Tag Archives: Wealthfront

Wealthfront Launches Risk Parity Mutual Fund: Flash briefing for February 23, 2018

Links to today’s top stories:

Investing Just Got Better with Wealthfront from Wealthfront

Robo-adviser Wealthsimple raises $51 million to expand service from Reuters

What’s new from RobustWealth | 2018 Fintech Update from YouTube

Welcome to the FPPad fintech briefing, Here are the top fintech stories you need to know today.

Wealthfront Adds Risk Parity Fund

Wealthfront, the Silicon-Valley based automated investment service, announced it is introducing its own Wealthfront Risk Parity mutual fund into the asset allocations of customers who qualify for the PassivePlus investment strategies, which requires an account balance of $100,000. The Risk Parity mutual fund is modeled after giant hedge fund Bridgewater Associates and carries an expense ratio of 50 basis points. In a move stirring controversy on social media, Wealthfront is automatically opting in eligible customers to the Risk Parity fund for up to 20% of their allocation unless they specifically opt out in their account settings.

WealthSimple Raises $51 Million

In other automated investing news, Toronto-based Wealthsimple announced it raised another $51 million US dollars from Power Financial Corporation, bring its total investment to $131 million. Originally started in Canada in 2014, Wealthsimple expanded to the US and UK markets in 2017 and now manages $1.45 billion dollars for approximately 65,000 customers. Fees for accounts under $100,000 are 50 basis points, while fees for larger accounts at 40 basis points.

RobustWealth Offers White-Labeled Automated Investment Solution

And finally, financial advisers are also looking for solutions that rival the customer experience delivered by automated investment services, so I recently met with Ryan Horvath of RobustWealth to learn more about their white-labeled solution:

So now advisors can come on and completely launch their own white-labeled robo advisor. So this is great for small accounts, millennials, and what the advisor can actually do is customize their risk tolerance questionnaire, put a link on their website, so now the client can come on, take that risk tolerance questionnaire, sign the electronic advisory documents all in the platform, get assigned to a model that’s customized by the advisor, open up accounts, all electronically, and get invested in their model, so it’s making life really easy to optimize those smaller accounts.

For more details on the automated investment solution from RobustWealth, head over to fppad.com/flashbriefing to get all the links to today’s top stories.

I’m Bill Winterberg, and those are your fintech headlines for today from FPPad.com, be sure to check back in with me later for more fintech news.

Brokerage websites go offline during market volatility: Flash briefing for February 7, 2018

Here are the links to today’s top stories:

Fidelity Reports Web Issues After Robo-Adviser Sites Crash

Personal Capital Adds Socially Responsible Investing to Serve Rapidly Growing Client Base

What’s new from AdvisoryWorld, 2018 Fintech Update from YouTube

Welcome to the FPPad fintech briefing, Here are the top fintech stories you need to know today.

Brokerage Websites Offline During Market Volatility

With huge increases in market volatility this week, brokerage customers have experienced unresponsive websites from some of the largest providers like Fidelity, Charles Schwab and Vanguard as well as smaller automated investment services Betterment and Wealthfront. According to Bloomberg, brokerage companies acknowledged that customers did lose access for short periods of time on Monday, but as trading activity subsided, account access was restored to all customers by Tuesday morning.

Personal Capital Adds Socially Responsible Personal Strategy®

In socially responsible investing news, Personal Capital is hopping on the responsible investing bandwagon with the addition of its new Socially Responsible Personal Strategy®. The strategy screens US equities based on environmental, social, and governance factors powered by Sustainalytics data to generate investment strategies that align with customers’ socially responsible preferences. Personal Capital joins Betterment, Wealthfront, Motif Investing, OpenInvest, and many others to help investors align their portfolios with their socially conscious preferences.

AdvisoryWorld Update on ACQUIRE Solution

And how do you stay up to date on what’s new this year in fintech? Well if you visit the FPPad YouTube channel, you’ll see the first batch of dozens of interviews filmed with fintech solution providers at last week’s National LINC conference, including a conversation about an updated from Advisory World called ACQUIRE. Here’s AdvisoryWorld COO Mike Wilson with the details.

We continue to work on what we refer to as ACQUIRE, which is our digital onboarding component. With that, advisors are able to embed links on their websites and social media accounts that helps get new business through the doors. It’s a questionnaire that points, again, to a model.

More interviews are being uploaded to the FPPad YouTube channel every day, so visit fppad.com/flashbriefing to get all the links to today’s top stories.

I’m Bill Winterberg, and those are your fintech headlines for today from FPPad.com, be sure to check back in with me later for more fintech news.

Orion Advisor Services announces Project ASTRO: Flash briefing for January 31, 2018

Here are the links to the top stories:

Three-Quarters of Americans Are in the Dark When it Comes to 401(k) Fees

Your Path to Home Ownership from Wealthfront

Orion Leads the Next Investment Management Revolution with Powerful Direct-Indexing Service

(In the past 12 months, I have been hired by Orion Advisor Services for technology consulting services. See my full disclosures)

Welcome to the FPPad fintech briefing, Here are the top fintech stories you need to know today.

TD Ameritrade Teams Up with FeeX for 401(k) Fee Analysis

Do you really know how much you pay in fees in your 401(k) account? According to a new survey by TD Ameritrade, 37 percent of investors mistakenly believe they don’t pay any fess. So that’s why TD Ameritrade just announced it’s teamed up with fintech startup FeeX to help investors quickly analyze the fees in their 401(k) accounts. 401(k) fee analyzer tools are nothing new, as other companies like Personal Capital, America’s Best 401(k), and even FeeX have offered these tools to everyday investors, but TD Ameritrade claims its one of the first online discount brokerage firms to offer free 401(k) fee analyzer tools to their customers.

Wealthfront Introduces Home Buying Illustrations to Path

In financial planning news, Wealthfront announced an update to its Path software which now includes a new planning feature for a future home purchase. Path allows Wealthfront customers to see whether their goals of buying a home are comfortable, manageable or a stretch. Customers can see average home prices across multiple zip codes and see how their monthly savings requirements change and what kinds of accounts to use to save based on a number of factors.

Orion Advisor Services Announces Project ASTRO for Direct Indexing

And making headlines in advisor portfolio management, Orion Advisor Services announced the launch of Project ASTRO, short for Advisor Strategy and Tax Return Optimization, scheduled to go live in March of this year. One of the most significant features Project ASTRO supports is the ability to conduct direct indexing, where individual securities that make up a stock index are purchased directly in client accounts as opposed to purchasing Exchange Traded Funds that a designed to track a particular index. Here’s Orion Advisor Services CEO Eric Clarke with more details.

At Orion, we’re super excited about the launch of our ASTRO offering, allowing our advisors to create customized separately managed account portfolios for their clients faster and with less expense than ever before. Our advisors can build tax-efficient non-qualified accounts, replicate indexes with customized tilts, incorporate legacy stock positions into model portfolios with ease, and accommodate environmental, social, and governance requests, and receive notification when an account is out of tolerance, all with built-in automated tax-loss harvesting.

Astro is scheduled to go live in March with a fixed annual fee of $50 per account.

To get links to all the details on today’s stories, visit fppad.com/flashbriefing

I’m Bill Winterberg, and those are your fintech headlines for today from FPPad.com, be sure to check back in with me later for more fintech news.

Wealthfront raises $75 million: Flash briefing for Friday January 5, 2018

Wealthfront raises $75 million. Full transcript below.

Welcome to the FPPad fintech briefing for Friday, January 5, Here are the top fintech stories you need to know today.

Just say no to Bitcoin, as it was reported that Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch told its employees last month not to offer the Grayscale’s Bitcoin Investment Trust to clients, according to a Wall Street Journal article. The price of Bitcoin has skyrocketed over 1,300 per cent over the last 12 months, attracting wide speculation from global cryptocurrency enthusiasts and high levels of skepticism about a bubble among market experts.

In news from Wealthfront, the online automated investment service said it raised $75 million dollars in new financing led by Tiger Global Management and included participation from all of its existing investors. In a blog post, Wealthfront CEO Andy Rachleff said that the company will use the new financing to “pursue an even more aggressive push into software-based financial planning and financial services.” Wealthfront said it doubled its assets under management in 2017, finishing the year at over $9 billion, placing it fourth in total assets behind other low-cost investment services from Vanguard, Charles Schwab, and Betterment.

And another online investment service raising new money to jumpstart 2018 is NextCapital, as the company announced it raised $30 million in Series C financing led by venture firm Oak HC/FT, also with participation from many of NextCapital’s existing shareholders. According to NextCapital CEO John Patterson, the company will use the funding to “bring new digital advice capabilities to market and open up new strategic business channels.”

FPPad Bits and Bytes for July 29, 2016

On today’s broadcast, it’s a robo free-for-all, so put on your best robo accessory, because FPPad Bits and Bytes begins now!

(Watch FPPad Bits and Bytes on YouTube)

Today’s episode is brought to you by Envision Consulting, providers of IT management and support, cloud computing, and cybersecurity services to RIAs. This October, Envision is hosting a cybersecurity event with Kevin Mitnick, the World’s Most Famous Hacker, where you can find out how to leverage Kevin’s knowledge of the latest hacking techniques to protect your business from attack.

Register Today!

Space is limited, so secure your registration today by visiting topsecurityshow.com, and if you use my promo code, FPPad, you’ll save 15% off the price of your registration.

Here are the links to this week’s top stories:

Fidelity Launches Automated Investment Advice Service from WSJ.com

Fidelity Go Vs. Pokemon Go: Be A Low-Cost Investor Or AR Zombie from Investor’s Business Daily

Better Together: Automated Investing with Professional Guidance from BusinessWire

TD Ameritrade Earns $240M in Quarter; Says Retail Robo Is Coming from ThinkAdvisor

TD Ameritrade Institutional, XY Planning Network Launch Program to Cultivate Next-Generation RIAs and Investors from TD Ameritrade

Wells Fargo Plans to Start Robo-Advisory in 2017, Sloan Says from Bloomberg

Big News for the Quantopian Community: Managing External Capital from Quantopian

[Get ready for the robo news, as this week’s top stories come from Fidelity Investments and TD Ameritrade, as both financial institutions recently announced online investing solutions for the retail investor. A few days ago, Fidelity officially rolled out Fidelity Go, specifically targeting digitally savvy customers in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, with investment assets in the low six figures.

When asked by Investor’s Business Daily what happens when Fidelity Go customers get older and wealthier, Rich Compson, head of managed accounts at Fidelity, responded that customers would be referred “to other services like Fidelity’s Portfolio Advisory Services.”

Ok, ok, but advisors aren’t completely left out, as Fidelity did promise details about an automated service it’s developing for financial advisers by year-end. That’s, details, by year-end.

And a few weeks ago, TD Ameritrade announced it had completed updates to its Amerivest Managed Portfolios retail offering, including a digital overhaul for better goal setting, performance tracking, and more.

In ThinkAdvisor’s interview with incoming CEO Tim Hockey, he said that the company will be using Amerivest’s tech enhancements “to launch a new robo for the self-directed client’s needs” scheduled for sometime in 2017.

When asked about referrals to RIAs who custody with TD Ameritrade Institutional, Hockey added that retail clients with $1 million dollars or more are the “target referral” for affiliated RIAs.

That comment came out at the same time the company announced a program with the XY Planning Network to provide dedicated service and no minimum asset requirement to use TD Ameritrade Institutional’s custody services. That’s good, it’s gotta be awkward knowing TD Ameritrade is going to target digitally savvy investors, aka potential XYPN clients, with their own retail robo solution.

On top of all that, Wells Fargo also announced that it, too, is entering the robo market, with a solution expected also sometime in 2017.

And if you don’t like today’s current robo solutions, you can go build your own robo algorithm with Quantopian, who just received fresh venture capital this week from hedge fund investor Steve Cohen.

That’s it, all I hear all day long is how great robos do this, or how wonderful robos do that: robo, robo, robo!]

Envestnet | Tamarac to Roll Out Client Portal 2.0 from PRNewswire

[Now in NON-robo news, how about an update from Envestnet | Tamarac, as the company released the latest version of its client portal to advisors who use the Advisor View™ application. If you watched my coverage of the Envestnet Advisor Summit earlier this year, you would have seen a preview of the updated client portal, plus the key enhancements highlighted by Brandon Rembe. So click right here so you can watch that video.] Envestnet | Tamarac has completely redesigned the client portal in its Advisor View™ portfolio management and performance reporting application. The new client portal will be implemented as part of Tamarac’s July 2016 technology release, and seeks to help RIAs create highly customizable client portal experiences to engage their clients and appeal to the next generation of investors.

MoneyGuidePro creator releases DOL fiduciary-focused software from InvestmentNews.com

[Also, MoneyGuidePro recently released a utility called Best Interest Scout, intended to gather information about client goals, expectations, and investment details in one place. This should help you from a workflow perspective, but the tool should also be helpful in identifying when you must engage in a Best Interests Contract with a client. If you’re concerned about compliance with the pending fiduciary rule from the DoL, expect more tools like Best Interest Scout to come to market.] PIEtech, the creator of financial planning software MoneyGuidePro, has built a tool to see how well clients’ portfolios are aligned with their best interests, including retirement goals and concerns, insurance needs, and health-care costs.

Now since I took a few weeks off, I just don’t have time to cover all the stories in my backlog, including news on the talent exodus at Wealthfront, the Betterment for Business 401(k) offering surpassing 200 plan sponsors and $5 billion in AUM, Quovo, Riskalyze and more, so links to those stories are below:

Talent exodus hits Wealthfront including heads of product, marketing and operations from RIABiz.com

Wealthfront, founded in 2008, is experiencing its first big talent exodus — a flurry of departures that includes some C-suite titles and a Unicorn shepherd.

Betterment for Business Surpasses 200 Plan Sponsors from PRNewswire

Betterment for Business, the only turnkey 401(k) service that includes personalized investment advice for all participants, announced today that it has successfully added 200 plan sponsors to the platform in the last six months.

Betterment Becomes First Independent Robo-Advisor to Surpass $5B of Assets Under Management from PRNewswire

Betterment announced today that it is the first independent robo-advisor to reach $5 billion in assets under management. The company now helps more than 175,000 customers intelligently manage and grow their wealth.

Apex Clearing to Offer Vanare’s Digital Advice Platform from PRNewswire

Apex Clearing Corporation will begin offering to its broker dealer and RIA clients the ability to digitally manage investments using Vanare’s digital advice platform. Vanare offers a wealth management technology platform with a highly customizable white labeled Roboadvisor.

Advisor Software, Quovo Partner to Strengthen Goals-Based Planning Capabilities for Wealth Managers from PRNewswire

Advisor Software, Inc. has teamed up with Quovo to provide wealth managers with seamless access to aggregated client financial data, which can help put together an all-encompassing financial picture for every client.

Marstone and Quovo Announce Partnership from MarketWired.com

Marstone, an innovative digital wealth company, and Quovo, a financial data science company for the wealth management industry, today announced that they have completed a partnership to enhance Marstone’s digital wealth solutions with Quovo’s industry-leading data aggregation.

Riskalyze Autopilot for Retirement Plans from Riskalyze

LastPass introduces Emergency Access from LastPass

With the Emergency Access feature, you can give trusted family and friends access to your LastPass account in the event of an emergency or crisis.

 

Watch FPPad Bits and Bytes for July 29, 2016

Watch FPPad Bits and Bytes for July 29, 2016

 

FPPad Bits and Bytes for January 15

On today’s broadcast, Jemstep gets acquired by Invesco, rumors fly about a Snapchat robo advisor, FutureAdvisor links up with its first bank, and more.

So get ready, FPPad Bits and Bytes begins now!

(WatchFPPad Bits and Bytes on YouTube)

Invesco acquires Jemstep, a market-leading provider of advisor-focused digital solutions from PRNewswire

[This week’s top story comes from Jemstep, as the B2B online investment platform was acquired by Invesco, the $800 billion dollar asset manager based a stone’s throw away from my studio right here in Atlanta.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, Jemstep’s leadership will stay onboard to run the Invesco subsidiary, and for now, the company says there won’t be any changes to existing partnerships, custodians, or asset availability in model portfolios.

Ignoring B2C acquisitions of FutureAdvisor and LearnVest, the last twelve months have seen John Hancock acquire Guide Financial and Envestnet acquire Upside.

So who are the independent B2B providers left? I see Autopilot, Trizic, Oranj, Vanare, Betterment Institutional, Motif Investing, and to some extent, the roll-your-own open source platform from Wealthbot.] Invesco Ltd. has acquired Jemstep, a market-leading provider of advisor-focused digital solutions.

Social media firms make ETF push from Reuters

[But hold on! Sending shockwaves in the retail robo space is Snapchat, as rumors were flying this week that the ephemeral chat app might introduce it’s own investment service to its 100 million active daily users.

Uh, let me explain my thoughts in a brief demonstration… Get it, jump the shark?] Snapchat is understood to be at the front of a queue of tech firms developing Robo-Advisory technology – which uses algorithms to help users develop and implement customized investment strategies for retirement planning.

BBVA Compass Teams Up With Robo FutureAdvisor from Forbes

[But wait, there’s more! In its first move after being acquired by BlackRock, FutureAdvisor announced it is partnering with BBVA Compass to roll out the automated investment tools to the bank’s nearly 700 branches in the US.

Bank customers will get access to FutureAdvisors’ digital investment management for the standard fee of 50 basis points, and you can probably bet that new accounts opened up with be held with BBVA’s broker-dealer affiliate, which is how the bank capitalizes on the partnership.] BBVA Compass, the Sunbelt subsidiary of the Spanish banking giant, has announced it will partner with FutureAdvisor to offer its customers digital investment management, popularly known as Robo Advisors. It is the first major bank to sign on with FutureAdvisor since the advisory firm combined forces with BlackRock, the giant asset management company, last year.

Robo Adviser Wealthfront Begins to Offer Free Portfolio Reviews from WSJ.com

[And if you’re not sick of robos by now, let me add news from Wealthfront who this week released a free Portfolio Review service to show investors how bad their current portfolios are and urge them to save a boat load of money by switching to Wealthfront. Whoops, did I say that out loud?

This concept is nothing new, as Personal Capital has offered a similar portfolio analyzer since 2011, and FeeX has been doing it since 2012, but here’s the deal. These VC-backed companies are spending tons of money to target your clients and prospects to get them to try out this tool, and of course, they’re going to tell clients they have suboptimal allocations and are paying high fees to their advisor.

So, expect clients to bring up fees, allocations, and performance in your next meeting, and you need to have a strong answer in the form of your value proposition, which is all the added advice, guidance, and behavior management you deliver that the automated services are incapable of providing.] In a bid to attract more assets, Wealthfront Inc. is joining other robo advisers in providing free advice to investors about their accounts at other financial institutions.

Here are stories that didn’t make this week’s broadcast:

New Laserfiche Release Aims to Improve ECM from CMSWire

Laserfiche just released version 10 of its enterprise content management system (ECM). Speaking at the Laserfiche Empower 2016 Conference in Long Beach, Calif., Laserfiche President Karl Chan said the new version is designed to supercharge content-driven business processes, enabling enterprises to redesign the flow of information throughout the enterprise.

LastPass Revamps Its Interface, Adds Emergency Access and Better Sharing from Lifehacker

LastPass is one of the best password managers around. Today it gets a bit better with an improved interface and a handful of new features.

Dashlane 4 Makes Changing Passwords on Hacked Sites Easier, Adds a New Interface, and More from Lifehacker

Dashlane is one of our favorite password managers, and today the service updated with a new, consistent interface across all devices, an updated “password changer” that lets you change passwords on a site without even visiting it, new languages, and more.

 

Watch FPPad Bits and Bytes for January 15, 2016

Watch FPPad Bits and Bytes for January 15, 2016

Will 2016 bring a “run on the robos?”

How well are the online investment services prepared for a run on the bank type scenario?

How well are the online investment services prepared for a run on the bank type scenario?

Edit January 6, 2016: Added details that Personal Capital Advisors uses the custody services of Pershing Advisor Solutions LLC. Removed this tweet from a user of Personal Capital’s free dashboard, replaced with the Wealthfront tweet seen below.

I’m posting this today, as I’m genuinely concerned about what will happen when online investment services get flooded with redemption/account close requests.

“You STINK”

For example, take this tweet (note to readers in the future: if the embedded tweets below get deleted, I captured screenshots that I can post for posterity):

I stumbled across this tweet, as this person is upset about their portfolio performance.

So this got me thinking:

What happens when online investment services get flooded with redemption requests and account closures?

Run on the Robos

If an online investment service isn’t responsive to requests and complaints in a public forum (Twitter), how well will they respond once they are deluged with irate customers who are fed up and want out quickly?

“Sorry, we have a big backlog right now, but no worries, your money is still safe?”

¯_(ツ)_/¯

I don’t ever want to see businesses fail. I don’t ever want to see investors get into difficult situations regarding their investments.

But I fear that if a trickle of dissatisfaction with online investment services quickly becomes a flood, online services will get crushed.

Not picking on Personal Capital

Before you go, don’t assume that I’m picking on Personal Capital.

Yes, tweets above that are related to their company trigged my question of what happens when account closure rates skyrocket, but Personal Capital uses the custody services of Pershing Advisor Solutions LLC (it’s on page 5 of their Form ADV Part 2A Appendix 1).

Look, Pershing is a very large financial institution with nearly $1.5 trillion in global assets under administration and 75 years of experience.

200 account closures a day probably doesn’t make them sweat. 1,000 a week? That might be an average week. ACH, DTC, ACAT, they don’t bat an eye.

But for the startups that manage their own proprietary systems on top of Apex Clearing? Have they been tested?

I suppose I can contact them and ask, but what answer do you think I’m going to receive?

“Oh, Bill, thank you for bringing this to our attention, and as a result we found bottlenecks in our processes and have improved our ability to efficiently and accurately process account redemptions and closures.”

I don’t think so.

I’ve heard this before: “Once you go robo, you don’t go back.”

That, and I wanted the first Internet timestamp for “run on the robos.”

BlackRock to acquire FutureAdvisor

BlackRock to acquire FutureAdvisor

BlackRock to acquire FutureAdvisor

In a press release this morning, BlackRock, Inc., the world’s largest asset management firm by AUM (source: relbanks.com) announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire FutureAdvisor. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Let’s hit some fast facts again, shall we:

  • FutureAdvisor was founded in 2010 and had raised $21.5 million in four rounds (source)
  • FutureAdvisor had a reported AUM of $600 million in June 2015 (source), though their most recent SEC Form ADV from September 2014 reflected $232 million. This lagged online automated investment leaders Wealthfront and Betterment by approximately $2 billion as of August 2015
  • FutureAdvisor charged a Subscription Fee for the Premium Service of 50 basis points, making it more expensive than competitors Wealthfront and Betterment
  • Assuming a 50 bps fee on all $600 million results in gross revenue run rate, at best, of $3 million (remember AUM of $232 benchmarked in September 2014)

What does this mean for advisers?

Not much. Really. Return to your business.

But here’s the thing. BlackRock is an asset manager. BlackRock does well when its asset base grows. How can the company continue to grow its assets?

One way is to offer a new, simple, and attractive way for investors to automatically add their assets to low-cost, broadly diversified portfolios of funds and ETFs.

Enter FutureAdvisor.

A bonus for BlackRock is if the company can find a way to invest those assets into BlackRock-managed products.

Say, iShares ETFs.

What to do now

You come to FPPad for ideas on what to do with the technology in your business. So here’s what I think you should do.

Number one: Offer your own online, user-friendly interface

If the world’s largest asset manager sees the need to add a low-cost user-friendly online asset allocation tool to its arsenal, isn’t it time you have one for your business?

Prospects are comparing your capabilities to the services they see from Wealthfront, Betterment, FutureAdvisor, et. al., and if you come up short and don’t have an answer to their slick platforms, you’re probably viewed as a laggard.

Number two: Tell clients what you really do

Automated investment management is a commodity.

Anyone can get it from Schwab, Wealthfront, Betterment, FutureAdvisor. You could argue that the first mutual funds were the earliest automated investment management solution!

Sure, tax loss harvesting, daily rebalancing, and instant deposits are bells and whistles for automated investment solutions, and the results of whether or not those features actually result in any additional money in customers’ pockets is highly dependent on each customers’ personal situation.

But for you, as an advisor, investment management is just ONE of the things you do. It’s not the ONLY thing you do.

You do SO MUCH MORE.

So let clients know.

Even better, let your prospects know how much more you do.

You’re not justifying the fees you charge, you are reinforcing the value you provide by giving clients the service they need in ALL areas of their financial life.

You go WAY BEYOND investment management.

So do that. Tell clients what you really do, and why what you do goes way beyond automated investment management.

Betterment is poised to overtake Wealthfront in AUM

AUM 600In the race for robo adviser supremacy, neither Wealthfront nor Betterment wants to be runner-up.

Love it or hate it, AUM, or assets under management, is the default metric by which investment management businesses are benchmarked.

Robo-Advisor AUM

Certainly, many automated investment services (or rather, robo-advisors) have been flaunting their AUM figures in recent years, to, well, I don’t know why, exactly, other than to beat their chest on how good they are at gathering assets.

The most vocal automated investment service for publishing AUM figures is Wealthfront, with periodic blog posts issued when the company passed the round numbers of $500 million, $1 billion, and $2 billion in AUM.

Taking the more subtle approach to AUM milestones is Betterment, long viewed as the runner-up to Wealthfront in the AUM-gathering contest since 2013.

Instead, Betterment mentions the number of customers it serves first (in part because they have more than Wealthfront, so they can be number one in that comparison), followed by the level of AUM represented by their customers.

Still, there are a few posts from Betterment that place dates on when the company crossed $1 billion (with 50,000 customers) and $2.5 billion (with 100,000 customers). One has to dig through trade publications like TechCrunch and Forbes to put a date on earlier AUM figures like the company’s first $100 million and $500 million, respectively.

Ok, fine. So how is that asset gathering coming along today?

Graph of Wealthfront vs. Betterment AUM Growth

This morning I wanted to take a quick look at the AUM growth of the two leading automated investment services, Wealthfront and Betterment. But after 10 minutes of Googling, I had no charts or graphs of how each company is growing their AUM.

So I built a quick Google Sheet using the dates and AUM figures from most of the blog posts and articles cited above. Here it is!

Wealthfront vs. Betterment AUM Growth

Wealthfront vs. Betterment AUM Growth

 

So what is my biggest takeaway from this chart?

Betterment poised to overtake Wealthfront in AUM

Betterment has consistently lagged Wealthfront’s AUM since 2013, and Wealthfront’s growth rate was higher than that of Betterment, but then something changed around December 2014.

The rate of Betterment’s AUM increase accelerated, while Wealthfront’s growth rate generally remained the same from January 2014.

And the most recent figures for August 2015 show that Betterment has significantly closed the AUM gap with Wealthfront.

This being mid-August, and assuming Betterment’s faster growth rate continues as it has since the beginning of 2015: Betterment is poised to overtake Wealthfront in AUM.

What Happened to Betterment’s AUM Growth?

What happened to boost Betterment’s AUM growth starting around December 2014. I suspect the cause is:

Betterment Institutional

So not only does Betterment have its own client acquisition strategies (web banner ads, TV commercials, ads on taxis and phone booths in NYC…), now the company has a new salesforce, if you will, of investment advisers who are using the Betterment Institutional service for their emerging clients.

This new cadre of advisers likely stands at a hundred or so today, but as the popularity and appeal of automated investment services expands, potentially thousands of financial advisers may be directing their emerging clients to use the low-cost service.

This is a totally new salesforce and asset gathering funnel that Wealthfront lacks today.

So in the race to be the dominant VC-backed automated investment service measured by AUM, the guard is about to change.

And nobody wants to be number two.