No-fee robo grabs $6M in new funding

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A fee-free robo advisor is the latest fintech to land millions in funding.

WiseBanyan raised $6.6 million in their latest round, according to documents filed with the SEC. At a base level, the platform offers robo-investing services with no management, trading or rebalancing costs. Fees kick in when clients purchase a la carté premium services like detailed investment strategies, increased personalization or additional automation services, the firm’s website says.

The increased personalization allows clients to pick and choose the services that they find most appealing.

The New York-based firm currently has $153 million in assets under management and 32,000 clients, according to their latest Form ADV filed in March. There are 32 investors currently on the offering, according to the SEC filing.

The filing highlights continued investor support for robo advisors, though a number of industry executives have questioned the sustainability of the independent model. The largest independent digital advice platforms have found millions in funding, including Wealthfront's latest round that secured $75 million in January and Betterment's $70 million last July.

Fending off challenges from larger incumbents and upstart mobile investment apps, Wealthfront landed its latest influx with a continued focus on adding more to its digital-only platform, such as its PATH financial planning feature. It has also expanded its product offerings, though its latest risk parity fund quickly became a magnet for controversy.

Hybrid advice firm Personal Capital took a different approach after securing $40 million in funding last August. Up against comparable hybrid offerings from Vanguard and Schwab, the firm reinvested in its advisor base, hiring new employees in multiple cities across the country. Betterment has taken a similar approach, directing some of its funding to retooling and expanding the appeal of its RIA platform offering.

While the competition continues to evolve in the robo space, online retirement platforms have pushed the boundaries of digital advice as well. For example, Financial Engines, an online 401(k) financial advisory firm, teamed up with human resources giant ADP to offer their digital platform to millions of potential new clients on ADP’s employer network.

The largest independent digital advice platforms profited significantly from a strong M&A market last year.
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For now, WiseBanyan is betting a focus on clients — not assets — will drive continued growth for the firm, its website says.

Co-founder Vicki Zhou started the firm in 2014, according to SEC documents. With dual degrees in applied math and biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins University, she previously co-founded a medical device company and invented a patented surgical device, according to the firm.

WiseBanyan completed its seed funding round in 2015, which included John Hancock Investments as an investor.

WiseBanyan did not respond to requests for comment.

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Robo advisors Automated investing RIAs Portfolio management Fintech Wealthfront Personal Capital