Goldman Sachs has agreed to acquire Honest Dollar, a one-year-old startup that provides retirement savings plans to small businesses at a clip of the standard cost. This comes as no surprise as a growing number of financial institutions are recognizing the potential of robo-advisors (otherwise known as "automated investment platforms").

Honest Dollar is now part of the banking giant's investment management division, Goldman announced Tuesday. The precise terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Managed by Vanguard Group, monthly rates for an Honest Dollar plan start as low as $8 per person. They consist of a series of exchange-traded funds. The goal is to provide savings solutions to the estimated 45 million Americans who don't have access to employer-sponsored plans--including those who are self-employed and individual contractors--by focusing on IRAs (individual retirement accounts), as opposed to 401(k)s.

"Honest Dollar has created a simple solution to a complex retirement savings problem," said Timothy J. O'Neill and Eric S. Lane, the co-heads of the investment management division at Goldman Sachs, in a statement. "Together, we have the potential to help millions of people achieve their investing goals."

To date, the Austin-based startup has received roughly $3 million in venture capital funding. It's one of several automated services attempting to crack into the retirement savings space. Betterment, one of the fastest-growing automated investors with more than $3.5 billion in assets under management, recently rolled out its own 401(k) tool for small businesses last year. 

"Netflix is different from owning a movie theater," said Betterment CEO Jon Stein, by way of analogy, in a previous interview with Inc. "We're building the whole theater for you. We're the one actually holding the money for the plan." 

Increasingly, banks are similarly looking to adopt "robo-solutions"--whether proprietary or through acquisition and investments. Charles Schwab, for instance, recently rolled out its own automated investment platform.

Since 2009, six major U.S. banks (Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo) have made strategic investments in 30 fintech startups, according to CB Insights data.

"We set out with a singular focus: to revolutionize the retirement savings industry and reach individuals who historically have been underserved," says Honest Dollar CEO William Hurley. "We look forward to being part of Goldman Sachs as we drive innovation across this space together."

Published on: Mar 15, 2016