Ally Buys TradeKing to Move into Wealth Management Sector

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / jwblinnThe branchless financial institution Ally Bank is expanding its offerings with the upcoming acquisition of TradeKing, a wealth management platform, announced yesterday. Ally had floated this ambition back in February.

Ally has been adding to the functionality of its mobile app at a fast clip recently. Just last month, the bank announced the addition of Android Pay and Samsung Pay functionality to the already available Apple Pay for account holders, the first two of which to go live later this year.

It continued that momentum with the announced purchase of online brokerage megalith TradeKing for $275 million in cash. With this move, Ally will challenge millennial-friendly competitors in the wealth management space such as Wealthfront and Betterment, both known as “roboadvisors,” meaning software, not humans, offers advice. TradeKing has about $4.5 billion in assets under management.

The “buy, not build” move by Ally is somewhat reminiscent of Capital One’s acquisition of Level Money just over a year ago.

TradeKing has two major business emphases: self-directed online brokerage and TradeKing Advisors, which offers digital management services.

Diane Morais, Ally’s CEO and President, explained to Bank Innovation that this purchase was anything but an impulsive decision. “We have been evaluating the wealth management space for the latter half of 2015 as part of our growth and expansion strategy for the company,” she said, adding that the idea for this acquisition in particular came about in early January.

Michael Baresich, the chief information officer, added that Ally has been “studying this space for some time. We were able to move very quickly when the time came to make a final decision.”

But why expand? Morais mentioned that Ally already has 1.1 million deposit customers — far more than most branchless rivals with the exception of BankMobile. Ally’s customers, a generally affluent and digitally savvy demographic, Morais said, had been asking for wealth management services to achieve their investment and/or retirement goals, prompting Ally’s interest in the sector. And of course, timing is everything:

When TradeKing became an opportunity, we had already found that over 50% of our customers would be interested in wealth management. Had the TradeKing deal come six months prior, I don’t believe if I know it would have worked out so well.

TradeKing will be integrated after Ally’s 3rd quarter, pending regulatory approval. Morais stated Ally’s intent is to integrate the software into existing systems and utilize the Ally brand name. Morais stated that since TradeKing’s customers are a very loyal bunch, Ally intends to retain those customers by keeping pricing the same, namely, $4.95 per transaction.

Baresich shared this sentiment, adding that Ally’s and TradeKing’s compatible platforms will preclude problems typical of integration:

For us this is a completely attitude business… We don’t have the difficulties of putting together two brokers, because we are a world class banking franchise and they (TradeKing) are a world-class brokerage franchise … The integration challenge and opportunity we have is to create great online customer experiences for both Ally and TradeKing clients, so they both have a fully-digital and fully-mobile experience.

Morais also confirmed two products Ally had previously mentioned in passing. It will offer credit cards through a partnership with another (unnamed) entity, to go live this June, and direct-to-consumer mortgage origination is set to launch in the fourth quarter.

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