News, Vision & Voice for the Advisory Community


Why exactly Northwestern Mutual bought a digital darling for $250 million, shut it down, orphaned its customers and declared progress

When the Milwaukee-based mega-insurer relaunches in six months, the one aspect certainly subtracted from the mix will be the cash-draining 8,000 mass market customers

Author By Lisa Shidler May 9, 2018 at 9:23 PM
no description available
Alexa von Tobel will keep her title with the relaunch of LearnVest but her idealistic mission may or may not survive.



Women of Wealth Management



May 9, 2018 — 11:41 PM
lisa... insightful parts of this article but tucked in at the end... "office has tripled in size"... over a period of time when Northwestern has made its first layoffs (hundreds of them) in many, many decades in Milwaukee. from folks i know there the entire acquiring company (prob $75-$100 billion market value), one of top life insurers on the planet, is being rebuilt/reconfigured through LearnVest's planning software, tools, operations and personnel in NYC. $250 million or more seems like a very small price to pay for that kind of change occurring which was clearly the core thesis on acquiring the startup in the first place to those who know the insurance space. a huge strategic success if things are unfolding as explained to me. the other big life insurers in the dark on technology front. unfortunate to see the great vision of the company go unfulfilled, however, i hear you there.
Brian Patrick Murphy

Brian Patrick Murphy

May 10, 2018 — 1:49 AM
Time will tell, but the acquisition of Learnvest, like that of FutureAdvisor and Jemstep haven't shown to be the "game-changers" industry seers had originally thought - either inside the acquiring organizations or externally with the end consumer. My opinion is that the product/market fit has not been found by any of these organizations...nor Betterment or Wealthfront. It's not because the market isn't there, it's because the products haven't been fully baked. Acquisitions typically stop the product development cycle in its tracks - kind of like complaining that a rose doesn't smell like you thought it should, when its been snipped off as a bud. Just sayin'


May 10, 2018 — 2:38 AM
I am a recently departed rep from Northwestern (moving to HNW, out of insurance). Will say that Learnvest platform has been biggest change agent for the company, ever. Your article does not capture story of acquisition. But cannot blame you. Strange that Schlifske hasn’t spoken up. I am sure he will. The future of the company works out of the office in New York, clear to the field. Two football fields of engineers, it is a sight to see. Alexa’s team loved by field for what they have done and really Great CTO from Learnvest, a special talent. Agree with Brian and with JJ above.


May 10, 2018 — 1:56 PM
Facts are facts. The only way to deal with pesky middle class folk is to sell them variable annuities or some form of commission rich insurance and call it a day. On the flip side, even at $19.99 a month the whole Kitces pipe dream of pitching this just like a "gym membership" also goes out the door. Maybe in the end the middle class was better off with Whole Life just like it was back in 1910?


May 11, 2018 — 1:49 AM
Learnvest was never a viable business, zero profit, burned through cash. $325 million acquisition then the same per year to pay for poorly managed under performers. ThE rock stars were run out. Northwestern Mutual promoting the inexperienced and clueless LearnVest executives is crazy! Blind leading the blind. Platform NEVER EVER was viable. Agree with others, Alexa could sell snow to a snowman.
Jonny Steinberg

Jonny Steinberg

June 7, 2018 — 7:35 PM
Now that LearnVest officially stopped supporting customers on June 5th. What are people using for alternatives? Are there options that are at similar price points or lower?
Ryan Michaels

Ryan Michaels

June 8, 2018 — 6:01 AM
It depends on what you were using LearnVest for. If you are are fine spending the money ($300+ per year) and get a lot of value out of the investment advice functionality, then there are some options out there for you such as Grove (it does take 2-4 weeks to get a plan and requires you to attend an initial 30 min Q&A session before signing up). If you are most intersted in getting advice on-demand, action plans for your goals and help/tracking in achieving them, Clerkie (<a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/clerkie-your-money-manager/id1132917036?ls=1&mt=80" rel="nofollow">https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/clerkie-your-money-manager/id1132917036?ls=1&mt=80</a>) is a great option because it's easy to get started, is free or $4.99 per month depending on what you want. Anyone else have other suggestions?
Brian Patrick Murphy

Brian Patrick Murphy

June 8, 2018 — 6:13 PM
My company (Kivalia) provides automated advice for 401(k) plan participants using a "crowd sourced" model to get data on the investment options within plans. We're working on a paid subscription offering that will be along the lines of Grove and Learnvest, but fully automated at a lower price point.


July 19, 2019 — 2:12 PM
The reason Schlifske hasn’t spoken up is because the LearnVest acquisition, 4 years ago, has not helped NM’s bottom line. Revenue increase for the last 3 years has been well below the trends in prior years, and in 2017 revenue dropped compared to 2016. Premiums have also flat lined the past 3 years leading me to believe that NM leadership has lost focus on how to run the company. The future of the company is still unfolding, but unfortunately there’s been some critical damage to the company’s reputation. LearnVest is now gone as NM has shutdown the reinvented LearnVest site and is closing the Arizona office. <a href="https://www.thelayoff.com/northwestern-mutual" rel="nofollow">https://www.thelayoff.com/northwestern-mutual</a>
Brian Murphy

Brian Murphy

July 19, 2019 — 11:01 PM
And there you have it...put a nail in it. It seems the fat lady has sung.

Related Moves

January 9, 2021 at 2:06 AM

UBS bets its 'wealth' future on ex-Schwabbie Naureen Hassan, a corporate digital A-lister, who analysts give a fighting chance to transcend PaineWebber's ossified culture

Still a $2-billion cash-flow cow, the Swiss bank's 6,000-broker, US-based wirehouse is milking aging broker relationships with aging investors but needs a new kind of human presence, empathy, mindset and smarts to draw in Gen Z.

July 16, 2022 at 1:35 AM

Wealthfront's unlikely tapping of Sheila Bair and Tom Curry signals likely push to gain a bank charter, analysts say

The Redwood City robo-advisor's addition of two renowned former chief banking regulators brings legitimacy and guidance that could lead to a margin-fattening bank charter and help solve the robo-advisor's problem of high client acquisition costs.

December 31, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Mentioned in this article:

Consulting Firm
Top Executive: Bill Winterberg

Advizr Inc.
Financial Planning Software
Top Executive: Hussain Zaidi

RIABiz Directory

The Industry Sourcebook for RIAs

   |    LISTING

RIABiz Directory sponsored by:

Directory Sponsor Logo

White Paper Postings

Common Tags

Recent Articles

Popular Writers

RIABiz logo


About Us




RIABiz, Mill Valley, California
Copyright © 2009-2024 RIABiz Inc. All rights reserved.