Betterment is growing exponentially and it's not just millennials who are clients.

The five-year-old robo advisor firm is adding 1,000 accounts a week to the tune of about 94,000 with a total of $2.3 billion AUM. And over 30% of assets come from clients age 50 and up, according to Jon Stein, CEO and co-founder of Betterment, who revealed the figures at the In|Vest conference in New York on Thursday.

"It's exciting. We are getting close to a good milestone," said Stein, who also revealed that Betterment hasn't ruled out going public.

"No plans yet. Our aspiration has always been to help millions of people enjoy a better life. We are a long way from a million. We are on that path. An IPO may help us accelerate on that path. No plans yet."

Stein made his comments while sharing the stage with David Canter, executive vice president of practice management and consulting at Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services.

Betterment and Fidelity announced their joint venture to provide a digital platform to financial advisors back in October.

Onstage, Stein and Canter continuously contrasted Betterment and Fidelity.

Canter said Fidelity has 8 million retail customers on over 15 million accounts.

For every 10,000 Betterment clients, there is one customer rep to handle them, Stein admitted, which sent the crowd whispering. Betterment also has 100 employees in New York City, half of them engineers, with another 20 to 30 to be added within a year.

Most advisors have a ratio of 1 to 100, said Canter.


Betterment wasn't the only digital financial services firm to talk about upcoming plans.

Motif Investing CEO Hardeep Walia mentioned during a discussion on technological challenges facing the industry that his firm would get into tax harvesting later this year, just as other digital firms have including Wealthfront. 

And Bo Lu, CEO of FutureAdvisor, said that his digital investment manager would be announcing ways it will be working with businesses -- both B-to-C and B-to-B models. 

From threat to friend, it's been a sea change as establishment firms have either bought or partnered up with robo advisors over the last year with the partnership between Fidelity and Betterment being one of the biggest.

And the marriage between cutting-edge tech and the wealth management space will grow especially as more financial advisors acknowledge that robo advisors provide "fantastic tech" to clients, according to Canter.

"Probably about two years ago, we started to see some of these advisors waking up to firms like Betterment. In the beginning, candidly, they saw them as a threat or they did not worry about them," said Canter. "But the dialogue has quickly shifted, more quickly than I had anticipated, to a story of us versus them to a story of us and them."

This story has been updated to correct the number of accounts Fidelity has on its platform.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Financial Planning content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access