The number of independent robo-advisors continues to decline as a result of closures and acquisitions, the latest being Capital One’s purchase of United Income.
The acquisition, which closed on July 31 but wasn’t announced until late last week, builds on a 10% stake that Capital One had purchased late last year.
Matt Fellowes, the founder and head of United Income, explained in a statement that the firm had faced “a number of extraordinary options” for growing its business in order to serve more people and “Capital One emerged as the far and away best option” because the bank “shares United Income’s passion to reimagine financial services for the better, commitment to technology innovation, and focus on helping their customers live their best lives.”
No details were given about the acquisition, but Fellowes — who previously founded HelloWallet, which was subsequently acquired by Morningstar, and then served as Morningstar’s chief innovation officer — said in his statement that United Income would still be managed by the same team, with the same software.
Fellowes also said United Income “will be expanding its team with the intent to accelerate our innovation.”
Elizabeth Kelly, senior vice president at United Income, tells ThinkAdvisor that United Income “will continue to operate its business as usual under its current management but with the added benefit of Capital One’s broader network and resources” and is currently branded as United Income from Capital One. “We are at the early stages of the integration so we don’t have anything specific to share,” she said.
According to its latest Form ADV, dated Aug. 14, United Income has $746.05 million in assets distributed among 750 accounts and provides custody for close to 40% of those assets in 60% of its accounts.
The firm has a reputation for catering to pre-retirees and retirees, providing portfolio management and asset allocation that relates to clients’ spending needs, including health expenses and spending goals, and evaluates risk tolerance.
It provides advisory services through the United Income Wrap Fee Program and the Traditional Wrap Fee Program.
The first program has two tiers: a Premium program requiring a $10,000 minimum and charging 0.5% and a Private Wealth program requiring a $300,000 minimum and charging 0.8% for the first $500,000 which declines with more assets under management.
The Premium service tier includes a tailored financial plan, Social Security advice, Medicare advice, portfolio allocation advice, personalized investment management, the United Income Signature ETF strategy, the United Income Paycheck, technical support, a personal wealth manager, and an annual phone meeting with that wealth manager.
The Private Wealth service tier includes all those features plus custom investment strategies, unlimited wealth manager meetings, personal retirement transition coaching, estate planning, charitable giving optimization, mortgage refinancing & downsizing analysis, Roth conversion recommendations, education savings planning and insurance planning.
The Traditional Wrap Fee Program has a minimum of $250,000 for a $1.35% fee, which declines to 0.70% above $10 million and is more focused on investments, according to United Income’s latest Form ADV.
The Capital One acquisition of United Income comes just a few months after Goldman Sachs acquired United Capital for $750 million. Both follow BlackRock’s acquisition of FutureAdvisor and Northwestern Mutual’s purchase of LearnVest in 2015 and Invesco’s purchase of Jemstep the following year.
“There are not too many independent companies left to be acquired,” says David Goldstone, head of research for The Robo Report, adding that Betterment, Personal Capital and Wealthfront, each with billions in AUM, “may be past the point of getting acquired.”
But Bill Winterberg, founder of FPPad.com, a technology consulting firm that serves financial advisors, says smaller robos like Ellevest, OpenInvest and Stash Investment are potential targets for acquisition by a legacy financial institution or for “an outright exit from the business, aka shut down (like Swell Investing), which will shut down later this month.”
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