag, and it makes sense to move them over to conventional brokerage platforms such as the main pearler platform. You will have to work out what thresholds are appropriate for you.

How to sign up for Pearler

You can open an account with Pearler by using the Community Sign up code (and get $10 of free Pearler brokerage credit).

My general advice to you is that you only sign up to make a pearler account under the proviso that you have read this review properly and understand the service enough to make sense of the Product Disclosure Statment (PDS) and the terms of service. You always need to do your own research.

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. What might be appropriate for me, may not be appropriate for you.

I contacted Pearler and went through this early access request application to create a pearler account, 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 pearler 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. They also have some neat calculators on the site.

CaptainFI Pearler profile. Follow me!

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 to passively build wealth. You need to do this to use the auto invest feature which I will explain next

Pearler review
Comparing my current versus my target portfolios in Pearler

Pearler review: 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 fee, and then settled the trade – NB the brokerage price has now been lowered to $6.50 ($5.50 with prepaid).

This then neatly replicated on my Sharesight account.

Pearler review
Purchasing a share with a one off transaction on Pearler

Pearler review: How I use AutoInvest to invest in shares

Because I wanted to regularly invest in shares (and let compound interest do its thing), I have set up my auto invest automation by selecting an automated direct debit 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. The auto invest will then be automatically trigger an investment 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. Although I am gravitating away from this investment technique, and just focusing on the ETFs.

Pearler review
How I use the Pearler Autoinvest feature

I actually wanted to trial the auto invest, so I switched to Pearler purely to start investing using the 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 A200VTS and VEU. Nothing super exciting or crazy here, just simple, auto invest investing into three ETFs which give me access to nearly every single stock in the world (market cap weighted index).

It worked so well, I haven’t disabled it and will let it just do its thing for the foreseeable future. You need to do your own research on financial decisions to figure out if this is going to work for you, but auto investing has been a massive game changer for me in terms of my investing anxiety. Knowing it is on auto pilot to invest regularly just one less thing to worry about – I just set and forget and let Pearler and my ETFs do the heavy lifting.

CaptainFI’s Pearler account in 2022

After a few years auto investing with Pearler, the account is doing pretty well. I have been updating this every month in my Net Worth reviews, but this is what its looking like in 2022. I basically set up my auto invest and just let it do its thing.

Pearler review: Connecting Pearler with ShareSight

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 brokerage 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 got into fixing it that same day.

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 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:

  1. 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;
  2. 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.

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.
pearler review
Kurt Walkoms Pearler investment profile

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 costs ($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 fee isn’t that much higher – we charge $9.50 and you get peace of mind [NB Brokerage price has been dropped to $6.50, and $5.50 for prepaid]..

8 – How does Pearler plan to compete with $5 brokerage costs 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 costs 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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’
  3. 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

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. 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]

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 😂

Financial Disclaimer

Financial Disclaimer: CaptainFI is NOT a financial advisor and does not hold an AFSL. This is not financial Advice!

I am not a financial adviser and I do not hold an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL). In this article, I am giving you factual, balanced information without judgment or bias, to the best of my ability. I am not giving you any general or personal financial advice about what you should do with your investments. Just because I do something with my money (or use a particular service or platform) doesn’t mean it is automatically appropriate for your personal circumstances. I do not recommend nor endorse any financial or investment product, and my usage or opinion of any product should not be interpreted as an endorsement, advertisement, or intent to influence.

I can only provide factual information based on my journey to Financial Independence, and that is provided for general informational and entertainment purposes only. I make no guarantee about the performance of any product, and although I strive to keep the information accurate and updated as it changes, I make no guarantee about the correctness of reviews or information posted.

Remember – you always need to do your own independent research and due diligence before making any transaction. This includes reading and analysing Product Disclosure Statements, Terms and Conditions, Service Arrangement and Fee Structures. It is always smart to compare products and discuss them, but ultimately you need to take responsibility for your use of any particular product and make sure it suits your personal circumstances. If you need help and would like to obtain personal financial advice about which investment options or platforms may be right for you, please talk to a licensed financial adviser or AFSL holder – you can take the first steps to find a financial advisor by reading this interview, or by visiting the ASIC financial adviser register and searching in your area. For more information please read my Privacy Policy, Terms of Use, and Financial Disclaimer.

Finally, in the interests of full disclosure, CaptainFI was an early Angel Investor in Pearler and currently holds a $10,000 Angel Investment in the company. Please See my Net Worth updates for more detail on all of my investments (including but not limited to Bank stocks, Listed trading platforms and other public companies held within the index funds I own).


Pearler provides a share trading brokerage platform for those on the path to Financial Independence – and it’s industry leading prices 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! I love the auto invest feature, and use it to invest every fortnight using the ‘rebalance by least split’ mechanic.

Pearler has over 50,000 investors and a rapidly growing user base, and I think everyone interested in FI should at least create a Pearler account and set a goal within pearler to check it out – for those at the very start of their journey check out Pearler Micro, and for those more experienced have a go investing using the auto invest feature I can almost guarantee you will never go back.

Automated investing with Pearler has been a game changer for letting me invest regularly stress free, and was the main reason I switched to the Pearler investment platform. Make sure you do your own research on financial decisions though – I read everything I could about Pearler before I started investing using auto investing. Ideally having a bit of investing experience will help you maximise what you get out of Pearler, but no investing experience is necessary.

I have enjoyed learning about Pearler and chatting to Kurt Walkom and 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, entrusting them with over $400,000 worth of my life savings, but I am actually helping them to build the company too, by providing feedback, contracting, and with a small angel investment in the company early on. I have found Kurt Walkom and the team to be hard working, genuine and transparent people and can’t wait to see them succeed. It is not just ‘another broker’ and I think it is probably the easiest way to invest in ETFs – Pearler is heading for some amazing things!

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

Pearler has provided a generic Community sign-up code (“COMMUNITY”) that will give you all of the benefits of a previous sign up code ($10 pearler credit for brokerage), however, this is not an affiliate link as there is no affiliate-based commission per sign-up (to be clear, I am not paid by Pearler for anyone who signs up using this link). Due to ASIC guidance on ‘Dealing by Arranging’, I can’t provide an affiliate link (i.e. be paid for sign ups) for Australian investing-based services, groups or companies as this is likely to be dealing by arranging and thus providing a financial service – which I do not do and am not licenced to do.

Check out my monthly Net Worth Updates as well as my Personal Resources page where I share all of the tools I use to reach Financial Independence.

eBusiness Institute

eBusiness Institute

Related posts

37 thoughts on “Pearler Review: Auto-Investing & Brokerage-Free Investing

      1. Hi Captain, if my transactions size is under $1000 every fortnight – am i better off using Commsec Pocket then for $2 brokage fees wise?

        1. Hey Jenny, great question. There are actually a number of brokerage free ETFs you can access within Pearler, so you won’t even have to pay anything. Personally I go with VTS / VEU / A200 and these funds do still have brokerage applied, however I am usually investing $2000 at a time. At the end of the day though, you should focus on the actual investment and not the brokerage as its actually only such a small factor. I have probably been guilty in the past over emphasising brokerage costs, but in reality its more about the quality of the underlying investment, and with ETFs, the management expense ratio they charge.

          1. Do you pay a brokerage fee of 9.5 to invest $2000 in your 3 etfs? Or do you just pay $9.5 multiply by 3 equaling $28.5?. Thanks.

            1. Hi mate, I only ever make one trade per fortnight which is a buy, so its $9.50. Pearler actually has a thing where you can pre purchase brokerage and get a discount, and also you get free brokerage from referring people, I have a few, so I don’t always end up having to pay

    1. G’day Trev – Yep I have just sorted out my Pearler account. I started it with a new HIN and haven’t transferred over my other holdings just yet – I am still learning and getting more comfortable with the system and how it works, but will be shortly purchasing my first parcel of index funds through it. Cheers

  1. Very interested in this platform and would make a newcomer to investing a lot easier especially as I have decided to go down a 4 ETF route so will assist with rebalancing.

    Quick question I can’t find on their website or here is whether there is a minimum purchase amount like the $500 minimum on Selfwealth?

    1. Hey Matt. Funny you commented about this now – I actually am just working on the podcast recording episode that Kurt and I did recently about Pearler. Yes I think there is still a $500 minimum I believe, but just check the PDS to be sure.

      1. Thanks for your reply. Using Pearler and Selfwealth, which would you recommend? The auto balance of Pearler sounds like a winner for a beginner like me but worried about being a new platform and potential risk . Selfwealth being around for longer might gives me more confidence but more work for rebalancing

        1. Hey mate, what’s more important is how regularly you are investing. You are right – selfwealth has been around a bit longer and has a proven track record, but both platforms are CHESS sponsored so it doesn’t actually matter. If Pearler goes bust, you just quote your HIN to selfwealth (or any other broker ie ComSec) and your shares get transferred across. The only thing might be any cash you had in your brokerage account could take a while to get paid out or transferred, which is why I never keep any cash in my brokerage account – I transfer in and then buy as soon as it’s available

          1. Just found your page and have been fully invested in reading..great work!

            Thanks for answering this question as well……was wondering what happenis if say one of them or both of them go belly up.

              1. Hey Cpt Fl….I have a lot of individual stocks and am a late starter to index/etf’s.

                Recently started looking into ETF’s and went a bit different on ETHI.

                Adding another one tomorrow.

    1. G’day Peter, I am still splitting my investments between Pearler and Selfwealth, however I will most likely be slowly transitioning to Pearler this year. I just had seriously like thousands of free trades on Selfwealth because I shared an affiliate link for Selfwealth on this blog about a year ago, so it was kind of hard to walk away from that haha. I have made my first few trades on Pearler and building up my experience with their platform buying new shares before transferring my entire portfolio over. Eventually I want them all on the same HIN just due to simplicity for accounting, but having two HINs isn’t a deal breaker, just a bit extra paperwork as dividends are tracked separately across the HINs. As far as I know, transferring my portfolio via a HIN transfer doesn’t attract a CGT event so it shouldn’t be an issue.

      1. Hi Captain,

        Does transfer of shares/ETFs from one broker to another broker attracts any charges? If yes, then how much we are talking about?

        1. G’day Sandeep. For a HIN transfer on the CHESS registry I am fairly sure it does not, and I did not get any charges when I transferred from ComSec to Selfwealth, or from Selfwealth to Pearler. I am unsure if your shares are custodian sponsored or if it is a managed fund like Raiz or Spaceship

          1. Thanks Captain FI!!

            My shares would be Chess sponsored. At the moment i will use commsec as the frequency wont be much but in future i will look for pearler for automation.

            Thanks for replying!

            Another question if you can answer. What are your thoughts on investing in US markets through VTS considering it will be under US tax obligations as its US domiciled. And why not opt for IVV (ishares s&p 500) which has almost same fees but australian fees ?


            1. Hey mate it is a good question re VTS or IVV, and at one point I actually had both. My choice was because VTS was a bigger index, and it was also cheaper by 1 basis point. I don’t mind submitting the w8BENE form every 3 years, and I will always be generally on a taxable income rate above 15%

  2. Heya! Hi! I can’t find a PDS for Pearler anywhere! I emailed them about it and they said they don’t have one because they don’t need one for their product. Apparently a Financial Services Guide is covers it. Does it? You’ve mentioned their PDS in your article so I’m a bit confused!

    1. Hey Gabrielle, this is totally my bad. I usually use the terms PDS and FSG interchangeably but should probably refer to these things as a ‘Terms and conditions’ . It is the financial services guide that you want to read

  3. Hello,
    Thanks for the information on Pearler. I too like the auto-invest option and am keen. I have 2 queries please. What about the safety of the money I leave in the Pearler Client Trust ac? What if I have left some money lying in it while I decide where to invest and if Pearler due to any unforeseen event has to close permanently. How do I retrieve the money. Is there any specific amount that is guaranteed by the government that is protected?
    Also with the 0.055% brokerage for trades over 17500. – is it per trade? I plan on making many trades of 5000 each over the year? So will I pay 0.055% of 5000 per trade after my total holding in Pearler goes over 17500? Or is it 0.055% if per trade value is above 17500?
    How does one open an account with Pearler? Is it instant or there’s a wait period?

    1. Hey there Kay, actually Pearler just removed the sliding scale so it is now just a flat $9.50 trade and I will update the article soon. You should be able to open an account with Pearler straight away and there is an affiliate link in the article if you want a free trade when you do. As for the safety of your client trust account I can’t really comment as I am not a pearler employee however I am sure Kurt, Nic or Hayden would be more than happy to explain if you give them a call. I always have small amounts in my pearler CTA because I use the auto invest mechanic and tbh I am not that worried about it, but thats just me personally.

  4. Hi CaptainFI,

    I’m a newbie to investing and have been doing my own research for quite a while without taking the plunge. After reading this article though Pearler looks like a great way to get into it, the AutoInvest feature especially. Im planning to invest in a much similar set up to yourself (VTS / VEU / A200 ) but on a much smaller scale, $50-$100 weekly investment. I was hoping for some advice/clarification on the brokerage fees for these funds. Am I best off looking into other EFT’s with no brokerage fees with such a small on going investment?


    1. Hi Jake, I personally save up until I have enough to keep my brokerage fee below 1% of the transation, i.e. a minimum size of $950. I invest in $2000 lots or more usually. There are brokerage free ETFs you could look into but I dont know anything about them really. If you have $100 a week then thats $400 per month, so maybe you could aim for a bi-monthly investment of $1000 or so.

  5. Hi. Having trouble finding out how to fill in a W8-BEN when using Pearler! Been looking for about 30 mins ‘-.- If you or anyone has an idea please help. I’ve never filled a W8-BEN form in before but from some quick googling it seems other rockers have how to sections specific to their platform but not Pearler. This is applicable to my VTS and VEU holdings btw.

    1. G’day Candice, you will do this through your share registry after you buy the share. Just chillax, after you buy your ETF parcels you will get contacted by the registry asking for more information, and once you have an account (its either computershare or link market services) you can fill out the W8 form on there

  6. Thanks Captain Fi, I used your code to sign up to Pearler and I’m loving the new App and in the process of setting up a minor account for my son, Andy. Need to look into the tax implications of the minor account though, once I have invested.

  7. Great content Captain Fi! What’s your thoughts on VDGH instead of VTS / VEU / A200? I understand the higher management fees for VDGH but it saves on the amount of brokerage paid for investing in 3 ETFS individually. I know VDGH has a set allocation and 10% bonds. Are there any other cons of VDGH or highly diversified etfs? (I understand this is not financial advice, just curious about your opinion on things)

  8. Hi there, I am a complete novice to investing and have recently downsized for retirement. I have no knowledge of this type of investment as I have been in real estate all my life. After selling up we have no superannuation so need to feel safe for future. Can you safely invest all your savings in Pearler, and is it easy to use!

    1. Hi Manfred, If you are approaching retirement and not feeling confident, hit up centrelink to speak to a financial advisor / coach for free. Even if you have to pay to talk to a good one, have a look around on this site for resources and leads to good quality, fee for service advisors (hint, check the FPA and AFA websites). Pearler so far has been great for me, CHESS sponsored so just as safe as any of the other big bank brokers as far as I know. If I were you I wouldnt be making any rash decisions too quickly though!

  9. Hey Captain!
    Incredible blog that has taken someone with zero knowledge about money and investing and helped them turn their life around. Thanks mate! Quick question, with Pearler and reinvesting dividends, how on earth do you set that up? Currently holding VAS shares, but for the life of me can’t work out how to set up the reinvestment of dividends. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Keep up the great work mate!

    1. Thanks mate. With your Dividends, you will need to select DRP with the share registry. I can never remember if its Computershare or Link market services, its one or the other. You will need to log in to that ( they will be the ones sending you paper letters on behalf of the ASX) online to your member services area and then you can select DRP. Personally I do not use DRP anymore as I find it more psychologically thrilling to have fat dividend cheques deposited into my bank account, and then I can use them to buy whatever I want (which is usually more shares – thus allowing me to rebalance a bit more effectively). The pros of a DRP is usually you get a slight discount to the shares and its brokerage free.

Leave a Reply to Jake Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.