With all of the noise from the volatile financial markets, a disruption in the 401(k) industry risks being drowned out.
Betterment for Business, a 401(k) platform based on New York-based Betterment’s retail robo-advisory, officially launched on Wednesday, but it did so with less fanfare than it received when it was initially announced in September of last year. Yet the impact is still significant.
“It’s been a fantastic, frantic few months,” said Cynthia Loh, general manager of Betterment for Business. “We spent the last quarter building up the product, and we launched with 50 plan sponsors on the platform.”
Loh declined to report the total amount of assets her platform managed as Betterment enters into the 401(k) space as a full-stack provider, acting as a manager, record-keeper, custodian and advisor to the plans.
“We’ve had consistent feedback that the platform is easy to use and especially accessible for small and medium-sized businesses,” Loh said. “The sponsors so far vary in size and sector, but the tech industry especially has been very receptive.”
The platform’s initial cadre of plan sponsors includes Boxed, a New York-based mobile wholesale shopping app.
“We're a technology company at heart, so working with Betterment is a natural fit for us,” said Chieh Huang, CEO and founder of Boxed, in a statement on Wednesday. "We are thrilled to be able to provide our employees a true cost-effective benefit and set them up for retirement."
Betterment’s hope is that the new platform attracts small and medium-sized businesses at a time when the federal government is encouraging them to offer retirement plans.
“We’ll serve the full spectrum of employers, but we’re excited about the prospect of partnering with smaller companies to offer employee retirement plans for the first time,” Loh said. “It’s an exciting time, because a lot of the work being done should provide a tailwind for us.”
Among the Obama administration proposals being unveiled this week are plans to offer tax credits to small businesses that automatically enroll employees in 401(k)s. Also being proposed is a requirement that companies with existing plans expand them to include long-term, part-time workers. And there is a proposal to make it easier for businesses to pool their retirement plans in order to bring down their overall price tags.