As Wealthfront forges ahead with “self-driving money” for do-it-yourself investors, Betterment wants to ride in the front seat with financial advisors.
The New York robo-advisor’s latest feature, named Co-pilot, is a new dashboard that pulls an advisor’s book of business into a single location and notifies them of chances to engage with clients. At launch, the tool will remind advisors of clients who need to accept invitations to the Betterment platform, approve account openings or designate beneficiaries. It will also ping advisors about pending and failed ACATs transfers.
While the initial alerts are focused around operational tasks, the plan is to add more advanced notifications over time, such as opportunities to maximize an IRA or optimize required minimum distributions, says Jon Mauney, general manager of Betterment for Advisors.
As Betterment has continued to grow its for-advisors product, the company has added features across the platform and complicated the user experience, Mauney admits. The idea with Co-pilot is to make the whole platform easier for firms to migrate more accounts over to Betterment.
“One of the pieces of feedback we consistently get from advisors is they want to have an easier way to address common issues with clients that doesn’t require them to go hunting for it,” Mauney says.
The team batted around a few different naming ideas for the new product, but settled on “Co-pilot” in part to demonstrate the digital advice startup’s commitment to working more with financial advisors, a goal Betterment CEO Sarah Levy recently discussed at Financial Planning’s INVEST conference. The name also serves to differentiate Betterment from its West Coast rival Wealthfront’s purely digital approach to investing.
“Wealthfront is anti-financial advisor generally, and very adamant that people don’t need them. Obviously Betterment has gone in a different direction,” Mauney says. “[The Co-pilot] name is indicative of the role we want to play in the advisor’s workflow as opposed to excluding them from the relationship.”
Wealthfront declined to comment.
Co-pilot comes as Betterment sees continued growth of its for-advisors business, Mauney says. Firms have added 25% more clients to Betterment for advisors in 2021 compared with last year, and advisors new to the platform are bringing on twice the number of clients as they have in the past.
The company credits the growth to several changes to the for-advisors version of Betterment — such as custom portfolios, tax migration strategies, new billing plans and letting advisors manage 401(k)s — that make it easier for firms to transition their book of business.
“Two or three years ago, an advisor would have to make a concession or two to use the platform,” Mauney says. “We addressed that. It’s an easier prospect to move a big chunk or all of their business to Betterment.”