Future of Investing
Acorns wants to bring investing and education together
- While financial education may be a priority for financial services providers, no one has really figured out how to apply it beyond creating content marketing sites
- There may be a bigger opportunity publishers in finance to make inroads in the industry, particularly with the influx of fintech apps available today
Noah Kerner, the CEO of microinvesting app Acorns, sees financial literacy and education as a product line. Many financial services companies, both startups and incumbents, talk about the importance of customers’ financial education but how they integrate it into their own offerings often manifests as no more than a dedicated content marketing section or blog. Acorns itself has an online magazine called Grow that features news, financial how-tos and interviews with celebrities like Kevin Durant, Ian Kahn and Tony Robbins. But Kerner, who just raised $12 million, insists its own content marketing site is part of a much deeper mission to educate and plans to use part of its new funding to make education a more prominent part of the in-app user experience design. “We’re making some of the content even more contextual,” Kerner said. “If you visit the one-day performance view in the app three times a month you’re going to get served that piece of Grow content that’s going to talk about the power of sticking with it and not getting thrown off by market fluctuations. It’s going to show you a picture of the two big dips that happened in the 2000s and then zoom out and show you that even with dips the market always goes from bottom left to top right.” There may be a bigger opportunity publishers in finance to make inroads in the industry, particularly with the influx of fintech apps available today. On Friday, for example, Yahoo Finance launched a social savings app called Tanda. While financial education may be a priority for financial services providers, no one has really figured out how to apply it beyond creating content marketing sites; particularly today they all start to look the same. For example, last year Acorns recently ran an article called “First-Time Home Buyers Share What They Got Right—and Wrong.” Chase ran something similar under the headline “How this millennial woman bought a home on her own.” Meanwhile, Wealthsimple ran “How To Know What Kind of Mortgage You Can Afford.” A sea of sameness engulfs these companies, and it’s a problem when you’re trying to stand out. The biggest problem is memory recall, Kerner said. “I’m a big believer in the power of educating people at the moment of decision making,” he said. “You might have read an article from Fortune or Forbes about some strategy but you probably don’t remember that when you’re actually taking the action. Bringing education and product together is where the real power exists.” Separately, Acorns rolled out a personal finance course on Udemy this month. Kerner said 8,000 people have already completed it. Acorns is also planning an education campaign ahead of the launch of Later, its retirement savings account, that provides content on financial planning around retirement savings. The company is heavily focused on that product, which will launch no later than April at a premium, for the deployment of its new funds.