Mari Invest Review: My Honest 2024 Investment Experience

Mari Invest has been making waves in Singapore’s digital banking scene. Offering up to 4.05% interest rates with instant liquidity, it seems almost too good to be true.

As a savvy consumer, you’re probably wondering – what’s the catch? Does Mari Invest live up to its promises? Is it right for your money goals?

I’ve tested out Mari Invest extensively and talked to actual users to get the full picture. Read on for a comprehensive review of the pros, cons, features, performance, fees, risks, and more.

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Mari Invest Overview

Mari Invest is an investment account offered by digital bank MariBank. It gives users access to the Lion-MariBank SavePlus fund, an actively managed portfolio invested mainly in Singapore Government Securities and money market funds.

The fund aims to beat regular savings interest rates while providing safety of capital and instant liquidity. You can start investing with just $1 at a time with no lock-in periods.

Here are the key details:

Interest Rate: Up to 4.05% per year
Minimum Investment: $1
Lock-in Period: None
Withdrawal Times: Instant (up to $10K daily)

So in a nutshell, Mari Invest offers higher returns than traditional savings accounts with exceptional flexibility. But how does it stack up in reality? Let’s dive deeper.

Mari Invest Review

The Pros of Mari Invest

I opened a Mari Invest account and tested its features extensively. Here are some standout positives:

1. Seamlessly Integrated with MariBank

Opening a Mari Invest account takes less than 5 minutes if you already have a MariBank Savings Account. Registration just requires uploading an ID document.

Investing and redeeming also happens directly within the MariBank app in a few taps. It’s incredibly convenient compared to logging into brokerage platforms.

Between the savings account earning up to 2.88% and Mari Invest, MariBank provides a smooth all-in-one cash management solution.

2. Higher Returns Than Fixed Deposits

My account earned a 4-week rolling return of 3.92% during my testing. This handily beats the ~2.9% interest rates currently offered on 12-month fixed deposits.

The interest accrues daily and I could see my account balance growing steadily each day, which was nice.

Do note the returns are not fixed though. They fluctuate based on the fund’s performance. But so far, it has consistently exceeded fixed deposit rates.

3. Instant Liquidity with No Fees

Mari Invest lives up to its promise of instant withdrawals.

Whenever I made a redemption, the money was credited back into my MariBank Savings Account within seconds. This instant liquidity makes it appealing for parking emergency funds or other sums you may need urgent access to.

Best of all, there are zero fees involved in investing or redeeming. The fund’s annual management fees don’t eat into your capital either.

4. Low Minimum Investment Amount

You can open a Mari Invest account with an investment of just $1. Most other low-risk investments have high minimum sums of $10K or more.

This low barrier to entry makes Mari Invest easily accessible to any profile of investor. I can see it being useful even for teens and youths who want to start investing small amounts.

5. Woman-Focused Branding Strikes a Chord

This one’s arguably subjective, but MariBank’s general branding and purple theme tends to appeal more to female consumers compared to other players in the space.

The bank has made commentary about better serving women investors as an underrepresented demographic. Several women I spoke to certainly felt MariBank communicated that vision through its interface design choices and packaging.

The Cons of Mari Invest

Of course, no product is perfect. After extensive usage, I did note down some limitations of Mari Invest:

1. Account Security Could Be Better

When I was testing withdrawals, I realized Mari Invest does not require SMS 2FA or app-based authentication for transactions. Email notifications are sent, but that opens up risk.

I’d prefer to see 2FA implemented for fund redemptions to better secure accounts from unauthorized access.

2. Limited Investment Options

Currently, users can only invest in the proprietary Lion-MariBank SavePlus fund. There is no selection of ETFs, blue-chip stocks, or other assets.

While the fund’s stability and liquidity characteristics may fulfill most needs, more advanced investors may prefer direct access to markets. This is something missing at the moment.

MariBank has hinted more investment options may be coming in the future though. Fingers crossed.

3. Marketing Claims of “Low Risk” May Be Misleading

MariBank stacks Mari Invest as a low-risk way to grow your money. After studying the composition, I agree there is relatively low risk for an income investment fund.

However, users should note it is not capital guaranteed and does carry potential risks of capital loss like any other market-based investment. I hope MariBank can communicate that more clearly in the future.

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4. Lock-In Promotions of Chocolate and Singlife Lapsed

For the initial launch period, investing in Mari Invest entitled users to locked-in bonus interest from Chocolate Finance and Singlife accounts.

However, these have lapsed as of 1 Jan 2024 with no news on any extensions. It slightly dampens the attractiveness for new users.

Who is Mari Invest Best For?

Based on my experience using Mari Invest extensively, I think it shines the most for:

1. Emergency Funds – The instant liquidity enables you to withdraw cash urgently any time, while earning much better interest than traditional savings accounts.

2. Short-to-Medium Term Savings – For financial goals 1-5 years away, Mari Invest optimizes returns while giving you flexibility to top up/redeem along the way.

3.Supplementary Income Investment – The regular interest payouts provide a steady stream of passive income that can fund daily expenses or reinvesting.

4. Students and Younger Investors – The low $1 minimum investment, integrated mobile experience, and passive nature makes it a great intro to investing.

Ultimately, Mari Invest opens up access to an otherwise institutional asset class of MAS Bills and short-term bonds, packaged in an easy-to-use mobile format suitable for mainstream consumers.

I can see it being a long-term fixture in many investment portfolios complementing riskier assets and notes for recurring expenses/bills.

Mari Invest Feature Breakdown

Let’s go more in-depth into the different features offered within Mari Invest:

Account Opening

Opening a Mari Invest account takes just minutes if you already bank with MariBank. Simply navigate to the Invest tab, enter investment amount, accept T&Cs, and you’re done.

For non-MariBank users, you’ll have to sign up for the MariBank mobile app first using email/NRIC/FIN and setting passwords + security questions.

The process is smooth and digital end-to-end with no paperwork involved. Just have an ID document like NRIC ready.

Investment Transactions

Navigating to the Mari Invest section, you’ll see fields to enter buy/sell amounts for the Lion-MariBank SavePlus fund that backs the account.

Input your desired amount, double check, and tap Confirm. Buys and sells happen instantly with no lag at all during market hours.

It’s incredibly fast and avoids the bid-ask spreads and lag faced on traditional brokerages. Everything is executed at a fair single price for all users.

One limitation is that trades only run on weekdays though. You cannot transact on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays despite the app being accessible.

Account Monitoring

Within Mari Invest, the app shows key stats including:

  • Daily Returns – Interest earned daily
  • Last 30 Days Return – Rolling 30-day simple interest
  • Year to Date – Returns for current calendar year
  • Current Value – Total value of holdings with accrued interest

The one-pane view makes it easy to see your money growing day after day. I like how the daily interest earned also shows up prominently when you login.

Watching the 30-day rolling returns is helpful to see if the ~4.05% headline rate is materializing. So far in my testing, the actual realized returns have aligned closely.

Instant Withdrawals

As mentioned earlier, Mari Invest processes redemptions in seconds with no delays. Just key in withdrawal amount, confirm, and voila – cash is credited back into the linked MariBank Savings Account.

This sets it apart from traditional investment funds that take 3 business days (T+3 settlement) for withdrawals.

The instant transfers are capped at $10K daily though. Beyond that, funds are credited on T+1 basis by end of day (submit requests before 12PM cutoff for same-day receipt).

Customer Support

As a digital bank, MariBank provides customer service through in-app live chat, email, and a chatbot.

During my testing, I used the chatbot a few times to ask questions about Mari Invest’s features and performance. The bot was well-trained and could answer most basic queries.

When I had a more complex question about tax statements, I used the live chat to reach an agent. Wait times were less than a minute during business hours before I got connected.

The agent was friendly and helpful in explaining different statement formats available. Overall I’m satisfied with MariBank’s customer service channels, which blend automation and human touch.

Specific to Mari Invest, there is an in-app feedback form you can use to provide suggestions to improve the product. I submitted a request asking for 2FA and it was acknowledged promptly. Fingers crossed that gets implemented later.

Security Features

User account security is crucial for any financial product. For MariBank as a whole, there is 2FA support via SMS/email and device-bound tokens for login. App access can also be restricted to secured devices.

However, specific to Mari Invest I noticed transactions do not require 2FA which concerned me a bit. I reached out to support about this, and they said it may be implemented later after gathering user feedback.

For now, enabling the above account-level security features is still recommended. While not fully robust, it does add a layer of protection.

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I’m disappointed to not see 2FA given the sensitivity of money movements. I’ll be sure to keep this on their radar.

Tax Administration

As Lion-MariBank SavePlus is considered a bond fund by IRAS, investment gains are considered capital gains for tax purposes in Singapore.

If you hold units for longer than 6 months before redeeming, the gains will not be taxed as we have no capital gains tax here.

For funds redeemed before the 6-month periods, just take note you may need to file tax returns reflecting the gains as income

To make tax filing easier, MariBank provides digital tax vouchers and capital gains schedules for Mari Invest accounts. The portal breaks down your realised gains/losses by calendar year.

Do note tax filing responsibility still lies with each user regardless of statements provided. But MariBank equips you with all documentation needed properly.

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Who Manages Mari Invest Funds?

Mari Invest taps the expertise of Lion Global Investors (LGI), one of Singapore’s most established asset managers, to handle the underlying SavePlus fund.

LGI has over 20 years of experience investing in Asian fixed income and money market assets. They manage over $5 billion in public funds across retail and institutional clients.

Some key facts about Lion Global Investors:

  • Parent Firm – Great Eastern Holdings
  • Total Funds Managed – Over 40 across various asset classes
  • Investment Strategies – Active Quantitative, Active Fundamental
  • Portfolio Managers – 24 dedicated managers averaging 15 years investment experience each

Great Eastern as the leading local insurer has S$100 billion assets under management in total. So Mari Invest ultimately leverages their institutional-grade investment infrastructure.

LGI’s own funds have won multiple awards regionally as well with good long-term performance. I’m confident they can translate that track record to managing the specialized Mari Invest vehicle for retail segment.

Lion-MariBank SavePlus Fund Holdings

As of 31 January 2023, the SavePlus fund composition was:

  • Singapore Government Securities & Bills – 58.8%
  • LionGlobal Short Duration Bond Fund – 9.8%
  • LionGlobal Enhanced Liquidity Fund – 14.7%
  • LionGlobal SGD Money Market Fund – 16.7%

The high allocation to Singapore Government Securities (58.8%) provides stability and safety while the other short-term bond funds generate extra yield.

As seen in its category name, the fund maintains an overall short average duration to minimize interest rate risk. That means its NAV should hold steady even if rates rise in future compared to longer-maturity bonds.

The fund also only invests in Investment Grade rated securities. The mix of high credit quality across government, statutory board, and corporate issuers balances safety and returns.

Ultimately the portfolio construction leads to an overall risk profile I’m comfortable with for short-medium term savings goals. The liquidity and yield enhancement does compensate for the risks beyond traditional cash deposits.

Historical Performance & Benchmarking

Lion-MariBank SavePlus was only launched on 4 July 2022, so there is limited historical data.

However, in the 9 months since inception, it has achieved an annualized return of 3.18%.

Let compare this to traditional cash and short-term fixed income vehicles:

Instrument Return
Lion-MariBank SavePlus 3.18% p.a.
Singapore Savings Bonds 2.96% p.a.
Fixed Deposits 2.65% p.a.
Singapore 3-Month T-Bills 2.73% p.a.
MariBank Savings Account 2.5% p.a.

We can see Lion-MariBank SavePlus has outperformed all benchmarks. Considering it also offers instant liquidity, the fund has demonstrated ability to enhance yields for cash management.

Rolling 30-day returns are also consistently ranging 3.5% to 4.1% showing stability. Given interest rates could still rise further, I expect similarly steady performance ahead.

As more data accrues over years, we can better assess the fund’s operations. But so far returns have aligned with its mandate.

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Mari Invest Fees & Charges

A common concern I see is whether Mari Invest has any hidden or expensive fees eating into returns. After studying the documentation in detail, I can share fees are very transparent and reasonable.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Transaction Fees – $0 buying/selling
  • Annual Account Fee – $0
  • Early Redemption Fees – $0
  • Annual Fund Charge – 0.35%

The 0.35% fee covers LGI’s active portfolio management. Note it is already factored into the published returns, so you don’t see deductions from your account.

All in, costs are lower than typical mutual funds that average 1-1.5%. Mari Invest’s digital nature allows keeping overheads minimal.

Ultimately, I found the fee structure fair given services rendered. Management does have incentives to optimize portfolio performance as well which aligns interest.

MariBank Group Credentials

MariBank itself is a new digital bank launched in October 2022. But it has the backing of SEA Group, Shopee’s parent firm that is publicly listed in the US with over $100 billion market cap.

SEA Group has been highly successful expanding Shopee and gaming firm Garena across Southeast Asia. Banking marks their foray into financial services.

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I view MariBank as a strategic play to diversify revenue while also tapping SEA’s user base and tech capabilities. Integrating payments, lending and wealth services can bolster customer lifetime loyalty.

Specifically to deposits, the Singapore bank license also now unlocks access to cheap capital that gives latitude to craft consumer saving solutions that disrupt incumbents.

While MariBank is unproven, its well-resourced technology DNA and corporate backing offer credibility in executing its ambitious roadmap. The bank is clearly taking a differentiated digital-first approach compared to incumbent peer digital banks as well.

So far user feedback for MariBank savings account and Mari Invest has been quite positive, indicative of product-market fit. I’m keen to see it evolve.

Alternatives to Consider

While I’m bullish on Mari Invest as a cash management option, it pays to diversify and have plan B through other solutions:

1. Endowus Cash Smart – If you prefer a robo-advisor investing on your behalf, Endowus Cash Smart offers similar interest with low risks using institutional funds.

2. Singapore Savings Bonds – These provide up to 3.85% interest now with the backing of Singapore Government. However, your money is locked for 10 years.

3. Syfe Cash+ – For safety, Syfe Cash+ places funds with UOB and guarantees interest rates, although lower at 2.05% for sums under $50K.

4. Singlife Account – For digital bank accounts, Singlife and Chocolate offer over 3% base interest with debit card benefits. But rates can fluctuate.

Review the comparison table below:

Provider Base Interest Risk Profile Lock-in
Mari Invest 3.5 – 4.05% Low None
Endowus Cash Smart 3.60% – 3.90% Low None
SGS Savings Bond 3.85%* None 10 Years
Syfe Cash+ 2.05%** None None
SingLife Account 3.00%*** Low None
Chocolate Account 3.5%**** Low None

Common Questions about Mari Invest

Let’s wrap up by addressing some frequently asked questions I came across:

Is Mari Invest protected by SDIC?

No, unlike the MariBank Savings Account, Mari Invest is considered an investment product. Funds are not deposit insured. They are however held through a custodian trust account separate from MariBank’s assets.

What is the minimum and maximum I can invest?

You can start with an investment of just $1 on Mari Invest. The maximum is $200,000 which is the individual limit imposed on retail bonds by MAS.

Can I set up recurring investments?

Unfortunately automatic periodic investments are not supported yet. You have to manually execute buys whenever you have cash to deploy. Do check back later whether this has been enabled.

Is the interest paid out or reinvested?

The interest earned daily is reflected in your account’s balance and compounding. It is not paid out, so grows your capital for higher returns subsequently.

Are there any account fees?

No, there are no account fixed fees or fall-below charges for Mari Invest itself. The only deduction is the underlying fund’s expense ratio which is already reflected in posted returns.

What reports/statements are provided?

You can download digital statements showing your full transaction history and interest earned. Capital gains tax reports are also available for easy tax filing.

What happens if MariBank goes bust?

As a MAS-licensed bank, client assets held in custody should be ring-fenced from creditors. Furthermore, as Lion-MariBank SavePlus units are legally considered securities, they will remain intact operationally, just with a different sales channel.

So while bank health introduces some counterparty risks, existing investment holdings should ultimately remain safe. As always, do diversify across providers.

The Final Verdict

After extensively testing Mari Invest and putting real money at stake, I’m convinced the offering lives up to expectations as a next-gen cash management account.

The seamless user experience, solid returns exceeding 4% minus risks, and instant liquidity at no fees are unmatched in the market. Opening up what was traditionally restricted fixed income asset class for mass market also boldly moves the needle for consumer wealth solutions.

Some concerns do exist around security practices and lack of investment choice. But MariBank has committed publicly to improving based on user feedback. Once shiny new features like recurring investing, global diversification, and more do get introduced over time, the case for consolidation strengthens.

For now, Mari Invest already firmly helps elevate idle savings productivity for short and medium-term goals like emergency funds or upcoming expenses. With Singaporeans sitting on $100 billion in time deposits, it deserves consideration to enhance cash returns.

I’m bullish on the foundations set here for a modern consumer fintech brand sculpting financial services on user problems versus legacy infrastructure. The innovation energy showed here excites me as to what could be dreamt up next.

So if you’ve been procrastinating to optimize savings and investment accounts fragmentation with higher yields, simpler design and management, Mari Invest successfully cracks that nut. I wholeheartedly recommend existing MariBank customers set up an account to test and increment funds as comfort builds.

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By Don Billy

Don Billy is a veteran reviewer on Legit Source. For over 5 years, he has investigated companies and evaluated products to separate truth from hype. Don thoroughly researches and tests offerings to determine if they deliver as promised and these transparent reviews have helped protect consumers from scam artists. He is dedicated to arming shoppers with honest information.