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It’s the team, stupid: Vestwell’s new $30 Million the result of constant leveling up

$30 million

Vestwell, the digital retirement platform we funded in 2016, has had a big 2019. In January we shared the news of their BNY Mellon partnership. Today marks an even more significant milestone, as the company announced it raised $30 million in Series B financing led by Goldman Sachs. Goldman was joined in the round by fin-tech experts Point 72 and several strategic financial services players like BNY Mellon. Primary was also excited to join the party and increase our stake in this exciting company, which has seen 10x client growth in the last 12 months.

Raising a big financing is by no means an endpoint, however. Vestwell CEO and Founder Aaron Schumm and his team still have the hard work of building a business of enduring scale to come. But when we see a company get this far, it means a lot has been done right, and we think it worthy to pause and reflect on we’ve learned along the way. At Vestwell, that’s almost all about effective team and organizational capacity building.

When I look at Aaron’s success at driving a fast growing company in the three years since we first invested, I would say that while his incredible depth of industry knowledge and relationships is the easy answer to a question of the secrets to his success, his early epiphany about the importance of a relentless focus on leveling up his org has been as critical as anything.

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Why We’re Investors in Vestwell

investors

I met Vestwell CEO Aaron Schumm in early 2016, after an intro from an industry friend and colleague, Ben Malka. A long-time investment tech veteran, Aaron founded Vestwell to use modern investment technologies (like the tech he designed at FolioDynamix) to bring a low cost, easy-to-use retirement platform to the large and underserved SMB employer market.

So we joined fellow seed investors FinTech Collective (who led), F-Prime(Fidelity owners’ VC fund) and Primary Ventures to help Aaron build and launch their platform to early customers. Over the past four years, we’ve seen Vestwell zig and zag (as all early stage startups do), but always moving the company closer to that realizing the same mission of serving the vacant SMB retirement market.

Today, Vestwell announced its Series B round, led by Goldman Sachs and including investments from Point72 Ventures, existing investors (like us) and a number of leading, highly-strategic investors, such as NationwideAllianzBNY Mellon and Franklin Templeton. The company is now enabling hundreds of advisors to serve thousands of small businesses, representing $100s of millions of retirement assets…but that is really just the beginning of the story. Large advisory channel partners are deciding to switch their entire SMB book of business over to Vestwell’s platform — it’s just that much better.

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Goldman Sachs Backs Retirement Technology Platform Vestwell

Goldman Sachs

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Vestwell Holdings Inc, a tech platform for retirement plans, said on Tuesday it raised $30 million from Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Point72 Ventures and the Bank of New York Mellon Corp.

Franklin Resources Inc, Allianz Life Ventures and the venture capital arm of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company also invested in the fundraising, which was led by Goldman Sachs’ principal strategic investments group, the companies said.

New York City-based Vestwell plans to use the funding to hire engineers and developers to expand its technology and customer service offering, said Aaron Schumm, chief executive and founder of the startup. The firm expects to add around 30 employees, bringing its workforce to nearly 80.

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Led By Goldman Sachs, Vestwell Raises $30 Million

Led By Goldman Sachs, Vestwell Raises 30 Million Dollars

Vestwell, purveyors of an increasingly popular digital retirement platform, announced a $30 million funding round Tuesday. The round was led by Goldman Sachs Principal Strategic Investments (PSI). Other funding participants in the Series B funding round included companies like BNY Mellon, which announced a partnership with the firm in late 2018 to add firepower for the bank’s foray into state-sponsored retirement plans, and Fidelity’s F-Prime Capital. Vestwell said it moved up its timetable for the funding round by about a year after receiving funding inquiries on the heels of the BNY Mellon deal.

This deal, however, is separate from the BNY Mellon partnership, noted Vestwell founder and CEO Aaron Schumm. Up to two-thirds of the capital will be earmarked for accelerating technology and product builds, including some that were already in development, like advisor-focused reporting and analysis and efforts to streamline plan sponsor onboarding.

The company’s client service offerings will also be expanded to handle the organic and strategic growth Vestwell is experiencing. Between 20 and 30 advisory firms come to Vestwell per month, said Schumm, of which “most” are conversions of existing clients. As the company scales, it’s exploring integrating chatbots with its customer support to allow its staff to field more inquiries. Vestwell’s client list has grown 10-fold, according to company figures.

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Vestwell Continues to Redefine Retirement, Announcing a $30 million Series B to Fuel Growth

 

Series B

New York, NY – Tuesday, April 2 — Vestwell, a digital retirement platform, announced that it raised $30 million in Series B financing. Goldman Sachs Principal Strategic Investments (PSI) led the round, working closely with Goldman Sachs’ Consumer and Investment Management Division (CIMD), joined by Point72 Ventures and a host of other strategic retirement-focused financial services providers including the venture capital arm of Nationwide, Allianz Life Ventures, BNY Mellon, and Franklin Templeton. The round also included participation from Series A and Series Seed investors, F-Prime Capital, FinTech Collective, Primary Venture Partners, and Commerce Ventures.

Vestwell is the first digital retirement platform built for the financial advisor, helping scale plan sponsor and participant relationships to a new level. With its innovative technology, streamlined administration, fiduciary oversight, and modern interface, Vestwell has reimagined the 401(k) and 403(b) industry for the better. This new financing will propel Vestwell even further, while resetting the bar for how open-architecture in retirement plans can be provided to companies of any size in an affordable and modern way. This includes significant investments in technology and client service, two areas where Vestwell continues to pioneer.

“We were drawn to Vestwell because it has developed a modern and intuitive interface that empowers advisors to more efficiently manage customized retirement plans,” said Timothy J. O’Neill and Eric S. Lane, co-heads of Goldman Sachs’ CIMD.

In just these past 12-months, Vestwell’s client growth increased tenfold and the company has implemented strategic alliances with BNY Mellon, Allianz, Namely, Dimensional Fund Advisors, OnPay and Riskalyze, among others soon to be announced. Retirement-centric advisory companies and incumbents are quickly turning to Vestwell to be the engine behind their retirement books of business, valuing cutting edge technology such as Vestwell’s patent-pending real-time payroll engine and advanced employee eligibility calculator.

“I feel Vestwell’s momentum on a daily basis, so it’s incredibly humbling to have so many of the industry’s leading players see the value in what we’re building and share our vision of what lies ahead,” says Aaron Schumm, founder and CEO of Vestwell. “We’re elated to align ourselves with retirement industry experts who are not only investing capital into Vestwell, but who are also investing time and resources into ensuring our success.”

“The market impact we’ve seen from Vestwell in the two short years since leading the seed investment in them is remarkable,” says Brooks Gibbins, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of FinTech Collective. “Participants, employers, and channel partners have all validated Vestwell’s approach, and we’re thrilled to continue supporting industry change alongside them.”

ABOUT VESTWELL HOLDINGS, INC.

Vestwell is a digital platform that makes it easier to offer and administer retirement plans. Vestwell removes traditional friction points through flexible investment strategies, fiduciary oversight, and streamlined administration, all at competitive pricing. By acting as a single point of contact, Vestwell has modernized the retirement offering while keeping the advisor’s, employer’s, and plan participant’s best interests in mind. Learn more at Vestwell.com and on Twitter @Vestwell.

 

Media please contact:

Jessica Torchia

FiComm Partners

908-872-7319

Jessica.torchia@ficommpartners.com

Leveraging Technology to Scale Fiduciary Processes

People throw out a lot of buzz words (cloud computing, big data, etc.) in talking about financial technologies. We focused on pragmatic application of technology to financial advisor workflows; allowing them to serve more clients with the same resources.

Leveraging Technology to Scale Fiduciary Processes

technology

Participants Report Being Knowledgeable About Retirement Plans

participants

Nearly eight out of 10 participants, 76.7%, in 401(k) or 403(b) plans are saving more than 4%, according to a survey by Vestwell, summarized in its report, “The Retirement Advantage.”

Additionally, 59.5% say they are comfortable with their knowledge about their retirement plan, and 64.7% know they need to save 10% of their salary or more for a comfortable retirement. More than two-thirds, 67.3%, said they know where to find their retirement plan fees. Just over six out of 10, 61.6%, said they engage with their retirement plan. Only 33.5% said they wish they understood more about retirement planning.

However, only 25.7% of those between the ages of 25 and 34 are saving more than 10%, and 44.2% of those between the ages of 55 and 64 are saving this much.

Simple participant education ideas can make a great impact, according to Vestwell; after hearing one Investopedia statistic about the benefit of saving early, 21.7% of respondents said they plan to increase their retirement plan contribution. Another 26.4 said it made them rethink their deferral rate but could not afford to increase it.

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What Does Being a “Fiduciary” Mean, Exactly?

fiduciary insights
Any individual or organization that exercises discretion regarding their plan or any plan assets is a fiduciary, which is one of the highest standards in the law. So what does this mean in practice?

OVERSEEING SERVICE PROVIDERS

While plan sponsors can delegate many responsibilities of managing a retirement plan to service providers such as recordkeepers, investment advisors, and others, a plan sponsor cannot completely wash their hands of all fiduciary duty. A plan sponsor must carefully select and monitor their service providers, and is ultimately liable for ensuring the providers are doing right by their employees.

ACTING IN EMPLOYEES’ BEST INTERESTS

A fiduciary must exercise a duty of loyalty by operating the plan in the best interests of participants. After all, the plan sponsor is caring for their employees’ retirement assets. Proceed with caution when considering hiring plan providers that also do work for the company or individual owners. The plan sponsor should not receive any kind of compensation or anything of value from operating the plan. Consider the “smell test.”

SELECTING APPROPRIATE INVESTMENT OPTIONS

Plan sponsors should make sure that participants are offered a diversified set of investment options at reasonable cost, though that doesn’t mean they need to have the lowest fees. However, selecting  the initial plan lineup is not a “set it and forget it” exercise. Sponsors should continue to monitor the investment options available to participants to ensure they are offered investment options that will balance their risk and help meet their retirement goals.

FOLLOWING THE PLAN DOCUMENT

Plan sponsors must operate the plan in accordance with the terms of the plan document. Disconnects are common and usually arise in connection with administering loans, using the wrong definition of “compensation” for purposes of calculating benefits, and with submitting late remittances. Failure to comply can  become an issue, but fortunately, corrective actions are well spelled out by regulators and easy to fix.

MAINTAINING RECORDS

The best protection of all is for plan sponsors to know their plan documents, know what their service providers are doing to support the plan, and make careful decisions – and document them – about all activities relating to the plan. Have on hand all documents that show the plan sponsor’s decision-making process and actions  taken for the benefit of participants as well as how decisions are implemented consistent with terms of the plan. Keep all of those records permanently.

PROTECTING AGAINST LOSSES

Fiduciaries must have an ERISA bond and should consider obtaining fiduciary insurance to cover any losses to the plan caused by a fiduciary breach.

The rules are complicated and the waters are muddied. But there are many resources available to you for more education about your fiduciary duties. Vestwell and Goodwin Procter offer regular webinars on this topic, and we also recommend free programs offered by the Department of Labor.

The Retirement Advantage: How company sponsored retirement plans impact consumer behavior

 

retirement advantage

While it’s well documented that the majority of Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement, having access to a company sponsored 401(k) or 403(b) plan can greatly impact their retirement readiness.

According to our survey, employees are taking advantage of retirement plans when given the opportunity. 76.7% of those with a company sponsored plan are saving 4% or more of their salary each month (excluding any additional savings from a company match). Not only are those with access to a plan saving, but they also feel confident about decisions regarding their plan. In fact, 62.5% say they’re comfortable with their knowledge around their retirement plan, which means people are either educating themselves or receiving proper education from the plan administrator or sponsor. This highlights the critical role employers play in their employees’ financial future, since simply offering a retirement plan appears to have an immediate and real impact on both security and confidence.

In February 2019, Vestwell conducted a study of 672 employees who were eligible to participate in their company sponsored 401(k) or 403(b) plans, 499 of whom completed the survey in its entirety. The intent was to gauge perceptions of saving for retirement and better understand participant engagement with their plans.

Take a peek at Vestwell’s  2019 participant attitudes report to find out more about employee perceptions and how they engage with their plans.

Vestwell Finds New Small Business Payroll Partner

small business payroll

Vestwell is partnering with small business payroll software provider OnPay, the company announced. The partnership is designed to make providing small business benefits easier for CPAs, advisors, plan sponsors and participants by providing turnkey retirement offerings.

The integration will give “advisors a more expansive solution for their clients, [while] offering plan sponsors an easier way to administer plans,” said Aaron Schumm, founder and CEO of Vestwell. “Having an advisor that can step in alongside a CPA and create a custom retirement plan is a fantastic value-added service.”

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