Remember when I was on a mission to fix my finances with chatbots? That was almost two years ago now, and I’m still finding AI chatbots a massive help in keeping on top of my money situation.
One of my favourite financial chatbots is Plum, which has since launched an investment service too. And I think it’ll be the catalyst for getting people who don’t have a clue where to start with investing to not only consider it, but actually get going.
What does Plum do again?
Plum came out of a competition between two friends to see who could save the most. One put away the amount of money left in his current account at the end of the month (apparently some people have money left at the end of the month?) and the other was a smartypants about it and wrote a program to automatically sock away little bits of money here and there, calculated on what he could comfortably afford.
The second friend saved twice as much as the first, and his program became Plum. It’s now an AI-driven Facebook chatbot that’s free to use, and if you’re rightly thinking “you want me to entrust my banking information to a chatbot?“, rest assured. Plum uses bank-level security (details here), doesn’t store or have access to your login information, and I can personally vouch for it — I’ve asked lots of questions, and have had no problems in the almost two years I’ve been using the bot.
You can read more about Plum’s saving services in my post about how I use money chatbots, but the tweet version is that people saved £20m in 2017 just through a chatbot taking odd bits of change here and there.
Not bad, but the investment side of the service means you can actually make money on the money you’ve socked away. And that sounded too good to be true, so obviously I signed up.
How does investing with a chatbot even work?
Once you’re set up with Plum, it’s really easy to try out the investment service.
Open up a chat with Plum as normal through Facebook Messenger, and say ‘invest’. Plum will know what you’re getting at.
Tap that button and Plum will walk you through the process. It’s all made very easy to understand — this is the kind of info you can expect:
You open a Stocks & Shares ISA (or a General Investment Account if you already have one) with Plum, then decide how much you’d like to invest and what you want to invest in. It’s all done by chat, really easily. There’s no jargon and always more info on hand if you want it.
You get six options for investment, split between three Basic Funds and three Advanced Funds. This keeps it manageable but with enough options that you still get to choose what’s important to you.
The Basic Fund options are Conservative, Balanced, and Growth. They’re all explained clearly but basically it just depends how much risk you want to take with your money — as you might have guessed, Conservative is the least risky but with the lowest return, and Growth is the opposite. Balanced sits right in the middle and will suit most people.
If you want a bit more input, choose an Advanced Fund. These are split into three areas: you can invest in tech, ethical or emerging markets. Again, it’s all well explained and easy to understand, even for beginners.
How much is this gonna cost me?
This isn’t investing for rich people, so it’s not going to cost you loads of money. It’s supposed to make you money, so that’d be counterintuitive really.
You can invest any amount from £1 upwards, so you don’t need a big nest egg to start with.
There’s a fee of £1 a month, and the first month is free so you can try it out and see if you like it. There’s also an annual fee of 0.15% and a fund fee of between 0.22 and 0.9%. Pretty small fry, but if you’re worried about it wiping out your profits, don’t be — if you’re not investing enough to outweigh the fees, Plum will send you a message to let you know and explain how to cash out if you don’t want to continue.
You can check on your investments anytime by saying ‘investments’ to Plum on Messenger. From there, you can see the funds you’ve chosen and how they’re doing, and you can also deposit or withdraw money by typing the relevant words (Plum usually shows you clickable options so you don’t have to remember the commands).
I’ve really enjoyed dipping my toe into the world of investments through Plum. It’s ridiculously easy and also a great way to learn about investing in bite-sized chunks of information. It feels fun rather than overwhelming.
It’s obviously not going to be the most competitive way to invest, but I’d say it’s the most convenient, and if you find you like it, you can always move on to other types of investing once you’ve learnt a bit.
I’d definitely recommend giving Plum investments a go. The first month’s free, and it’s so easy that anyone who can handle Facebook messaging can do it. (You will need a Facebook account though — so if you left because of #DeleteFacebook, you’re out of luck for the moment I’m afraid).
I’d also recommend joining Investment Academy, Plum’s really friendly Facebook group for people finding their feet with investing.