Ritholtz Wealth Management launches robo platform

Digital startup Upside powers Barry Ritholtz and Josh Brown's new platform for emerging investors

Oct 1, 2014 @ 5:27 pm

By Joyce Hanson

High-profile advisory firm Ritholtz Wealth Management announced Wednesday it has launched its own robo-adviser platform with the help of technology startup Upside Financial.

Called Liftoff, the automated wealth management platform was launched by Ritholtz chairman and chief investment officer Barry Ritholtz and chief executive Josh Brown. The media-savvy partners, both well-known for their financial commentary via social media and traditional financial news organizations, are powering their new platform with the help of Upside Financial, a digital-platform provider that works exclusively with advisers.

(Related: Debunking 3 big myths about robo-advisers)

Similar to online investment management platforms such as Betterment and Wealthfront, Liftoff will incorporate information about investors' financial situations and personal risk tolerances to identify portfolios that will help them reach financial goals. Liftoff's simple strategy invests in low-cost exchange-traded funds and relies on automatic portfolio rebalancing.

The deal was clinched when New York-based Ritholtz Wealth approached Upside with the idea of creating a platform to help the hundreds of emerging investors who have asked the firm for advice but can't afford to pay for it, according to Mr. Brown.

“We're a boutique, a smaller firm, and there's a limit to how many clients we can take on. We have a minimum,” he said. “Upside lets us build our portfolios and take on an automated-adviser client in a way that's scalable. We're the investment side, and Upside is the technology side.”

Liftoff's assets will be custodied at TD Ameritrade.

Both Mr. Ritholtz and Mr. Brown will be joining Upside's board of advisers.

Upside co-founder and president Juney Ham said Upside's white-label technology is designed to help traditional registered investment advisers compete with robo-advisers.

“We have built a significant pipeline of interested advisers who we have already signed or are in active discussions with,” Mr. Ham wrote in an e-mail. “Given that we are completely white-labeled and do not have our own competing direct-to-consumer proposition, advisers understand and appreciate that we exist to serve and support investment advisers.”

With offices in San Francisco and St. Louis, Upside announced earlier this year it had raised $1.1 million in a venture funding round from Cultivation Capital.

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