Why microinvesting app Acorns is trying to become a publisher

In the age of infinite content, every financial brand has a content marketing strategy. But Acorns, the popular microinvesting app, insists its online magazine is part of a much deeper mission to educate customers.

In the winter of 2015, Acorns hired Jennifer Barrett — who came from CNBC and has held various editorial roles covering personal finance at Daily Worth, Newsweek and the Street, as well as other roles at Hearst Magazines and NBC Universal — to launch and run Grow, a personal finance site for millennials that’s separate from the app itself, as its founding editor. The following summer, she added another title to her name: chief education officer of Acorns.

“When we launched the Grow site at the beginning of last year, there really wasn’t much out there that was targeting millennials in terms of money sites,” Barrett said. “That’s obviously changed in the last year and a half. But at the time… we were filling that need.”


Though Grow is published by Acorns, its content is pretty Acorns agnostic. Recent news headlines include How Amazon’s Whole Foods Takeover Could Affect Your Money, How Much Impact Does a CEO Have on a Company’s Stock? and What to Know About Trump’s Budget Proposal.

The only ads it runs are for the Acorns app, but it otherwise operates like a standard editorial site. Barrett, now as editor-in-chief of the site, leads a team of about 20 financial reporters recruited from news outlets like the New York Times, Bloomberg and Kiplinger on a freelance basis. There are about 12 reporters she counts as its most frequent contributors.

The site has also formed editorial content-sharing partnerships with sites like Business Insider, Refinery 29, Forbes and Marketwatch — though it doesn’t pay for placement, Barrett said.

“There are various arrangements — traditional editorial syndication arrangements or editorial partnerships where we promote their content and they promote ours,” Barrett said. “They’re based on the understanding that the content they get from us is going to experience a pretty high level of vetting and we aren’t sending them content that promotes Acorns.”

Grow has had more than five million since its early 2016 launch, according to Barrett. Readers and converted to Acorns users and vice versa, Barrett said, though she didn’t specify a conversion rate. Acorns runs some Grow content in the app, and Grow has a specific section dedicated to showing users what Acorns is and what they can get out of it that doesn’t mix with the rest of the editorial site.

grow acorns

In its inception, the company saw the site as a value-add for Acorns users, but Barrett maintains that vision has extended beyond its existing Acorns user base to include all potential users or even just passers by of the editorial site. She declined to say how much of Acorns budget is dedicated to Grow.

“There was an intention from the beginning to integrate education into the product so we can help our customers become confident and successful investors,” she said. “Beyond that, our mission is to look after the financial best interest of the up and coming.”

Acorns has more than 2 million customer accounts, it reported earlier this summer — 600,000 of which were opened in 2017 alone — and projects it will have processed a billion trades by the end of the year. Its large legacy competitors, like Fidelity, are expected to do 60 million in the same period.

Acorns is currently in the midst of a Series D fund raise, which currently totals $70 million from backers like Bain Capital Ventures, PayPal, Greycroft Growth Fund, e.Ventures Growth Fund, NYCA, Capital Group, Rakuten, Point72 and Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures. As the app evolves, Grow is sure to evolve with it. Barrett teased potential features, like video and “bite-sized” content.

Such ideas are part of ongoing conversations about how to measure impact, Barrett said.

“We’re at the point where we can integrate more articles into the app and can think about different formats,” she said, adding that it’s easier to measure impact with existing Acorns users because they already have insight data and insight on their behavior.

“One of the challenges or frustrations is you write a story with the intent of helping the reader but you don’t really know what kind of impact you’ve had. We spend a lot of time talking about how we can measure that impact.”

Why finance brands are so hot on content marketing

With more and more companies — startups and legacy firms alike — increasing content marketing for their customers, it’s no longer much of a “differentiator” as it once was for some fintech startups trying to distinguish their offerings.

For example, 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, a problem when you’re trying to stand out.

Firms from Chase to Acorns to Bond Street are on a mission to educate customers and promote financial literacy through content marketing — something previously done, for the most part, by employees of the bank — to keep up with customers’ increasing need for control and self-service. It’s clear they’re trying to keep emotional ties with customers strong, since most opt to manage their money digitally now, through a banking app or roboadvisor.

“They don’t want people to park their money and go,” said April Rudin, chief executive and founder of wealth marketing strategy firm The Rudin Group. “Content is one way to make people return back to their site to add more money, to add value… The problem is there’s no one-size-fits-all advice for customers, and the majority of the firms haven’t figured out how to serve up content that’s not one-size-fits-all.”

Good advice — and content — will ensure people will return back to their site to see new updates, buy new products and invest more money. Many of the accounts being targeted in the content are on the lower asset level, but to keep business running, firms need more investors, larger investors and ultimately to grow their assets under management.

“Content marketing is not a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have, but it costs money,” said one conference goer at the Digiday Content Marketing Summit this week. “Where is that money supposed to come from? A sale makes it easier to justify, but you can’t always be selling. That’s a huge turnoff.”

Fintech firms love content marketing. Acorns, the popular micro investing app, has an online magazine called Grow that features news, financial how-tos and interviews with celebrities like Kevin Durant, Ian Kahn and Tony Robbins. Online lending company Bond Street has an online magazine that looks at the cultural and economic impact of independent businesses in New York as well as a podcast. Investing app Stash has a Learn page that aims to help “build a community of confident investors” that includes tips and primers on different money matters and concepts. Last year, Chase redesigned its online banking website to offer news stories as well as advice, guidance and support “the way we have a banker relationship at a bank,” the bank said at the time.

And at a time when people are consuming more content more frequently than ever — and all with one bias or another — so-called advice, education and information offered on their financial services platform can start to become just as noisy as the content coming through their various news streams on their various devices.

“The question is how frequent should it be? They have to figure out what the value is of the content they put out based on how people react to it and if they’re building more confidence and putting more money into their account,” Rudin said. “The fact is that they’re really trying to replace, to some extent, the advisor.”

It’s not just millennials that want advice, and every customer wants to consume advice differently. That’s why despite the popularity of robo advisors, there’s still a role for advisory relationships in financial services, hence the need to create online “communities.”

USAA is addressing this differently. With the creation of its Alexa skill for Amazon Echo devices earlier this month, it’s pushing insights — not advice — to help customers make more sound financial decisions.

“You’ll start to see spending advice as more of a mechanism to make a decision than to get some help,” Darrius Jones, assistant vp at USAA Labs, told Tearsheet at the time. “We think conversationally is the best way to deliver it.”

About 42 percent of ultra high net worth investors will change advisors if they don’t like the digital interface of the company, Rudin said, citing research by Capgemini. But the idea of a digital interface is broader than what people think, she said. It includes communication, not just advice.

In a way, depending on the consumer and his or her needs, content marketing reformats the traditional model of advice. By bringing in technology, as USAA has done with its Alexa skill, financial firms can figure out what customers really need.

“All these things need to be evaluated by banks,” Rudin said. “All that does is give it a remodel instead of a retool. Banks need to take a step back and retool themselves and think: how does this stuff really work?”



How socially responsible investing is moving beyond the wealthy

To Scott Johnson, a biologist based in Amherst, Massachusetts, socially responsible investing is part of the way he lives his life. He said his motivations for doing so are the same as those that underlie his decisions to buy organic food at the farmers market and participate in a farm share.

“It’s one thing to simply buy Organic Valley products at Whole Foods, and it’s another to actually invest in the company,” said Johnson, 58, who with his wife invests in companies including Organic Valley as part of a larger portfolio that promotes social and environmental good. “For us, we see that as a seamless transition — we don’t see us getting a return on our retirement as separate from the way we live our lives.”

Among investors, interest in environmental, social and corporate governance areas is growing. According to the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, total U.S.-domiciled assets under management focused on these areas were valued at $8.72 trillion at the start of 2016, up 33 percent since 2014. And despite recent research from Morgan Stanley that suggests millennials are the generation most open to sustainable investing, according to a financial adviser who specializes in socially responsible investments, it’s older clients they’re appealing mostly to. Experts say income level, rather than generational affinity, is what determines whether someone will pursue sustainable investments.

“There’s a lot of industry press about the preferences of millennials because they’re an up-and-coming demographic, but due to the nature of our business model, we’re targeting people who have accumulated some wealth, and they tend to be in their fifties,” said Andrew Bellak, CEO of Stakeholders Capital, the financial advisory firm that Johnson and his wife use.

The lack of a one-size-fits-all definition
Socially responsible investments are often called ESG investments — the acronym referring to environmental, social and governance factors. ESG covers a range of issues, a recent BlackRock paper noted, including carbon emissions and other environmental practices, labor and human rights policies and governance structures with a company. But no single definition can account for the range of interpretations.

“It’s subjective,” said Bellak. “Broadly speaking, it means you are considering things other than financial criteria and making an effort to do better than what’s legislated. When you look at the environmental footprint, it could mean treatment of employees and all stakeholders, not just shareholders. We exclude a number of areas like gambling, weapons and extraction, like oil, gas or mining.”

Another type of socially responsible investing is impact investing, which blends measurable ESG criteria with financial performance. One firm that solely does impact investing is Swell, an investment platform that just launched as a subsidiary of Pacific Life.

A principle-driven mission, but a bias toward wealthier investors
For one baby boomer, in addition to a financial return on investment, a legacy of contributions to the planet is important.

“I spent time thinking about how I wanted to invest my retirement money and decided that it needed to reflect what I valued as an individual and align with my moral compass of who I want to be in the world,” said Elizabeth Ackerman, 53, Johnson’s wife. “I also wanted for my children to see me again walk my talk with this particular choice.”

Still, Ackerman and Johnson hardly count as your average investors, given that Bellak’s firm requires its clients have at least $500,000 in assets.

Passionate millennial investors
Millennials with money are getting into the game, hoping their investments will bring positive changes to the world.

“What we’re seeing now is somebody who made a bit of money at a hedge fund spin off on their own with an idealistic viewpoint,” said Sean Trager, svp at Wedbush Securities, a brokerage firm that works with hedge fund managers. “They are the freedom fighters; they’re using the world to effect change.” Trager works on socially responsible investments at Wedbush, including investments in clean technology.

Trager said it’s often wealthier investors that get involved with socially responsible investing because they can afford to ride out investments that can have erratic returns.

Among those getting into socially responsible investments are hedge fund managers like Sean Stiefel, 29, a portfolio manager at Navy Capital. Stiefel, who used to work at larger funds like Millennium Partners and Northwoods Capital, started Navy Capital three years ago to do more ESG investing.

“With the larger funds, you’re forced to go with a select group of stocks, which makes it harder to find smaller, more nuanced stories,” said Stiefel.

Stiefel’s forays into ESG investing include marijuana investments, particularly research into medical treatments.

“We came across an entire industry that has mind-boggling growth, with the ability to disrupt and make the world a better place,” he said. “With all the problems with opioids, there could be medical treatments, and that will improve the economic situation, too. You have a tremendous opportunity to improve people’s lives via marijuana.”

When cynics say Wall Street actors just want to make money, Stiefel replies that it’s the role of investors to provide the capital for positive change.

“These companies need capital to further their drug trials, and these products are actually going to help people, and without capital, these products may never make it to the shelf,” he said. “I think that the cannabis space in particular is going to change the world for the better.”

Ethical quandaries
Despite the appeal of ethical investments, some financial advisers say clients turn away if they can’t be assured of a good return, according to John Burke, a financial adviser at Burke Financial Strategies, which works with clients with at least $1 million of assets under management.

Most people haven’t given [socially responsible investing] much thought,” said Burke. “We try to get them to define it, and they realize that it’s not so easy. A lot of them give up on the thought of it.”

There’s also no clear agreement on what’s socially responsible. Emmanuel Lemelson, a portfolio manager at Lemelson Capital, is an ordained Greek Orthodox priest who employs what he considers a Christian philosophy of investment. Lemelson argues that the extractive industries still benefit the world, and he sees no conflict in investing in this area.

“The world needs energy, and energy is what’s going to help a lot of people living in poverty,” said Lemelson. “They’re not the best option, but it’s going to take time for society to change that. The problem is not hydrocarbons but emissions.”

The move to democratize socially responsible investing
Newer platforms are lowering the barrier for entry to make it easier for people to invest in socially responsible causes. To use Swell, for example, investors only need to invest $500 or more. Aspiration, an investment platform launched two years ago, requires users to invest a minimum of $100 to join its socially responsible fund, the Redwood Fund.

“Historically, almost all investing has come a relatively small number of very wealthy individuals and large institutions,” said Andrei Cherny, CEO of Aspiration.

Lisa Fernandez, 30, invested $500 into the Redwood Fund last October. Aspiration offered her a route to ethical investing even though she didn’t have access to a large amount of capital.

“This is the first socially responsible fund I’ve invested in, and to be honest, I didn’t think funds like this one existed with minimum investment amounts that I could afford,” she said.

The move toward sustainable investing is also gaining ground among other app-based platforms, including Acorns, which rounds up purchases so the change can be put toward investments. The company launched a sustainable investment fund for its Australian customers last week, a move it says challenges the thinking that do-good investments don’t yield returns.

“This is an old adage and no longer true,” said Acorns Australia CEO George Lucas. “The universe of companies that are becoming more socially responsible is increasing, and therefore, so is the universe of stocks and assets for constructing well-diversified portfolios which are still in line with investors’ values.”

Top 10 fintech startups vying to be your next bank

top 10 banking apps

It’s very likely that the bank of the future is light on branches and heavy on technology. There are a variety of these new banking apps floating around. Only a few are traditional banks in the sense that they take insured deposits and operate with a banking license. Instead, they provide easy-to-use technology that people can use to access various banking functions directly via their smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

For the purpose of this list, we’ve included only standalone startups. A few of the early online banking movers, like Moven, Holvi, and Simple, have been acquired by more traditional banks and we didn’t list them. That’s not to say they’re not worth paying attention to — they definitely are. They just weren’t considered startups for the sake of this list.

Top 10 banking apps

1. Acorns
Getting underinvested people to save more isn’t a trivial feat. That’s because, as humans, we aren’t really wired to save for our future; We’re preprogrammed to ensure we’re well fed and satiated today. New banking apps like Acorns address our biology and make it really easy to round up our coffee bills, sending the remainder into an investment account.

You can preprogram the Acorns app to automatically sweep spare change from a mobile purchase into an Acorn account or do it manually by swiping a few cents at a time through the app.

The California company was founded in by the father and son duo, Jeff and Walter Cruttenden. Acorns has done a good job convincing investors of its app-centric banking model, raising over $60 million.

2. Atom Bank
The UK has proven to be a fine breeding ground for many of today’s top banking apps and Atom Bank is a good example of the work being done there. Upstart UK banks are called challenger banks, and Atom Bank was one of the first of its kind to launch a product into the market. It did so by first getting a banking license, so, while its initial app launched with just a savings account, the firm will eventually roll out full banking functionality, including current accounts, overdraft, debit/credit cards, and mortgages.

Spain’s BBVA, which also owns Simple, led a 2015 funding round that totaled $128 million. Atom Bank has an executive roster that’s primed to disrupt traditional banking services: Founder Anthony Thomson was the co-founder of Metro Bank, a low cost financial services firm in the UK and CEO Mark Mullen previously headed HSBC’s telephone/online-only bank, first direct.

3. Card.com

sesame street card.com
Banks with large physical branch networks at a cost disadvantage in a business that’s becoming increasingly digital. Card.com founder Ben Katz certainly believes that to be the case and that’s why he’s built a platform that provides banking-like services with just a website and debit cards. Customers can pimp out their credit cards with their favorite music artists or sports teams with literally thousands of cool designs to choose from. Then, Card.com customers use technology to load up their cards with cash or transfer it to family and friends.

Card.com has a good list of investors including fintech powerhouse, QED Investors. Founder Katz has payments industry experience from Green Dot and PayNearMe and carries a Sesame Street Design Prepaid MasterCard in his wallet.

4. Chime
Chime is another new banking app that leads with a debit card experience. The banking app appeals to millennials in an effort to help them save and budget regularly. Chime focuses a lot on automation — if a user chooses to use the firm’s automatic savings functionality, each Chime card purchase is rounded up to the nearest dollar. Those funds are added to a savings account which the company sweetens by paying users an additional 10% bonus on the money they save.

The company raised over $20 million and has been working on its banking app since 2012. One in three millennials are open to switching banks in the next 90 days, according to The Millennial Disruption Index, a three-year study commissioned by Viacom Media Networks. Who knows, they may be headed on over to Chime.

5. Coin

Coin credit card
Some of today’s top startup banking apps are trying to replace or compete with credit cards. Others, like Coin, were designed to make existing solutions better. Coin bills itself as a payment device: it loads up all your credit cards onto a single Coin card. So leave all your other credit cards at home and when it comes time to make a purchase, just choose which card you’d like to use by pressing a button on Coin. The technology combines credit, debit and gift cards into one card that can be used for magnetic stripe and NFC tap-to-pay purchases.

The firm claims over a quarter million Coins have shipped.

Based in San Francisco, Coin’s raised $15.5 million from Redpoint, Sherpa Capital, and Spark. It recently sold off its wearable payments assets to Fitbit in a transaction in May 2016.

6. Digit
Like Chime, the key to Digit’s appeal is its simplicity in moving money between spending and savings accounts. Because, as a species, we’re flawed when it comes to savings, Digit helps users save without thinking about it. Sure, setting automation rules for savings is hard and to counter that, Digit proactively scans user spending habits, finding limited opportunities to sweep some spare cash as it builds up. Once Digit finds an opportunity to save, the banking app asks for an approval from a user to move money into savings. As micro-savings build up, users can have the app transfer money back to a checking account, as well.

Digit was founded by Ethan Bloch and Michael Murray, and raised nearly $14 million so far for its buildout and marketing. The company sports some major angels as investors, including Alexis Ohanian and Eric Ries.

7. Final
Final is another credit card-first technology for people who want more control over their payment relationships. The app provides a disposable one-time use number that users can issue to the merchants they do business with. Instead of jumping through hassle hoops of despair when trying to cancel a service or dispute a charge, users can simply deactivate that card number and move on with their financial lives.

Compared to some of the other top startup banking apps on this list, Final hasn’t raised boatloads of money (yet) but if its any indicator, its early rounds have some heavy hitters participating, including DRW, KPCB Edge, Ludlow, and Y Combinator.

8. Number 26
This European fintech startup is backed by Paypal founder turned uber venture capitalist, Peter Thiel. Founded in Berlin in 2013, Number 26 allows a user to open a bank account using video-identification in just 8 minutes. Once open, users can transfer money, make ATM withdrawals, and track their spending with personal finance statistics and analytics. A fresh partnership with Transferwise will give Number 26 account holders in-app access to cheap international money-transfer service.

The company has raised almost $13 million worth of venture capital, which includes Thiel but also Axel Springer, Earlybird, and Redalpine.

9. Prism

Prism Money
It’s a pain to have different apps managing different parts of personal finance. Prism brings together money, bills, and payments into one interface. The app connects with billers and notifies users when it finds a new bill that needs to be paid. The Microsoft Ventures-backed app has raised $3.5 million in investment since 2012. The firm’s two cofounders bring together the fin and tech for their fintech startup — one is ex-Microsoft while the other is ex-JPMorgan.

Where other apps have focused on creating a better savings experience, Prism definitely appears to be honing in on bill payments as core to its app. The technology works on pretty much all mobile devices including iOS, Android, Windows, and Kindle.

10. Qapital
Qapital takes a goals-based approach for its banking app. It’s hard to save, and some people just find it easier to save for specific ends in mind (like vacations or college tuition). Users can create these goals, associate monetary objectives with them, and create automated triggers to sweep cash towards them. Behavioral economics has shown that creating accountability for one’s savings actions makes us more likely to hit our goals and Qapital makes it easy to share our goals and the progress towards them with family, friends, and teammates.

Qapital offers FDIC insured deposits on the money saved within its mobile platform. The firm has raised nearly $7 million from a series of seed and venture investors, and has offices in Stockholm and Manhattan.

Photo credit: pkdon50 via Visualhunt.com / CC BY

When the future of savings accounts is a mere swipe

savings apps Acorns and Digit

We’re not wired to save money. Behavioral economics demonstrates that human beings, all things being equal, would rather consume their money today than save it and have more money to spend in the future. Today’s average American saves 5.1% of his or her personal disposable income. This number is close to a historical low — the only period since 1959 that clocks lower than this was recorded during the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

Our inability to sufficiently save is caused by poor behavior. Western culture encourages consumption — that’s even how growth is gauged in economic terms. The result is that millennials have historical amounts of debt. So, if behavior is part of the problem, it must also be part of the solution. Smart entrepreneurs have found technological ways to overcome our behavioral biases to make it easier to increase our savings.

One way to do this is by encouraging people to make micro-deposits. Instead of asking for a percentage of a paycheck or to transfer large sums of money, these micro-savings apps make it easy for users to make repeated small deposits.

Acorns is the most popular of these apps. The award-winning app makes it as easy as a swipe on a smartphone to save spare change from purchases. It works like this: an Acorns user makes a purchase say at a coffee shop and after completing the transaction, the Acorns app asks the user to round up the purchase (like from $3.25 to $4.00) and deposit the remainder in his or her Acorn account. Users can schedule bigger, more periodic transfers of money into their Acorns account but the mechanism to round up seems to be the most salient part of the user experience. It’s here that our struggle with saving for the future is met head-on and dissected into small, repeated actions, making it easier and habitual to sock money away for the future.

“People generally associate investing with lots of dollars,” said Jeff Cruttenden, CEO and co-founder of Acorns in an interview with CNNMoney. “Once [people] find out that you can invest spare change, it’s a really attractive concept.”

Digit takes a more automated approach than Acorns. For this mobile savings app, there’s very little interaction with the user. Every couple of days, Digit scans a user’s checking account and if a user can afford it, deposits $5-50 via a transfer to Digit’s savings account. There’s no need for a user to swipe as the monitoring and action of depositing money happens in the background. By scanning spending and income history, Digit takes away the need for any human decision making by automating the savings process.

“I’d never struggled with understanding the importance of saving, but hated the exercise of doing it regularly and having to anticipate changes in my spending and income. Thankfully, now the trustworthy robots powering Digit do all that for me,” said Alexis Ohanian, executive chairman of Reddit. He’s also an investor in the young company.

Getting money into the savings account, from a financial planning perspective, is the hardest part because you’re going against the grain of human nature. But once the money is deposited into these accounts, users have different options. For Digit users, their Digit account is a way station, a bucket to keep dollars saved for the future and ensure they aren’t spent. With a simple text message to the company, users can transfer that money back to their checking account. Acorns, on the other hand, is really an investment platform at its core. Once a user deposits money into his account, much of the experience is similar to other online investment advisors like Wealthfront and Betterment. Acorn users can choose from a handful of different portfolios and begin investing their spare change in the stock market with a particular investment horizon.

Both savings apps are transparent with their fee structures. Digit doesn’t charge for its service (yet) while Acorns does. Acorns charges a flat monthly fee ($1) for accounts under $5k and a 0.25% fee on assets for accounts bigger than $5k. The AUM fee is typical in the roboadvisor world. And as this article points out, the small nominal monthly account fee for smaller accounts ends up being kind of expensive if the account stays small.

What’s different about this generation of savings apps is that they’re mobile only. The entire savings process, from depositing to asset allocation to transferring back to a savings account, occurs on a smartphone. The user interface has to be clean and simple for a small form factor and much of the success these apps have had in attracting new users has come in no small part from their good design. If successful, the market potential is large for savings apps and that’s why both Acorns ($32m) and Digit ($14m) have raised a lot of investment capital.

The Startups: Who’s shaking things up (Week ending January 31, 2016)

fintech startups shaking things up

[alert type=yellow ]Every week, Tradestreaming highlights startups in the news, making things happen. The following is just part of this week’s news roundup. You can get these updates delivered direct to your inbox by signing up for the Tradestreaming newsletter.[/alert]

Startups raising/Investors investing

Is VC the right money for fintech? (TechCrunch)

Citi Ventures invests in working capital marketplace, C2FO (Finextra)

College Ave Student Loans scores $20m (PE Hub)

Blockchain Capital raises $13m for second fund (CoinDesk)

Leftover currency converter TravelersBox raises $10m (Reuters)

Social investing startup SprinkleBit raises $10m (TechCrunch)

Dopay, payroll company for the unbanked, raises $2.5m (PE Hub)

MIT spinout Insurify raises $2m to replace insurance agents with robots (TechCrunch)

The Startups: Who’s shaking things up

NYT: How roboadvisers stack up against each other (NY Times)

How Robinhood became the first financial app to receive an Apple Design Award (Let’s Talk Payments)

Robo-advisor Betterment launches business platform (Finextra)
Betterment, the largest automated investing service, is launching Betterment for Business. This comes the same week as President Obama is expected to introduce a budget plan making it easier for small businesses to form retirement plans for their workers.

Broken TransferWise all “smoke and mirrors”? (The Memo)

Moven partners with loan refinancers, Payoff and CommonBond (Bank Innovation)

Spare change investment platform, Acorns launches education site (Bank Innovation)

Tencent’s WeChat Wallet lands in Hong Kong, beating Apple Pay to market for mobile payments (South China Morning Post)