Betterment changed the game for investors, but Wall Street banks have caught up and the disruptor has been disrupted

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Hi. I’m Aaron Weinman. Today, I’m highlighting a deep dive into Betterment, the disruptive startup that pioneered the robo-advisory space. The company set a trend that saw big banks and fintechs pile into the sector.

Now, it’s charting a new path, so let’s dig into that.


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Erika Ramirez/Insider

1. Betterment changed the game for investing in the robo-advisory space. The New York investing startup pioneered the robo-advisory service and opened the door for individuals to manage their money beyond the traditional route of financial advisors.

But deep-pocketed lenders — see UBS’ $1.4 billion acquisition of Betterment competitor Wealthfront — and disruptive fintechs now play in the robo-advisory sandbox.

Twelve years in, Betterment is moving away from its roots to further compete with Wall Street peers.

It’s staking its future on selling retirement plans to small and mid-sized businesses, and also focusing on financial advisors and their wealth-management firms.

Being called “the robo” was not going to cut it if Betterment intended on being a sustainable business over the long term, Chief Executive Sarah Levy told Insider.

To set itself apart, Betterment is building out business-to-business channels for financial advisors and in the process, fit in with the legacy firms that it once sought to upend.

As it charts a new path, Betterment has experienced a raft of changes, shed some staff, and switched up much of its leadership.

Competition is fierce, but the company nabbed a round of Series F capital in the fall, which valued Betterment at $1.3 billion.

For the full story about the genesis of this robo-advisor, check out this deep dive from Insider’s Rebecca Ungarino and Asia Martin.

And here’s more on Betterment, the altered landscape of robo-advisory services, and wealth management:

In other news:

Bill Ackman is the founder of investment company Pershing Square.
Brendan McDermid/Reuters

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4. U.S. Bank illegally used customer data to create sham accounts and inflate sales. Now the bank has been fined almost $38 million on unlawfully collected fees.

5. West Virginia’s treasurer wants you to know his state won’t deal with big banks over fossil fuel policies. Here’s nine other GOP officials taking on Wall Street’s response to the climate crisis.

6. Citadel Securities lost its legal fight against the US Securities and Exchange Commission over a product from the IEX exchange, Bloomberg reported. A trio of federal judges in Washington upheld the SEC’s decision on the market-order type made famous in the Michael Lewis book “Flash Boys.”

7. Three black-owned banks bought a piece of a $1.23 billion loan to Science Applications International Corp. The trio — enlisted by Citi — committed about $10.5 million toward the syndicated loan, Bloomberg reported.

8. Rapid grocer Gorillas is raising $250 million in fresh funding. But it’s raising the money at a lower valuation after cutting half its corporate staff in May.

9. Meet the 23 biotech startups that are set to take off in the next 12 months. These companies are using artificial intelligence to find new drugs, some are exploring genetic technologies, and developing new platforms.

10. Mark Zuckerberg is not the smartest man in the room it seems. In this feature, Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner got one over the tech titan when they came to the defense of the Meta-owned photo-sharing app Instagram.


Done deals:

  • Vertex, a Wind Point Partners portfolio company, has acquired Fulcrum, a construction management company.
  • Olympus’ venture-capital fund, Olympus Innovation Ventures, has completed its first investment. The fund has committed to the Series A financing for Virgo Surgical Video Solutions.

Curated by Aaron Weinman in New York. Tips? Email aweinman@insider.com or tweet @aaronw11. Edited by Hallam Bullock (tweet @hallam_bullock) in London.