NYC Startup Vestwell Raised $8M To Ensure Your Employer is Offering The Right Retirement Plan

1/3 of Americans have nothing saved for retirement while half have less than $10K saved.  The outlook for retirement savings has been bleak but it doesn’t need to be.  Vestwell is a digital platform targeted towards financial advisors that can use the platform to ensure their clients can offer retirement plans for their employees.  Pensions have all about disappeared and employers need low cost ways to offer retirement investment options for their employees and employees need the help of their employers to achieve their retirement goals.  Vestwell facilitates this seamlessly and efficiently. No longer are employers forced to adopt out-of-the-box plans that do not meet their and their employees needs.

AlleyWatch spoke with founder Aaron Schumm about the startup, their Series A round of funding, and the state of the retirement industry.

Who were your investors and how much did you raise?

Thank you. We are very excited about closing our Series A. We raised $8M, led by F-Prime Capital. The round was entirely inside, with the same VC firms participating in our Series A. To us at Vestwell, it’s great to have such strong commitment from a highly talented team of investors around us.

Tell us about your product or service.

Vestwell is a turnkey solution for financial advisers providing them with the ability to offer clients a retirement plan without taking on the risk and costs typically associated with creating one. We remove the friction points of confusion, cost and compliance overhead that come with traditional retirement plans. Vestwell’s digital platform allows for seamless plan design, automated onboarding, and low-cost investment strategies, making it easier for employers to offer a retirement plan. Vestwell becomes an extension of the financial advisor’s services, acting in everyone’s best interest while scaling through technology and allowing financial advisors to focus on clients.

What inspired you to start the company?

My own experiences are what drove me to start Vestwell. Being a product person by trade, having cofounded a wealth management platform (FolioDynamix, now owned by Envestnet), I experienced first-hand, the difficulties in offering a retirement plan to our employees there. Being a huge advocate of advisors, with a deep understanding of how to build a scalable FinTech platform for the financial services landscape, I thought it was long overdue that we put a better solution in the hands of advisors to help their clients, the way they want to help them.

How is it different?

The 401k industry has been around for 40 years and sliced a million ways. Our differentiators are centered around how the platform is architected to scale an advisors practice while helping ease the pain, expense, and liability an advisor, plan sponsor and participant may be beholden.

Each user (advisor, company, and employee) has their own dashboard and interface that can sit across multiple record-keepers, custodians and executing brokers, without changing the user experience. Advisors no longer have to either shove a company in a box that doesn’t fit the company or customize a plan through various providers that won’t allow an advisor to scale his or her practice. We’ve figured out how to deliver a custom, white-labeled (e.g., ABC Advisors Retirement Platform), solution at a fraction of the cost, but still allow the advisor to do what s/he wants to do for their client while being compensated for it.

What market you are targeting and how big is it?

We work with RIA’s, independent broker-dealers, asset managers, and bank/trust custodians to equip them with a solution for advisors to services plan sponsors and employees at scale. The target plan sponsor size is $500K-$50M (2-2K employees). Upwards of 90% of this market is serviced through financial advisors, but they need a better solution to help their clients more effectively. The total asset breath in this space is upwards of $25T.

What’s your business model?

Primarily Vestwell charges basis points in an a-la-carte fashion based on the services provided. The solution is a full-service, unbundled turnkey suite. We become an extension of the advisory firm. They do what they do best, and we fill in the rest to compliment the advisor.   For example, if an advisor wants to be the 3(21) or 3(38) investment manager on the plan or hire a sub-advisor, they can do so, and we facilitate the technology, administration, trading, custody, and clearing, in a white-labeled capacity.

What should everyone know about retirement?

EVERY employee in America should have access to a 401k plan. It’s crucial for saving for retirement in one of the most effective ways possible, especially given company matching (free money) and tax deferrals. But, one should be mindful of the plan design, legal liability (as a fiduciary) and the cost, including the investment fees and ongoing administration. Paying too much or exposure to too much liability can be detrimental to a company or employee in the future. Fear or uncertainty shouldn’t stop one from setting up a plan or investing in one. It just needs to be clear, easily consumable and structured in a way that aligns everyone’s best interest.

What was the funding process like?

We were incredibly fortunate in our funding process. We hadn’t, officially decided to raise our Series A, with plenty of runway ahead of us. There was a lot of outside interest in Vestwell. But, our Series Seed investors said: “Listen, we are behind you 100% in whatever you feel is best for the company, and we are happy to do the round ourselves to help take Vestwell to the next level.” The group around the table have been a delight to work with, and added a significant amount of value beyond just capital. So the decision to keep the round internal was easy.

What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?

It’s a massive distraction from the business to raise capital. My focus was to keep the internal employees involved very small and contained, so the rest of the team could focus on funding while I finished up the funding.

What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?

Our investors are all there for specific reasons. We had an opportunity to be supported by teams that knew FinTech, the retirement industry, advisory practice, and B2B2C scaling better than anyone. They didn’t need much convincing. We all saw the fit and the strategic direction of the company. They were happy to support those efforts and take this to the next level.

What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?

We’ve already signed over 50+ advisory firms and are onboarding plan sponsors continuously. The next few months are focused on scaling faster and faster, while delivering on a few key strategic platform features we think will delight our users.

What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?

Listen, startup life is hard. There is zero glamor in it. I feel that many people have a skewed perception as to what it means to be an “entrepreneur.” But, I do stand by the notion that if you believe in what you are doing, you love it, and most importantly, you can add real value to this world and society, then it’s worth pursuing. One has to stay highly focused on how to add value a segment of the population with a more significant goal of sustainable benefit for all. If you can do that, while creating a clear path to a viable, sustainable business, you’ll find funding. In the meantime, ignore the fluff. Ignore the distractions. Stay focused.

Where do you see the company going now over the near term?

Generically, growing, scaling and providing value to advisors, companies, and employees. Specifically, I want to position ourselves to equip every financial services provider to create a more meaningful interaction with the American workforce through technology, while being a viable, scalable, profitable business.

Where is your favorite fall destination in the city?

These days, I feel my destinations only include our home, office, and an airport. But, my wife and I love taking our little 11-month old son to nearby Central Park or along Riverside, maximizing as much time together as we can, given our overly hectic schedules. People always say it, but it’s incredible how much joy and renewed perspective children give you.

Vestwell Announces New Joint Offering with Riskalyze to Deliver an End-to-End Digital 401(k) Experience Built Around the Risk Number®

The partnership will bring two of the financial advice industry’s leading financial technology platforms together for an optimal retirement planning and risk assessment experience

NEW YORK, NY, October 5, 2017 — Vestwell and Riskalyze today announced a new joint offering called Riskalyze Retirement Solutions, allowing advisors to access a new version of Vestwell’s retirement planning portal on the Riskalyze platform. The deep partnership will put Vestwell, the industry’s first fiduciary-backed retirement platform for the financial advisor community, and Riskalyze, the industry’s leading risk alignment platform, in the hands of financial advisors to better service employers and investors everywhere.

Aaron Schumm, CEO at Vestwell, was featured today during the main keynote address at the Fearless Investing Summit, where both companies discussed how the partnership will help advisors scale their practice, while enhancing the client experience, with compliance and a fiduciary mindset at the core.

Advisors will be able to simply log into the Riskalyze platform to generate 401(k) proposals and onboard clients electronically. In addition, plan participants will have access to pinpoint their own Risk Number® to help them get matched with the right asset allocation.

In addition to Vestwell’s 3(38) investment management services, the new joint offering will include access to several of the asset managers in Riskalyze’s Autopilot Partner Store. This will give advisors, plan sponsors and plan participants access to additional investment strategies, while still allowing Vestwell to assume ERISA 3(16) fiduciary responsibility on behalf of advisors and plan sponsors.

Overall, the new joint offering will allow advisors to clearly document their alignment and compliance with the pending DOL Fiduciary Rule, and demonstrate that they are acting in the best interests of plan participants. Users of the joint offering can look forward to the following features:

  • Operational Efficiency: The integration will remove an advisor’s administrative burden to sell, implement, and service retirement plans while handling both the HR participant notification process and the 5500 tax filing on the advisor’s behalf.
  • Holistic Planning: Riskalyze’s risk alignment platform will now enable advisors to offer an end-to-end digital 401(k) experience built around the Risk Number, by integrating risk assessment, goal analysis and asset allocation into Vestwell’s innovative experiences for advisors, plan sponsors and plan participants.
  • Scalability: By offering flexible, bundled or unbundled investment and fiduciary services, the digital platform will enable advisors to scale their business without heavy operational cost or burden. The platform does this by leveraging administrative services and fiduciary services as needed.
  • Enhanced Client Experience: With a streamlined and simple digital portal, advisors will be able to control the delivery of their client experience. By allowing advisors to deliver a consistent experience through an open-architecture, multi-custodian, multi-record-keeper platform, the platform will equip advisors to seamlessly guide clients in choosing investing strategies based on their individual needs while automatically rebalancing portfolios.

“At Vestwell, our number one priority is providing financial advisors with retirement technology that removes the administrative burden of implementing and servicing retirement plans,” said Vestwell CEO Aaron Schumm. “We’re thrilled to reach more advisors through our partnership with Riskalyze, an industry leader whose mission of equipping advisors with outstanding risk assessment technologies mirrors our own core values.”

The offering will be available to Riskalyze users including Registered Independent Advisors, Independent Broker-Dealers, investment managers, plan sponsors, and employees.

“Vestwell’s mission to make retirement plans affordable and accessible for all investors is reflective of our own hope: to empower fearless investing by providing investors with their true risk tolerance, and helping advisors align portfolios in the best interests of their clients,” said Aaron Klein, CEO of Riskalyze. “These shared values are what prompted us to choose Vestwell as our partner in delivering an end-to-end digital 401(k) experience built around the Risk Number.”

The integration will be available later this year. To introduce the offering to the advisor community, Riskalyze and Vestwell will be hosting joint webinars to help educate and train advisors using the platform. To learn more about Vestwell’s retirement planning platform, visit www.vestwell.com. For more information about Riskalyze, visit www.riskalyze.com.

 

About Vestwell Holdings, Inc.

Vestwell Advisors, LLC is a SEC registered investment advisor, a wholly owned subsidiary of Vestwell Holdings, Inc., specializing in 401(k), 403(b) and other defined contribution and benefit retirement investment management services. Built by an experienced team led by CEO Aaron Schumm, Vestwell can assume 3(38) or 3(21) investment management and ERISA3(16) fiduciary responsibility on the behalf of advisors and their plan sponsor clients. Learn more at Vestwell.com and on Twitter @Vestwell.

This is not an offer, solicitation, or advice to buy or sell securities in jurisdictions where Vestwell Advisors is not registered. An investor should consider investment objectives, risks and expenses before investing. More information is available within Vestwell Advisors’ ADV.  There are risks involved with investing. Investors should consider all of their assets, income and investments. Portfolios are subject to change. All opinions and results included in this publication constitute Vestwell Advisors’ judgment as of the date of this publication and are subject to change without notice.

 

About Riskalyze

Riskalyze is the company that invented the Risk Number®, which powers the world’s first Risk Alignment Platform, empowers advisors to automate client accounts with Autopilot, and enables compliance teams to spot issues, develop real-time visibility and navigate changing fiduciary rules with Compliance Cloud. Advisors, broker-dealers, RIAs, asset managers, custodians and clearing firms use Riskalyze to empower the world to invest fearlessly. To learn more, visit www.riskalyze.com.

 

Media Contacts:
Jessica Torchia
917-636-4804
Jessica.Torchia@ficommpartners.com

Vestwell Raises $8 Million in Series A Funding led by F-Prime Capital Partners

As Vestwell’s Digital Retirement Platform Experiences Rapid Growth, Funding will be used for Market Expansion and Further Development of the Platform’s Technology


NEW YORK, Oct. 2, 2017 /PRNewswire/ —  Vestwell, the industry’s first and only fiduciary-backed retirement platform for the financial advisor community, today announced $8 million in Series A Funding led by F-Prime Capital Partners, the venture capital group associated with the parent company of Fidelity Investments, with participation from Primary Venture Partners, FinTech Collective, and Commerce Ventures. Launched in late 2016, Vestwell received $4.5 million in its initial Series Seed of financing in September 2016.

Vestwell has grown rapidly this year with an exceptional market reception. As advisors look to better engage with their clients, while scaling their practice, Vestwell’s platform can be leveraged to facilitate every aspect of the advisor, company and employee’s needs. The unbundled, turnkey 401(k) and 403(b) platform becomes an extension of the financial services firm, helping to reshape how plan sponsors and employees are serviced. The multi-recordkeeper, multi-custodial technology can also incorporate 3(21), 3(38) and 3(16) investment and administrative services.

So far this year, the company has signed over 50 registered investment advisor (RIAs) firms, as well as independent broker-dealers, asset managers, and bank/trust custodians, with plans to onboard several thousand advisors this year.  The funding will be used to grow the team while further enhancing the technology.

In conjunction with this funding news, Vestwell also announces Ben Malka as a member to the Board of Directors. Malka is a partner at F-Prime Capital and also serves as co-chairman of the Financial Services Venture Capital Association.

“We’re excited to increase our reach in the financial advice industry and continue to develop better technology for our clients,” said Aaron Schumm, Founder and CEO of Vestwell. “Vestwell was founded to provide advisors and plan sponsors with an affordable, compliant, and easy-to-use retirement planning solution to help close the retirement savings gap in America, and F-Prime has supported that mission since our inception. This announcement, combined with the outstanding leadership that Ben brings to the Board of Directors, is instrumental to Vestwell’s success.”

“Vestwell’s white-labeled platform provides financial advisors with the ease of compliance and automation while maintaining the human interaction that makes their businesses succeed,” said Malka. “By giving advisors and plan sponsors access to low-cost plan options, Vestwell is providing employees across the country with the tools and plans that can help them to retire happily.”

Vestwell is the industry’s first and only fiduciary-backed retirement platform for the financial advisor community. For more information about Vestwell or to inquire about how financial advisors can leverage the platform, please visit: http://www.vestwell.com/.

About Vestwell Holdings, Inc.

Vestwell Advisors, LLC is a SEC registered investment advisor, a wholly owned subsidiary of Vestwell Holdings, Inc., specializing in 401(k), 403(b) and other defined contribution and benefit retirement investment management services. Built by an experienced team led by CEO Aaron Schumm, Vestwell assumes 3(38) investment management and ERISA3(16) fiduciary responsibility on the behalf of advisors and their plan sponsor clients. Learn more at Vestwell.com and on Twitter @Vestwell.

This is not an offer, solicitation, or advice to buy or sell securities in jurisdictions where Vestwell Advisors is not registered. An investor should consider investment objectives, risks and expenses before investing. More information is available within Vestwell Advisors’ ADV.  There are risks involved with investing. Investors should consider all of their assets, income and investments. Portfolios are subject to change. All opinions and results included in this publication constitute Vestwell Advisors’ judgment as of the date of this publication and are subject to change without notice.

Source: Vestwell Holdings, Inc.

Related Links

http://www.vestwell.com

Turbocharge 401(k) Participation: Two Smart Strategies for Advisors to Turbocharge Retirement Plans

Two Resources, Two Effective Tactics, Two Essential Steps

By Vestwell Staff

Meet Allison. At 24, she is a second year auditor in the Boston office of a regional consulting firm. When Allison joined the firm, she sat in a room with 40 fellow recruits to listen to a mandatory presentation about the firm’s benefit package. Squeezed between inventory training and the happy hour, that session was a blur of legalese. How was she supposed to pick the right funds if they all looked the same? On her way out the door, Allison tossed the thick 401(k) paperwork package into her desk drawer. That’s where it still sits, two years later.

Robert, the IT support team leader with an office a few doors down from Allison’s desk, has his own retirement worries. Robert is a baby boomer, and fears of being unable to retire are looming large on his radar. He is a well-respected professional with a long, successful career, yet his contributions to the company’s 401(k) plan have always been just the bare minimum. While Robert worries about his lifestyle in retirement, without a clear understanding of his investment options or tools to make intelligent decisions, he struggles to find the motivation to invest more.

Allison and Robert are not alone. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 55% of the American workforce has access to a 401(k) plan, yet only 38% of them choose to participate. And it is not only Millennials that are not adding to their savings. Half of baby boomers, many of whom are already past their peak earning years, have retirement savings of less than $100,000.

We believe that a major source of this problem is the way that retirement plan options are presented to employees.

Many employees just like Allison and Robert are discouraged from enrolling in their company’s 401(k) plan or using it to its full advantage. Common obstacles include the cumbersome onboarding processes, confusing investment fund options, cryptic language and intimidating systems.

It does not have to be this way.

At Vestwell, we envision a future where companies can rely on retirement planning advisors to offer a new generation of plans.

Here is what the future looks like.

Retirement Plans Must Offer Customized Solutions

The problem with traditional 401(k) plans is that employees are limited by poor choices when it comes to fund options. Many 401(k) offerings have excessive costs, poor performing funds and not enough diversification opportunities to allow investors to properly manage risk. Put bluntly, these “off the shelf” product offerings force employees into portfolios that are just not good enough.

Then there is the lack of independence. Too many 401(k) plans still lock employees into proprietary funds. This practice dates back to the early 1990’s when many of the 401(k) platforms were offered through large mutual fund companies. At the time, investment options were limited to the affiliate’s funds in part because the record keeping technology did not allow a broader spectrum of investment products. Technology has since advanced, but many providers remain stuck in the past.

The solution is clear. Plan sponsors need a modern platform that will allow them to offer a wide range of independent investment options. Otherwise, underperforming and poorly managed funds will continue to limit the potential of plan participants to save enough for retirement.

Streamlined Onboarding and Plan Maintenance Are Key

Pensions were once the gold standard of retirement planning. A guarantee of retirement income was provided in exchange for years of service. Today’s 401(k) participation is anything but automatic. Employees must complete numerous paper forms and read through hundreds of pages of boilerplate disclosures. The convoluted enrollment process, combined with complex terminology, means that many employees fail to opt into their company’s 401(k) plan participation out of sheer confusion.

But it is not just employees who are exasperated and confused by the status quo.

The first 401(k) plans were launched back in 1982, yet the volume of paperwork that plan sponsors have to deal with has only increased. They also have to manually track enrollment status and participant changes and there is a stubborn lack of visibility into the fee structure of funds, which makes it difficult to compare costs across providers.

The maintenance of a 401(k) plan has become a full-time job for sponsors and the results (measured by plan participation and fund returns) leave much to be desired.

What would it take to turn 401(k) plans into the valuable engine for retirement savings that they were intended to be? We believe that the answer lies in maximizing the use of technology. If vendors and partners could automate the time-consuming and error-prone processes of enrollment, account maintenance and reporting, plan management would become much easier. Adapting the design of the plan to fit the changing needs of the plan sponsor should take a few clicks, not dozens of forms and weeks of waiting.

The benefits of automation should also extend to plan participants. Vestwell’s research shows that companies with automatic 401(k) enrollment can double employee participation rates. Other surveys have shown that employees with automated enrollment begin saving for retirement earlier. They also report that saving for retirement is easier. A strong 401(k) savings plan can go a long way towards retaining valued employees, recruiting new promising talent and creating better retirement outcomes.

Tips for advisors to turbocharge retirement plans

The current state of retirement savings enrollment is costly, cumbersome and confusing. If your company’s retirement plan participation statistics are disappointingly low, maybe it is time for a new approach. The 401(k) may not be the magical cure, but when used correctly it can be a powerful tool for creating peace of mind in your employee’s retirement.

Contact us at info@vestwell.com for more information about turning your 401(k) offering into a benefit that is easy to administer and manage.