If you’re a millennial or head of a young family, finagling your way through finances can be tough to wade through solo. Between the Great Recession that’s left many millennials scared of entering the investment ring and the 52% with less than $1,000 bucks saved in the bank, it seems that budgeting and finances rank low on the priority list.
Here to balance your budget and meet your investment needs is Wela, a digital platform that helps you stay on track and turn you from a financial foe into a nest egg pro. We recently spoke with CEO Matt Reiner to get the scoop on their Spike TV partnership and what’s in store for 2016.
Tell us about the exciting partnership you’re doing with Spike TV’s Life or Debt.
One of the co-founders had been talking with Ugly Brother Studios who’s producing it along with Spike. Victor, the host, goes in and turns the family around, provides them the harsh realities of their financial situation and gets them on the right path. We take what Victor puts in place and make sure it’s seen through with the family so they can continue to stay on the right path.
What we’ve created is a platform that, if you could imagine you had a financial advisor that only worried about you and didn’t have any other clients or responsibilities, what they would be able to do. That’s what we are really doing for these families. Victor is an awesome host and we are fortunate to be part of it – to be able to help the families that way is exciting.
How many episodes have you done so far and are you scheduled to do a new season? What’s the full scope of what you provide them in terms of the show?
There are 10 episodes in the series and they have all been filmed and completed. They do a 90 day, check-in on the families that have all been taken care of. We don’t know yet what the future of the show is and hopefully, there is a future we can continue to stay onboard and help with some of the financial planning aspects.
So really, every family gets an advisor free for 12 months. They get access to one of our Wela advisors for 12 months and they’re leveraging our platform. A lot of them need to get their budget in line which is really the starting line. They either have too much debt, are not able to save enough for retirement, or for their kids’ college, and so we built out a functionality specific for the Spike show that we’ve now launched to everybody. They’re able to see where they are spending money and our data and platform are able to break it down and provide insights. Then, their human advisor will provide them insights on top of that. We provide them the game plan, the tools to track their finances and stay on top of it on an ongoing basis, and then we provide check-ins.
What about people who aren’t part of the show? How can people get involved and hire Wela to help with their financial needs?
Right now, Wela is a platform anyone can sign up for. You can think about everything you would wish your advisor would do for you or you would want them to do for you if you had one – that ‘s what we are building into the platform. I would learn about them, I would know their issues and what their struggles are, what their financial goals are, and what their objectives are. I would help them set the budget, track the budget, figure out what they’re doing wrong to make sure their budget is going right and then help them with investing and planning. The beauty of it is that a lot of it is run by technology and it makes it efficient for when you want to talk to an advisor and see actual insights.
We allow everyone to link up accounts from over 19,000 institutions to the platform and we do all the analytical and algorithms on the backend to provide actual insights and information for each individual because everyone’s situation is different. What we want to do is gain trust. We want them to understand that we are providing them information to help their situation and progress towards their financial goals. If they get to the point where they raise their hand and say, ‘I’m ready to invest in a Roth or rollover a 401K or invest in my kids’ college,’ we hope that they already know us so well and trust us enough that they sign up for an investment account. About 90% of our users will utilize the platform for what it is and never become an investment client and we’re okay with that because we feel like there is a void in information for our target market which is young families.
You’ve done a really great job of marketing in Atlanta, your pilot market. Can you speak about how you’re making connections, including how you ended up meeting people at Spike TV?
My dad founded an investment advisory firm 20 years ago and we rolled out of that firm Now, we are standing on our own two legs. What we learned from that experience has really helped us. It has allowed us to make connections with other advisors and peers who have been able to promote us because we aren’t competing with them. Within this space, people have minimums and their minimums push out that young family because they don’t have enough to meet them, so they’re open to what we’re doing because we are not hurting their businesses. That’s been able to help us grow in this market.
Our co-founder Wes has publicity in terms of his radio show and his book, which have really helped us with some connections in the area. That’s been a huge driver allowing us to spread the word. We’ve only made a small, small impact in Atlanta. My goal and vision is for everybody to know Wela and know that we are the go-to solution for them.
So why the specific focus on young families?
What we saw in the industry is this evolution in investing called robo-advising, the Wealthfront and Betterments of the world. What they did was great. They disrupted the industry and made us really think through how we leverage technology and how to make investing cool because you can do it from your phone and it is very simple. So, if someone who is a younger millennial says, ‘I want to invest’ they can do it the way they know how to interact. But it’s really just a digital mutual fund. All they’ve done is expand the pie of investing to this younger generation – and that was their goal.
We saw that nobody was in the middle. At every stage of life, you’re going to have different complexities. While young millennials don’t have too much complexity, when you get married and have kids and want to buy a house or save for your kid’s college that starts bringing complexities. That’s when you want to start talking to someone. So that’s where we saw the opportunity. How do we leverage technology to deliver financial advice with a human touch? And we thought that young families were in the need of that.