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Betterment for Business Opens for Business

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Robo advisor Betterment for Business has officially launched with a group of 50 employer-clients, after spending the last quarter of 2015 building its automated investment advisory service for employers.

Demand for the new 401(k) platform, which places plan participants in a globally diversified portfolio of index-tracking ETFs and offers them personalized investment advice, has been “pretty overwhelming,” says Cynthia Loh, head of Betterment for Business.

Loh wouldn’t disclose how many employees are covered across the employer-clients currently using the service but says they come from a wide range of industries, including technology companies, law firms, doctors’ offices, financial firms, real estate firms and clothing companies.

Also see: "Everything you need to know about robo-advisers."

Launched in 2010, Betterment manages more than $3.2 billion in assets for more than 125,000 retail customers. The company announced plans to enter the employer space last fall with the launch of Betterment for Business. The company has no upfront fee for plans with more than $1 million in assets and an assets under management-based fee ranging from 0.10% to 0.60%.

Boxed, a New York-based mobile wholesale shopping app, signed up and has rolled out the Betterment for Business 401(k) service to its employees. “We’re a technology company at heart, so working with Betterment is a natural fit for us,” said Chieh Huang, CEO and founder of Boxed.

And while retirement plan sponsors tend to be a conservative group and not prone to changing 401(k) recordkeepers frequently, Loh says those plan sponsors that are interested in the service tend to fall into one of two categories.

“The one category of plan sponsors is those who say ‘Gosh, I still literally am using a 401(k) that’s from the 1980s’,” she says. “There’s this idea that all of the interfaces they’re using are outdated. [Employees] can’t manage all of [their] assets on the same platform, [they] can’t access it on the mobile Web, there’s no advice.”

The second category of plan sponsors, she says, are “just really fed up with all the fees and how confusing they are. They are paying recordkeepers, administrators, advisers, maybe a broker – all these different people – [and] not understanding the fees and knowing their participant fees are extra high.”

Betterment for Business also announced today it has formed an advisory board. Its first two members are Tom Clark, counsel at The Wagner Law Group, a law firm specializing in ERISA and employee benefits, and Ray Kanner, who heads up IBM’s global pension and savings system.

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