Though industry opinion has largely hardened against the prospect of independent robo platforms toppling established firms, it bears paying attention in the coming year as to what inroads digital-first firms can make into the DC space.

Betterment's September announcement to enter the 401(k) market garnered widespread attention, but a number of other startups were already focused on challenging traditional custodians with digital alternatives for managing employer plans. One provider which has gained traction is Blooom, an RIA launched two years ago in the Kansas City suburb of Leawood. (The firm offers analysis based on a flower, hence the name with an unusual spelling.)

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