Principal Financial Group has agreed to buy RobustWealth, a New Jersey-based fintech company that offers digital advice and other automated services.
“We have to acknowledge people’s needs and wants — there is an unprecedented need for financial advice,” said Tim Dunbar, chief investment officer at Principal, in a statement. “And, in today’s fast-paced, always-on digital world, people have a strong desire for personalization, convenience, and 24/7 access to their money.”
The deal is expected to close July 2. Terms were not disclosed.
News of the transaction comes as traditional firms look to tap the demand for low-fee digital wealth management tools and automated offerings. Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo have recently launched products to compete with low-cost robo-advisors like Betterment LLC and Charles Schwab’s Intelligent Portfolios.
Those two-robo advisers manage assets of about $14 billion and $30 billion, respectively. Principal has nearly $674 billion in assets under management, while RobustWealth has about $900 million on its platform.
According to research firm Aite Group, the number of clients advised by robo-advisers is expected grow to 17 million by 2021, up from just 1.8 million in 2016. Principal currently works with more than 16 million customers.
RobustWealth said it will continue to operate under the management of CEO Mike Kerins after the deal closes.
“The role of the financial advisor — a real person across the table — remains critical,” Dunbar said. “But we must combine the best of people with the best of technology to meet clients when, where, and how they want to be met.”
He continued, “Adding RobustWealth’s digital capabilities to Principal’s deep industry knowledge, asset management experience, and technology creates a powerful force to help clients in their quest to save more, invest more, and protect more for their financial futures.”
Neal Quon, co-founder of fintech consulting firm QuonWarrene, compared the deal to Invesco’s 2016 acquisition of Jemstep, saying it was “pretty remarkable.”