Even life insurance companies are getting into the robo game.
Northwestern Mutual announced Wednesday that it would acquire LearnVest, an online financial planning platform, for an undisclosed sum. LearnVest will be become a wholly owned subsidiary of Northwestern Mutual, bringing over 1.5 million users on its direct-to-consumer online investment service, 25,000 clients using the LearnVest at Work program that provides financial planning services to employers, 10,000 premium clients and 150 employees between offices in New York and Arizona.
Unlike other so-called robo-advisors that focus primarily on automated asset allocation, LearnVest uses its technology to connect retail investors to human planners to deliver personalized financial advice. Northwestern doesn’t have a retirement planning business.
“Northwestern Mutual will fill that gap by redefining how financial security is delivered,” said Northwestern Mutual’s chairman and CEO John Schlifske, who named LearnVest’s easy-to-use technology, its educational capabilities and “entrepreneurial passion” as reasons for the purchase. “Our goal is to take more clients from start to finish, addressing all parts of the planning equation, and to be a partner at the center of financial lives through all stages.”
LearnVest launched in 2009, making it one of the older players in the robo-advisor market, but the firm hasn’t raised as much capital as Wealthfront and Betterment. Learnvest has raised $75 million in venture financing, including its most recent round of funding for $28 million last April, which was led by Northwestern Mutual.
LearnVest will have access to some of Northwestern Mutual's $230 billion in assets to increase reach and grow its internal team. LearnVest will retain its brand name and continue offerings its services.
"With Northwestern Mutual's financial backing, we can quickly empower millions of Americans and the dedicated professionals who serve them,” said LearnVest Founder and CEO Alexa von Tobel.
Northwestern Mutual isn’t the only company getting involved in online financial planning. Pacific Life recently announced a partnership with Motif Investing to bring online investing in “cause-driven” ETFs to millennials. Schwab’s robo platform for retail investors recently went live, and the custodian revealed plans for a white-labeled version for advisors.