Superhero is an Australian investment platform that launched back in 2020 – And now in 2023 they’ve jumped across the ditch, vying for a slice of the Kiwi investment market. Offering ASX and US shares under a simple fee structure, could they be a contender to replace Sharesies as one of New Zealand’s favourite investment platforms?
1. What’s on offer
Superhero can be described as a broker. They don’t offer their own funds or manage your money for you, but rather they’re a service enabling you to buy and sell shares and ETFs listed in the following markets:
- Australia (ASX) e.g. shares in Xero, Woolworths, and Qantas. Fractional shares are not available – you can only buy and sell full shares.
- United States (NYSE, Nasdaq, CBOE) e.g. shares in Apple, Disney, and Nike, and ETFs including the popular VOO – Vanguard S&P 500 ETF. Fractional shares are available.
Superhero have previously stated that they’re also looking at offering New Zealand (NZX) shares and ETFs. While the NZX isn’t available for their initial launch, the market should be added in the coming months.
Who are these investments best suited for?
Superhero’s offering (which is largely made up of shares) would make them best suited to long-term investors. However, they’re limited to Australian and US markets so investors seeking access to other markets like the NZX will have to use other platforms (like Sharesies) for the time being.
Shorter-term investors will find investments like bonds and cash more suitable, as they’re less volatile than shares. While these assets are available on Superhero (through bond and cash ETFs), they’re not hedged to the New Zealand Dollar, meaning their value will move up and down along with the fluctuations of the NZD-USD exchange rate. This adds a layer of volatility to these investments, defeating the purpose of the stability these assets are supposed to provide. Therefore we don’t consider Superhero to be a suitable platform for short-term investors.
Superhero has a relatively simple fee structure for everyday investing:
For ASX shares and ETFs, Superhero charges a brokerage fee each time you buy or sell an investment. There are no brokerage fees for US shares and ETFs:
- ASX brokerage fee – $5 AUD per transaction
- US brokerage fee – $0
While Superhero doesn’t charge transaction fees on US shares and ETFs, a couple of regulatory fees apply on US sell orders. These are generally negligible amounts:
- SEC fee – $0.08 USD per $10k sold
- TAF fee – $0.000145 USD per share capped at US$7.27 per trade
To invest in the Aussie or US markets, you’ll need to change your New Zealand Dollars to the relevant foreign currency (AUD or USD). Superhero charges a foreign exchange fee for swapping between currencies:
- Foreign exchange fee – 50 bps
This fee is calculated slightly differently from Hatch and Sharesies (who add a percentage based margin onto the exchange rate). Instead Superhero calculate their FX fee by adding a flat $0.005 AUD/USD to the exchange rate. As a result:
- Changing NZD to AUD – The fee equates to $0.50 AUD per $100 NZD converted. Assuming an exchange rate of 0.93, that’s an effective fee of 0.54%.
- Changing NZD to USD – The fee equates to $0.50 USD per $100 NZD converted. Assuming an exchange rate of 0.63, that’s an effective fee of 0.79%.
What’s the catch?
Given Superhero doesn’t make money from the trading of US shares (being brokerage free), some may be wondering what the catch is. But there is no obvious catch from what we can see. Superhero have stated that they don’t make money from payment for order flow or securities lending. The primary way they make money is from the foreign exchange fees they charge.
We’ve seen that a small group of investors are sceptical about these fees, and are concerned about whether they might raise them after they steal market share from other platforms (like how Sharesies and Stake recently raised their fees) – but time will tell whether this will be the case.
3. Other considerations
Superhero has the following minimum investment requirements:
- ASX shares and ETFs – $100 AUD
- US shares and ETFs – $10 USD
This makes the platform very accessible for even smaller investors, especially when the minimum for US shares is so low. However, there’s a slight catch to this – Their minimum FX conversion amount is $100 NZD. So even though the minimum investment for US shares is just $10 USD, you essentially have to deposit at least $100 NZD at a time in order to be able to convert your money to US dollars.
Superhero offers individual accounts only. There are no joint, company, or trust accounts.
Superhero allows you to place three types of orders:
- Market – Your order will be executed at whatever the market price is at the time you place your order (if there’s enough shares in the market to buy/sell).
- Limit – Allows you to specify a maximum price you’re willing to buy your shares at, or a minimum price you’re willing to sell your shares at. For example, if you place an order to buy Woolworths shares with a limit price of $38.00, your order will only execute at a price of $38.00 or less. Your order will not complete if the share price doesn’t drop to $38.00 or below.
- Stop-loss – Triggers a sell order for your shares if they fall below a certain price.
Superhero offers recurring orders, which allows you to set and forget and automatically buy shares at regular intervals (e.g. weekly, fortnightly, monthly).
Custody of your investments
Like almost all other modern brokerage platforms, any shares or ETFs you buy through Superhero are not held in your own name. Instead they’re held by a custodian, which in Superhero’s case is Superhero Securities Limited. You remain the beneficial owner of your assets, and they’re kept separate from the platform itself (Superhero Markets Pty Ltd) so if Superhero were to shut down you wouldn’t lose your money.
In many cases it’s possible to have your shares held in other platforms to be transferred into Superhero. They won’t charge you a fee to accept the transfer in, but your existing broker may charge a fee to transfer your shares out. Superhero also supports transferring shares out of the platform, but in most cases fees will apply for this transfer.
Note that it’s not possible to transfer your US shares to/from Sharesies, as Sharesies doesn’t support the transfer in/out of US shares.
Superhero has native mobile apps for Apple and Android smartphones.
Tax treatment of your investments is the same regardless of what investment platform you use. In general, all US shares and ETFs and many ASX shares and ETFs fall under the Foreign Investment Funds (FIF) tax rules:
- If you’ve invested $50,000 or over in FIFs, you’ll need to calculate your taxable income under the FIF tax rules (see below article for more details).
- If you’ve invested less than $50,000 in FIFs, you’re exempt from the FIF tax rules. In this case, you generally only need to pay tax on the dividends you receive from these shares.
- Many Australian shares are also exempt from FIF, regardless of the amount you have invested in them. Generally only dividends are taxed in this case.
Superhero do not calculate or pay these taxes for you. Instead you have to do your taxes yourself, but the platform does provide some tax reporting to assist you in this.
– Tax on foreign investments – How do FIF and Estate Taxes work?
4. Superhero vs competing services
Here’s a brief overview of how Superhero compares to competing platforms:
Superhero vs other ASX brokers
Here are the competing platforms that also offer ASX shares:
- Sharesies – Charges a 1.9% brokerage fee, capped at $15 AUD per order + a 0.5% foreign exchange fee. They also offer monthly plans which can lower your effective brokerage fee.
- ASB Securities – Brokerage fees start from ~$15 AUD
- Jarden Direct – Brokerage fees start from ~$29 AUD
- Interactive Brokers – Charges a 0.08% brokerage fee (minimum charge $6 AUD) + a 0.002% foreign exchange fee (minimum charge $2 USD).
- Tiger Brokers – Charges a 0.025% brokerage fee (minimum charge $2.50 AUD) + a $3.99 AUD platform fee + a 0.35% foreign exchange fee.
Here’s a comparison table showing the transaction fees + foreign exchange fees for various order sizes:
Superhero is relatively expensive for small ASX orders, given their flat $5 fee makes up a larger proportion of those orders. In this case, Sharesies is the cheaper option, thanks to their percentage based fees. For larger orders, Interactive Brokers is the cheapest option. However, Superhero is still competitive for medium sized orders (around the $500 mark).
Superhero vs other US brokers
Here are the competing platforms that also offer US shares:
- Sharesies – Charges a 1.9% brokerage fee, capped at $5 USD per order + a 0.5% foreign exchange fee. They also offer monthly plans which can lower your effective brokerage fee.
- Hatch – Charges a flat $3 USD brokerage fee + a 0.5% foreign exchange fee.
- Stake – Charges a flat $3 USD brokerage fee + a 0.5% foreign exchange fee (with a minimum of $2 USD).
- Interactive Brokers – Charges a $0.005 per share brokerage fee (minimum charge $1) + a 0.002% foreign exchange fee (minimum charge $2 USD).
- Tiger Brokers – Charges a $0.0099 per share brokerage fee (minimum charge $1.99 USD) + a 0.35% foreign exchange fee.
Here’s a comparison table showing the transaction fees + foreign exchange fees for various order sizes:
Superhero is the cheapest platform for small investments into US shares, beating out all other platforms thanks to their lack of brokerage fees. However, for larger investments (of $380 or more), Interactive Brokers becomes the cheapest option – At this point Interactive Brokers’ FX fees become more cost effective.
Superhero vs other platforms
The likes of Kernel, InvestNow, and Simplicity are less direct competitors to Superhero. They are fund managers/platforms that offer a selection of passively managed funds, and do not offer direct investment into ASX or US shares or ETFs. These represent different ways to invest, so it’s like comparing apples to oranges, and the one most appropriate for you will come down to your personal preferences.
The New Zealand investment market is getting increasingly crowded, with several options now available for Kiwis to invest in shares. However, we believe they are a worthy addition to the scene. Their US offering is particularly attractive, especially if you’re only investing small amounts at a time. You essentially only have to pay a competitive ~0.79% foreign exchange fee to invest in the US market, and no brokerage fees, meaning they beat out all other brokers when investing $380 USD or less at a time.
However, there’s a few weak points to Superhero’s offering. Firstly, if you’re investing larger amounts of money into US shares, then Interactive Brokers is cheaper thanks to their more competitive FX fees. Secondly, their Australian shares offering is less compelling, generally working out more expensive than Sharesies for small transactions, and Interactive Brokers for larger transactions. They also lack fractional shares for ASX investing.
Lastly, Superhero currently only offers investment into Australian and US markets. While these two markets provide plenty of investment options for long-term investors, the offering isn’t quite as comprehensive as Sharesies who’ve done a good job to include the likes of NZ/Aussie/US shares, managed funds, savings, and KiwiSaver (coming soon) all under one roof. This convenience (and familiarity) factor may be enough to keep investors loyal to Sharesies even though they’re generally more expensive. But with the NZX coming to Superhero in the near future, we believe that they could steal plenty of customers away from competing platforms and genuinely become a Sharesies killer.
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The content of this article is based on Money King NZ’s opinion and should not be considered financial advice. The information should never be used without first assessing your own personal and financial situation, and conducting your own research. You may wish to consult with an authorised financial adviser before making any investment decisions.