LearnVest to drop financial planning while 'further integrating' into Northwestern Mutual

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About three years after being purchased for more than $250 million by Northwestern Mutual, digital financial planning startup LearnVest will discontinue its planning services and online investment tools in June, according to an automated message sent by LearnVest.

The largest insurance company-owned independent broker-dealer and Alexa von Tobel’s digital planning firm LearnVest are “further integrating under the Northwestern Mutual umbrella,” according to a statement posted on Northwestern’s website.

LearnVest clients will be able to access their accounts until they’re disconnected June 5, according to an automated message sent by the company in response to an inquiry Saturday night. At the time of the acquisition in 2015, LearnVest had 10,000 direct clients and 25,000 employer retirement plan clients.

The firm will “relaunch later this year as a fresh, digital resource focused on educating consumers on how to meet their financial goals,” according to Northwestern Mutual.

Von Tobel remained CEO of LearnVest under Northwestern after founding the New York-based firm in 2009, and Northwestern appointed her its chief digital officer last June. The insurance firm named three other LearnVest executives to senior leadership roles at the time.

“LearnVest’s entrepreneurial drive and digital expertise have helped accelerate Northwestern Mutual’s progress on transforming our client experience, and we’re extremely proud of the milestones we’ve achieved so far,” Northwestern said in a statement on its website.

“Now, with more consumers wanting an end-to-end experience — that is, working with an advisor to create a personalized financial plan and take action on it — the companies are further integrating under the Northwestern Mutual umbrella.”

The largest independent digital advice platforms profited significantly from a strong M&A market last year.
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The firms will close LearnVest’s direct planning service and the employer-plan offering under the new arrangement. However, the two “joint teams will continue working across campuses to transform how clients achieve financial security,” the statement says.

Von Tobel’s status and the details of any possible transfer of client assets into Northwestern are not clear, and the firms did not immediately respond to requests for comment. LearnVest’s Form ADV, which it filed in March, lists 8,110 advisory clients but no assets under management.

Northwestern constitutes the No. 5 IBD in Financial Planning's annual FP50 survey, with some 7,000 advisors and other producing representatives. The firm purchased a majority stake in an advisor coaching service in January, and it also has a venture capital arm called Future Ventures.

LearnVest’s website displayed a "work in progress" message on Saturday night saying the company was “working on taking our content to the next level, but we’ll be back soon to help you keep making progress on your money.”

Financial Planning first learned of the further integration of the two firms on Saturday when a Twitter user brought it to the attention of the founder of consulting and technology hub FPPad, Bill Winterberg.

“Wait, is this true? @LearnVest ‘shuts down’?” Winterberg replied. “What do you mean?”

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Fintech M&A Asset management Robo advisors Independent BDs Client portals Automated investing Alexa von Tobel Northwestern Mutual LearnVest