Alexa von Tobel, Founder and CEO, LearnVest
Please give us a bit of background on yourself, and your interest in financial technology.
After I graduated from college, I quickly realized how little I knew about personal finance (despite working in “finance” and having a great education). Not only that, but it was clear that all of my friends and family had similar questions like, “how many credit cards should I have?” and “how much money should I contribute to my 401(k)?” The lack of simple, straightforward financial advice led me to found LearnVest and I’ve been focused on making personal finance as consumable as possible for families across the country ever since.
How well are financial companies adapting to the rapid pace of FinTech development? What are the major trends
Over the past two years we’ve seen major increases in investments and innovation across fintech. According to a recent report from Accenture, global investment in fintech ventures reached $5.3B in the first quarter of 2016 (a 67% increase over the same period in 2015).
As far as trends, we’re seeing a ton of partnerships and collaboration between smaller start-ups and larger financial institutions. Northwestern Mutual’s acquisition of LearnVest is a prime example, where we’re relying on the complementary strengths of the different organizations to improve the customer experience and stay competitive in the industry.
What challenges do you see for FinTech development and disruption, either from a user's perspective and from a regulatory standpoint?
The work of financial institutions is innately complicated (for security and compliance reasons, just as two examples), and so real disruption requires a ton of work, time and money. At the same time, we need to be able to quickly meet the needs of consumers who expect top-notch, seamless experiences -- the same way they expect them across every other facet of their lives.
What advice would you give other fintech entrepreneurs in building their company and in eventually considering a sale?
Before Northwestern Mutual acquired LearnVest last spring, we went through months and months of diligence to truly make sure the partnership was in everyone’s best interest. It was critical to both Northwestern Mutual’s and LearnVest’s leaders that our companies were aligned not only in strategy, but also in our mission and underlying beliefs about the best interests of our firms, our employees, and our customers. Before going through an acquisition, it is critical for any entrepreneur to fully vet their counterpart, as it is truly a marriage between the two companies. For us, we both believed to our core that the customer comes first, which made it easy to join forces.
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