© 2020 Arizent. All rights reserved.

LearnVest went dark, leaving users in the lurch

Register now

Users of LearnVest, frustrated by the loss of access to their accounts for days with little explanation, took to Twitter to protest.

On Oct. 28, the firm noted on Twitter that its “site was undergoing maintenance — we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience.” As of Oct. 31, the site is back up.

LearnVest, the millennial-focused personal finance platform acquired by Northwestern Mutual in 2015 for $250 million from founder Alexa von Tobel, said it moved to restrict all online access after detecting unusual login activity.

The information was obtained from websites unaffiliated with LearnVest, a spokeswoman said, and was detected across a limited number of client accounts.

“We have since implemented additional security enhancements across the LearnVest site, which may have caused a few clients to be locked out of their LearnVest accounts today. We have since rectified the situation and LearnVest.com is back to full function.”

Earlier this week, LearnVest users circulated a message sent by Rachel Ward, who is listed as a LearnVest planner on its website, that it was undergoing maintenance. It also noted that access to its mobile app was down as well. “I assure you that we are keeping your information safe,” the note reads.

A LearnVest user shared an emailed explanation from Ward stating why the firm took steps to restrict online access and that affected clients were notified. “At this time, we have no reason to believe that any additional LearnVest clients, other than that limited group who have already been contacted, are impacted.”

A phone number for Ward was not listed in its company directory.
“While downtime on internet-based services happens from time to time, what concerns me is the lack of proactive communication provided by LearnVest to its customers of both the free budgeting tools as well as the paid subscriptions,” says Bill Winterberg, founder of industry blog FPPad.

LearnVest’s younger clientele took to social media to express their frustration at not being able to access their accounts, or other difficulties, such as having to relink all aggregated accounts.

The incident should not be used as an attack on digital wealth management or millennial-focused services, says Joel Bruckenstein, founder of the Technology Tools for Today conferences.

“Some startup discount airline crashes a plane, it’s not an indictment of the airline industry,” Bruckenstein says. “There are robos, and there are robos. Some have top quality systems, some are cutting corners.

“As society becomes more dependent on computers, inevitably there are going to be more risks,” he adds. “We get the benefit of computers so we have to live with the risk of computers.”

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.