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Dream Forward Acquired as Retirement Plan Tech Consolidation Heats Up

Dream Forward was bought by Expand Financial, an existing business partner.

In light of the greater importance being placed on scalable communication technology, and in the face of recent pandemic-related lockdowns, 401(k) provider and chatbot provider Dream Forward is being acquired by Expand Financial.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition, which closed on Thursday, had been under discussion since last year and was not related to recent market volatility, according to Ryan Kahn, co-founder of Dream Forward.

Best known for its technology licensing business, particularly its white-labeled chatbot, Dream Forward entered the 401(k) business four years ago. Its tech, which is used by record-keepers and retirement plan–focused financial advisors, “can explain all of the nuances of saving for retirement and 401(k)/403(b) rules and regulations,” Kahn said.

Expand Financial’s affiliated RIA, eFA, is the 3(38) fiduciary on most Dream Forward plans being acquired, according to the announcement. The acquisition allows Expand Financial to bolster existing relationships with an additional consultancy role.

“This acquisition continues our strong growth, as we look to bring Dream Forward’s 401(k) clients into the Expand ecosystem,” said Greg Bakke, president of Expand Financial, in a statement.

While it would not disclose its current client count, citing terms of the deal, four years ago, Dream Forward handled the administration work of 300 advisors and focused on improving plan participants’ financial behavior.

The acquisition, coupled with Tegra118's acquisition of RetireUp this week, hints at a larger trend.

Kahn noted that regulatory changes precipitated by the SECURE and CARES Acts will accelerate consolidation. Meanwhile, machine learning is continuing to improve, as it gets access to new data and new market conditions, strengthening the long-term prospects of advancements. A severe recession would put large-scale development and implementation on a different timeline, he said, but it would only delay, not eliminate, the entrance of more robust technology in financial services.

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