After raising $70M, Betterment expands financial advice to all users

Online wealth management startup Betterment might have launched as a robo-advisor, but increasingly the company is turning to humans to answer its customers’ most pressing questions.

On the heels of announcing a fresh $70 million in funding led by Swedish investment firm Kinnevik AB, Betterment is launching a new messaging feature that will allow users to ask questions and get answers from its team of financial advisors.

With its new messaging product, Betterment is offering up personalized financial advice to a larger portion of its user base — that is, anyone with an account. Customers can send secure messages through the Betterment app to ask for financial advice and get a response within one business day from one of the company’s experts.

The company is pitching this as a way to help its more than 280,000 customers make better financial decisions, based on their individual goals or needs. Since the questions CFPs answer normally come about due to changes in a person’s life, whether it be a change in career, marriage, or the birth of a child, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to what they should be doing with their money.

Betterment had already begun offering financial advice from humans, through a so-called hybrid model of wealth management for its most well-off clients. While its base digital offered automated portfolio management and tax-efficient investing for an annual fee of 0.25 percent, premium users could pay a little more (0.40 percent) to make unlimited calls to its licensed financial experts.

At the same time, it’s facing increasing pressure from more traditional wealth management companies that are rolling out hybrid models of their own. Companies like Vanguard and Charles Schwab are introducing robo-advisor or hybrid tools for clients, mostly as a way to reach a greater number of customers. Online lender SoFi also recently entered the wealth management space with a hybrid product.

By opening this messaging option up to all users, Betterment is hoping to provide a little bit more value than the competition as a way to lock in existing customers and entice new ones to sign up.