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BlackRock Acquires Online Investment Adviser, FutureAdvisor

FutureAdvisor_homepage_Aug2015

When the going gets tough in today’s wealth-management business, the tough acquire robo-advisers.

International risk- and investment-management titan BlackRock has agreed to acquire FutureAdvisor, the San Francisco-based online investment adviser founded in May 2010, for an undisclosed sum.

In an email to clients and customers Wednesday morning, FutureAdvisor co-founder and CEO Bo Lu singled out BlackRock’s retirement-planning tools, specifically BlackRock’s CoRI retirement indexes. Lu added that the merger will allow the company to “build out new features at an even faster clip,” and assured clients there would be no change in the relationship between clients and FutureAdvisor.

“Our brand, our culture, and our people will work to serve you and improve your digital experience every day, just as we did before the acquisition,” Lu said.

FutureAdvisor_stage_FF2013

From left: CEO Bo Lu, founder, and Joe Cianciolo, VP of business development, demonstrated FutureAdvisor’s technology at FinovateFall 2013 in New York.

FutureAdvisor provides a few services, such as a basic portfolio review, for free. For investors who want the full suite of services, FutureAdvisor Premium charges a flat 0.5% of funds managed to handle everything from fund selection, based on criteria and goals set by the investor, to periodic portfolio rebalancing. And rather than being a solely automated solution, FutureAdvisor also provides licensed advisers to answer questions and explain concepts, as well as service personnel to help investors navigate the platform.

The merger comes as robo-advisers in general, and FutureAdvisor in specific, have been making headlines. FutureAdvisor reached the $600 million-under-management milestone in June, and took its total capital to more than $20 million in May, courtesy of a $15 million investment led by Canvas Venture Fund’s Rebecca Lynn. Earlier this summer, FutureAdvisor launched its online investment library, and was named a 2015 Technology Pioneer by World Economic Forum.

Interestingly, FutureAdvisor came under takeover speculation in July, when an analyst at Seeking Alpha suggested that a merger between FutureAdvisor and market-data aggregator Yodlee (a fellow Finovate alum) was a good idea. Citing the company’s strategy of combining robo-advisory with human specialists, FutureAdvisor’s rapid growth, and the size of the average FutureAdvisor account of more than $150,000: “Can you say farm system?” the analyst wrote, “Are you seeing the fit potential?”

Headquartered in San Francisco, FutureAdvisor last appeared on the Finovate stage at FinovateFall 2013 in New York.