What do the San Francisco 49ers and Facebook have in common? They are both being courted as target customers by Wealthfront and happen to be located near the company’s Bay Area headquarters.
Becoming the first professional sports team to partner with Wealthfront, the company announced that it is welcoming the San Francisco 49ers. As part of the partnership, the 49ers will be covering the advisory fee of the first $100,000 of current and former players, employees and alumni who register with Wealtfront.
Although the partnership is a bit of a marketing gimmick for Wealthfront, it does bring up the question of whether automated investing is more suitable for the majority of long-term investors. For those unfamiliar with Wealthfront, like US rival Betterment and UK-based Nutmeg, the company provides automated long-term investing services for customers (also known as robo investing). As opposed to working with financial advisors to create a long- term asset allocation plan, robo investing products provide questions about risk tolerance and earnings. Based on the answers, Wealthfront produces an automated long-term financial strategy for its customers, investing in low-cost ETFs instead of mutual funds or individual securities. Having reached $1B in money under management in June, the firm currently disclosed it has reached $1.3B in customer funds.
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As part of the ‘app’ age, robo investing provides a technological solution to the traditional financial advisor, with firms like Wealthfront promoting that their products provide superior long-term results due to lower fees and better handling of tax selling. With a focus on innovation, Wealthfront has structured its user experience and interface to appeal to a more ‘tech savvy’ customer base, specifically targeting millennials.
In promoting their initiative with the 49ers, Wealthfront compared rookie football players to recent college graduates joining Facebook. According to the company, both sets of employees face similar financial characteristics; namely being young and salaries that include large periodic windfall payments.
In their blog post discussing the 49ers, Wealthfront explained that as part of their growth, they have seen interest from professional athletes using the service, which led them to investigate specific challenges that athletes face with their investments. Among the concerns was how to deal with windfalls. For professional athletes, windfalls can come in the form of a signing bonus, winning a competition, or simply the fact that most professional careers are not that long, the entire duration of which is in a way a windfall compared to compensation which will take place in the future. For non-athletes, windfalls typically come in the form of a year-end bonus, sale of company stock options, or inheritance.
Comparing football players and Facebook employees, Wealthfront pointed out that each group faced achieving financial success very young in life and the challenge involved with preserving those funds for the long-term. In terms of football players, Ronnie Lott, member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and four-time Super Bowl Champion, added to Wealthfront’s post, “The NFL is an unbelievable experience for any young athlete. They make a lifetime’s worth of money in a short time period, but they need help planning for the long term.”