Roboadviser Startup Finds Way to Live in Harmony With Big Banks

(Bloomberg) -- Most roboadviser startups threaten to steal away customers from banks. SigFig Wealth Management LLC, one of the oldest digital wealth managers, has survived by convincing some of the world’s biggest names in finance to use its software instead of building their own.

The San Francisco-based company is looking to amplify that strategy with help from a $50 million investment led by General Atlantic, SigFig said Tuesday. Wells Fargo & Co., UBS Group AG and Citizens Financial Group Inc. are among SigFig’s customers, and it’s taking steps to court more financial institutions.

“They are in a position now to launch a few things that we think will be compelling for the big banks,” said Paul Stamas, a managing director at General Atlantic who’s joining SigFig’s board.

Mike Sha and Parker Conrad started an investing website called Wikinvest in 2007. The site rebranded as SigFig years later and began offering a wealth management platform relying on software instead of humans to deliver investment advice. The founders eventually parted ways, and Conrad started HR software maker Zenefits before he was ousted when employees were found selling health insurance without appropriate licenses.

Rather than going directly to consumers like Betterment LLC or Wealthfront Inc., SigFig tried to make friends on Wall Street. JPMorgan Chase & Co. held preliminary talks about an acquisition in 2015 but decided to pursue its own roboadviser in-house. Morgan Stanley also built one itself. That raises questions about how much room there is left to grow through partnerships.

Sha, SigFig’s chief executive officer, said the company will find more clients by making its software better. “There will be more tools for wealth managers as well as expanding into broader advice,” he said. “You’ll see a dramatic expansion from us on the product side.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.