Betterment, an investment platform that today manages as much as $2.6 billion in assets, will now tackle the multi-trillion dollar 401(k) market. 

On Friday, the company announced its latest product offering, Betterment for Business, set to launch in early 2016. The 401(k) tool is automated, providing investors with personalized advice on their assets, while letting employers enroll new hires online.

Betterment is one of the leading robo-advisers -- virtual wealth managers that provide easy-to-use online investment services -- in the rising fintech landscape. The company had planned to roll out its own internal 401(k) plan since its founding in 2010. When searching for its own plan, Betterment counted just 50 employees, and founder and CEO Jon Stein recalls that the registration process was "amazingly complex." 

Still, that doesn't mean that building out an automated retirement plan and advisory service is easy. Betterment has had to create the infrastructure to do all of the accounting and tax work, while also reporting to the IRS and the Department of Labor.

The company's new tool will serve as the record-keeper and compliance manager, so employers don't have to "shop around," explains Stein. That sets it apart from other 401(k) managers, like Blooom, for instance, which requires you to have already set up your defined contribution plan with an employer.

"Netflix is different from owning a movie theater," explains Stein, by way of analogy. "We're building the whole theater for you. We're the one actually holding the money for the plan."

Pricing for the 401(k) tool will range from 10 to 60 basis points, depending on the size of your investment. Participants receive a portfolio of passive, exchange-traded funds (ETFs,) and can also open taxable investment accounts, IRAs, Roth IRAs, and trust accounts, which the tool will then manage for them.

One charter client that's pledged to adopt the product is Earnest, a San Francisco-based lending firm, which is headed up by Louis Beryl. "At Earnest, we pride ourselves on providing our employees with important ways to promote financial health and responsibility as part of our benefits package," Beryl said in a press release.

Unlike its competitor Wealthfront, Betterment already caters to third party clients (i.e., advisers). To date, the company has raised an enviable $105 million in funding from investors such as Menlo Ventures.

Published on: Sep 11, 2015