Millennials take a different approach to investing than previous generations. Only one in three are buying stocks. And some are turning to software, rather than humans, for advice on financial planning.
For the past 10 years, Wealthfront has been building out a platform that it hopes will appeal to the next class of wealth creators. Instead of paying advisors, Wealthfront believes that it is taking a more efficient approach by focusing on algorithms and cutting out the middlemen. Its technology can help with financial planning, investment management and other banking services, like loans.
The Redwood City, California-based startup has already raised $130 million in capital and is now raising another $75 million to expand its business further, at an undisclosed valuation. Tiger Global is leading the round, with participation from leading venture firms like Benchmark Capital, Greylock Partners, Index Ventures, Social Capital, Spark Capital and others.
Wealthfront is aiming to be the “leading automated financial advisor for people under 40,” said Andy Rachleff, co-founder and CEO. Rachleff previously co-founded Benchmark.
But don’t call it a robo-advisor, he says. He views it as a “derogatory term” that downplays the sophistication of Wealthfront’s platform.
His business now manages more than $9.5 billion in assets under management, which he says demonstrates that some people would rather input their financial information on a computer than pick up a phone to call an advisor.
It also could be the lower fees that are incentivizing people to give Wealthfront a shot. There’s a freemium model, which means that people can invest up to $10,000 free of charge. It only charges a quarter of a percent in fees after that, which is lower than the industry average. Returns also are comparable to the industry average.
“Because everything is done in software, we’re able to pass those savings along to our clients in the form of lower interest rates and lower fees,” said Rachleff. The loans it provides have just 3.75 percent interest.
Millennials are a good demographic to target, says Rachleff. “They’re in the wealth accumulation phase of their life versus the wealth preservation.”
And someday stock market investors may be able to invest in Wealthfront itself. “Our goal is to be a public company,” he said.