Ellevest’s Krawcheck believes market is big enough for many winners

Sallie Krawcheck (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

Sallie Krawcheck, co-founder and CEO of digital investment advisory company Ellevest, has built an investment product geared at a market she said many digital wealth platforms aren’t effectively reaching: women.

Krawcheck, who launched Ellevest in 2016, told an audience at a fintech event in New York this week that the market has room for many types of business models. “The market is so huge, and there are so many successful financial services companies serving primarily men on the investing side. There could be so many fitness companies that are successful, some of which have a human component,” she said. “This sort of industry silliness, of all or nothing, it’s BS. Lots of different models will be successful.”

Krawcheck said she built Ellevest to meet the needs of a demographic that feels traditional financial companies haven’t served them and that sees financial goals less in terms of wealth accumulation but a means to achieving their goals. “Eighty percent of women die as single mothers and live six to eight years longer than men do,” she said. “We retire with two-thirds of the money of men and, of course, less for women of color, yet we never talk about [money] as a gender issue.”

Ellevest combines financial education (one piece of content per day, a 60-second video series and social media campaigns) with digital and varying degrees of human advice to zero in on its clients’ needs. Its base digital-only offering is priced at 0.25% of assets under management (AUM). Ellevest Premium, which offers digital and human advice for clients with a minimum of $50,000 invested, is priced at 0.5% of AUM. Lastly, Ellevest Private Wealth Management is a traditional, high-touch advisory service for clients with at least $1 million of investable assets (fees vary depending on AUM).

Compared to other independent robo-advisers, Ellevest is a small player. According to a recent SEC filing, it has less than $1 billion in combined AUM. The company is experiencing strong user growth, according to Krawchek, with the cost of acquisition reducing over time. It’s also experiencing growth in its private wealth offering, which hit the milestone of $100 million in AUM in March.

When asked about the “latte shaming” debate that resulted from JPMorgan Chases’s recent Twitter debacle over personal finance advice, Krawcheck suggested financial education is far more complex than telling someone to spend less on coffee. There also are gender biases that creep into how people are judged by their financial habits, she noted.

“It’s harmful on many different levels,” Krawcheck said. “With its creamy goodness in the morning, [a latte] is a female essence luxury, right? It’s not ‘Don’t buy the six pack [of beer]’. This advice to women is driving them towards guilt.”