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Ana Mahony, Founder & CEO of Addition Wealth on the digital plus human approach to financial health

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Ana Mahony, Co-Founder & CEO of Addition Wealth

When it comes to financial health there is still much work to be done. While fintech has certainly made an impact here the average consumer is no more financially healthy than they were a decade ago. This is a problem that fascinates me and I love it when I talk to companies that are making a real difference in this area.

My next guest on the Fintech One-on-One podcast is Ana Mahony, the CEO and founder of Addition Wealth. Their financial health platform is targeted at employers to offer as a benefit to their employees but what makes them unique is the human interaction. While they have a lot of digital tools for employees they also offer free one-on-one sessions with CPA and Certified Financial Planners.

In this podcast you will learn:

  • How the idea for Addition Wealth first germinated.
  • How the program at First Round Capital really helped launch the company.
  • The breadth of their product offerings to enhance financial health.
  • Why the human interaction is such a differentiator for Addition.
  • How they can scale with a human plus digital approach.
  • How they vet these financial advisors and ensure they are providing quality advice.
  • How Ana’s experience at Uber has helped develop their platform.
  • What is involved in implementing Addition Wealth with a new employer.
  • Details of their go-to-market strategy.
  • The scale they are at today.
  • What people care about most when it comes to their financial health.
  • The average percentage of employees that engage with their offering.
  • Her vision for the future of Addition Wealth.

Read a transcription of our conversation below.

Peter Renton  00:01

Welcome to the Fintech One-on-One podcast. This is Peter Renton, Chairman and co-founder of Fintech Nexus. I’ve been doing this show since 2013, which makes this the longest running one-on-one interview show in all of fintech. Thank you so much for joining me on this journey.

Peter Renton  00:27

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Peter Renton  00:52

Today on the show, I’m delighted to welcome Ana Mahony. She is the CEO and founder of Addition Wealth. Now Addition Wealth is a super interesting company. They’re not that old. But they have created a unique financial wellness platform that provides a lot of the financial tools you would expect when I say those words, but they also provide personalized financial expertise. And that’s their secret sauce, we get into how this all works in some depth. And they go through the employer to facilitate these, these tools. So it costs nothing for the employee. And I think that is a powerful thing. And let’s face it, people need to understand more about their finances, they need to learn more about financial health. Oftentimes, it’s a little bit intimidating. What Addition does is really provide a great entry point for people to learn some of the basics, learn some of the broader terms and how things work, but also to get that one-on-one advice, which I think is so critical. Anyway, it was a fascinating discussion. Hope you enjoy the show.

Peter Renton  02:05

Welcome to the podcast, Ana.

Ana Mahony  02:07

Thank you for having me, Peter.

Peter Renton  02:09

My pleasure. So let’s get started by giving the listeners a little bit of background about yourself. You’ve had an interesting, had some interesting stops in your career to date. Why don’t you give us some of the highlights?

Ana Mahony  02:21

So my background is in both consumer finance. And then I also worked in the tech industry for six years at Uber. Began my career working for a private equity fund whose sole LP was JP Morgan, we invested in consumer finance companies. So learned to really love the space and the ins and outs of how different financial products can service consumers, how you think about getting people the right access to information, advice, solutions for their needs. Also, at that time came to appreciate that we live in a world where the more access to wealth you have, the more teams of people or support, you oftentimes have to figure out how to make that money worth more. And always felt like there should be a better solution, right, where everyday folks should also have the chance to make the most out of their money no matter what that amount was. So with that I did a few more things in the consumer finance space, I worked for the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for a year in Washington, DC. I also did a rotational program at Citi Group. And then I went to Uber for six years, I was on the ride side first. And then I moved over to the Uber Eats business. And that was a, that was a phenomenal journey basically learned how can you use product and technology and marketplaces and scaled businesses to make things available to people that have previously been unaffordable, whether it be access to a private ride, or the delivery of anything at your doorstep, and loved my time at Uber. After the company went public, I wanted to do something much earlier stage and basically said, Okay, is it possible to basically take all of the lessons that I learned during my time there and apply them to this very well documented challenge that is most people in the US don’t have access to great personalized financial expertise. And so can we actually take the lessons of product, tech, scaled marketplaces, and other things, and use it to solve that problem? And that’s what we do at Addition Wealth.

Peter Renton  04:25

When did the idea germinate?

Ana Mahony  04:27

I back in 2014, was thinking about okay, could I start a company that helps people think through their retirement planning? It was not the right time for me. I had no tech experience. I hadn’t done anything early stage. And it just wasn’t the right time for me personally. But the need for these types of solutions were very clear to me for a long time. And actually, I know you’re not, I know you’re not asking this question, but I always like sharing that for me the hardest part of my entrepreneurial journey was actually the decision to start a company. Starting a company is not easy, right? It’s not for the faint of heart, there are lots of challenges that you got to work through, you get many more nos than you get yeses, right, even when a company is doing well. But for me, and I think for a lot of people, and I would say maybe women as well, others, I oftentimes think that the hardest part of starting a company is the decision to leave your job and to go do that.

Peter Renton  05:24

So then I was watching an interview that you did a while back, and you were talking about how you started the company. And I remember you said you were like in an incubator or something, or an accelerator program, and you had two different ideas. Tell us a little bit about sort of that, sort of early time and how you landed on what you’re doing now at Addition?

Ana Mahony  05:45

Well, I sat down one day, actually in a WeWork with a couple of friends. And we were like, Okay, if we were to start something, we were thinking like, how could we support each other? Would we do something together? Or separately? What are ideas that like, could maybe be of interest? And for me, I thought, Okay, what is something that I’m passionate about? Right? If you’re gonna dedicate 10 years to something, and you know, it’s gonna have ups and downs, like what’s a problem that you’ll stay committed to for the long term? The second criteria for me was what’s a, what’s a problem that’s big enough that you can build a business and a large business out of solving that problem. And the third one was, what’s a problem that won’t go away, right. And so there were a few different industries in that category. For me, I was thinking at the time about like, supporting people with their finances, but also, cybersecurity is a big space, as well, as I was thinking a lot about the gig economy and how to support workers in that space as well. But for me, I really landed back on this challenge. it’s a problem that both professionally and personally, I’ve always felt strongly about, that people deserve better access to their personal finances. And so within that space, I started off wanting to help people retire. And I was lucky enough to be part of a program through First Round Capital that basically helped validate business ideas. And so it was this awesome program, where they basically help you speak with a number of experts within a short period of time. And you can ask them a bunch of questions and basically say, Okay, if I were to try to do X, or Y, or Z, how do you think this would work and industry experts can give you their perspective. And I was pretty dead set at the time on starting a retirement based solution. And that idea was like clear within the first three weeks that I was just not going to be able to pull it off. But what did come out of those conversations was, well, could you take a more holistic approach, right and find a solution with humans and basically connect humans to people on whatever type of problem that they need, and build a scalable tech infrastructure under that. And maybe you could even sell that through the employer. So understanding that one of the big challenges in that space is the cost of DTC acquisition maybe their space, to be able to work through employers. And so part of the accelerator or the program there was connecting me with a number of different HR leaders and asking them, would you be interested in a benefit like this? If so, what would it need to do? How would it need to help your employees, and through those series of conversations, I started to have conviction around the idea.

Peter Renton  08:23

I know you’ve touched on there, but maybe you can get into a little bit more detail on exactly what it is you’re offering and how it works.

Ana Mahony  08:31

So Addition Wealth, we partner with forward thinking employers to provide a financial wellness solution for their employees. So what that means is, if you are an employee at Lime, the scooter company, they were our first client, Lime pays Addition Wealth, and then their employees get free access to our set of solutions. So that’s a digital platform where they can receive content, information, set up their financial information, if they’d like, through that platform, they can do self service learning, they can see webinars that we’ve done for their employee base, and they can also set up time with a financial advisor or a CPA at no cost to them. We do do for each company, a number of different events, whether that be office hours, or webinars where we deep dive into specific financial topics that we know are important to that specific employee base. So right now, we’re doing a lot on taxes, because it’s tax season and everybody has questions about their taxes. throughout different times of the year, we might do sessions on planning for a family, buying a home, saving for your retirement, thinking about how to get out of debt. So we lean into topics that we know are important to people. And then the last thing that we offer is unlimited free access to CFPs and CPAs, who act as fiduciaries to employees. So the employees do not have to pay for these sessions. They can use them as they like And these awesome group of advisors that we work with, are not trying to sell them products, they’re not trying to take them off platform, they’re truly there to help the individuals work through the needs that they have. So happy to talk a little bit more about the types of problems that we help people with in their finances. But that’s the overall program.

Peter Renton  10:19

Like that program all sounds great, a lot of it’s going to be semi-automated, it’s scalable. But the one thing I want to dig in into that sort of one-on-one, this is a human interaction, this is not automated, it’s not recording, you’re not talking to an AI. These are people that are giving their time, and the employee pays nothing for it. I question about how scalable it is? And how do you like 1% of people take advantage of this? I’m sure you’ve got some good stats on it. I’m just curious about how that all works?

Ana Mahony  10:53

Yeah, it’s a great question. So our offering is a combo of digital plus human. So we do provide access to human advisors, we love that money is emotional. Digital experiences cannot account for every use case that an employee may want to discuss. But then we also do offer financial tools and resources and ways to work through your financial information, as well as to learn on your own as well as in group sessions. So we use the combination of the digital plus human to enable people to work through their financial decisions in a number of different ways. But we do, we do offer both, which is what makes the program scalable and affordable. There’s another piece to the human interaction, which I think is really important. Which is, we live in a world where traditionally, financial advisors have been in the business of making money off of AUM. And so a lot of the goals of many financial advisors, not all but many, have been okay, let me understand all of your asset information, let’s talk about what your long term plan is, let me understand what I can manage for you. That is great. And that is one offer. But I actually think, and what we’ve seen is that people need much more flexible needs around their finances. Also, people don’t always want to share everything about their finances, when they have a specific question. Right? You may have a question about, for example, how to think about restructuring some of your debt payments, that you don’t need to share everything else about your finances in order to get to a really good answer on that. And so we support both, we support employees, in both, they’re getting access to longer term financial plans, but also getting access to just in time answers for the needs that they have. And so we find that sometimes employees set up a call with a financial advisor, and within 15 to 30 minutes, they can get a really great solution to what they were looking for. That answer was not nearly as like, articulate as I probably could have made it.

Peter Renton  12:58

Okay, how are you vetting these people, because I can imagine that the quality could be, could differ dramatically?

Ana Mahony  13:07

You have to be very thoughtful about the quality of folks that you bring onto the platform. So we take a two pronged approach. The first is the network of advisers that we choose to work with is highly selective. And we’re very careful about ensuring that they are experienced, that they are proven that they are high quality, we then put them through a specific program to integrate them into our broader offering. And to enable them to be successful on the Addition Wealth experience. The second thing we do is we track and monitor to ensure that those conversations are high quality and deliver to the employees what they need. So after every single one-on-one, we send out a survey to the employee saying on a scale from one to 10, how satisfied are you with that interaction? And our average response is 9.5 out of 10.

Peter Renton  13:53

Wow, it strikes me as you’re talking there that you have, in some ways, you’re running a two sided marketplace here, right? You have your clients on one side, like Uber famously ran a two sided marketplace, which you were involved with. And then you’ve got the advisors, the in-person advisors. How was your time at Uber kind of helping you manage that sort of, that dynamic?

Ana Mahony  14:16

Yeah, that’s right. So we have a number of us on the team that came from Uber. And we built the marketplaces, both on the ride side and then on the eat side. And so what we’ve done is we basically said, how can we set up a very high quality offering for both the end employees that are utilizing the product, as well as a great experience for the financial advisors, right, and one where it’s a mutually beneficial experience, but that works. And so we’ve taken a lot of the learnings that we had and what do we focus on, we focus on availability, right? We ensure that when an employee goes to set up time, they can speak with somebody the next day if they need to, and then we ensure that the experience is high quality. And so we do a lot on both vetting the individuals that we bring on the platform, ensuring in real time through different types of tracking and data and surveys that we have to make sure it’s a positive experience. And then we also work really hard to make sure that this is a positive experience for the advisors as well. We haven’t had any churn on the advisor on the marketplace from the financial advisor perspective, because we also are really thoughtful about how to make this work for them as well. So we’re extremely proud of what we’ve been able to do. That type of setup also makes giving individuals access to human advice in person possible, right? Because in the traditional models, where it’s a, you know, it requires multiple hours of conversation before you can provide value to someone, that is very expensive, and that’s not scalable. But I think that is a very traditional way of thinking about how to give people access to high quality humans. And there are more flexible ways to do that.

Peter Renton  15:57

And how much of that part of your offering is really key to closing deals, is it sort of, is it like the cherry on top? Or is it an integral part of the decision when companies are coming on board?

Ana Mahony  16:09

I think it’s a key part, right? It’s by no means the only way that we engage with employees. And employers know that right? They appreciate the flexibility of the digital offering, and enabling employees to choose their own journey for how they’d like to work through their finances. But there’s something that’s very comforting about knowing that you can speak with someone. Finances are an emotional topic. I think there’s also a very broad range of understanding about one’s finances. And so we see a lot of individuals who have fear about how to approach them, right, it can be a very scary topic. And so one of the reasons why we like to provide access to digital solutions and self service tools, as well as some of these community events as well as the one-on-one is because you may have people who don’t feel comfortable navigating on their own, maybe they don’t even feel comfortable talking to someone, right, but they’re more than happy to sit in on a webinar for a topic that they know is super important to them and learn and hear their peers ask really smart questions, and that helps them take steps in the right direction. So I find that the human component is a key piece of delivering a high quality offering. But it is no means, by no means the only piece to the solution.

Peter Renton  17:26

What’s the lead time? What’s involved in implementing your solution?

Ana Mahony  17:30

So the fastest we’ve done, and we’ve done this twice now is we’ve met a company, they’ve signed the contract that night, we do an onboarding, call with them the next day, and then the following day, we can roll out the platform to their employees. So we’ve twice within like 48/72 hours launched a new company. There are other groups that obviously take longer than that. But once you’ve set up an infrastructure that works, and we build our tech configurability, right, so we need to understand from a company, okay, let’s understand how your business is set up. Let’s understand what’s important to your employees. But then we can pretty easily begin to configure an experience for them. And then once we’re up and running with those employees, and we can see, okay, what are the financial topics that are important to them? How are they engaging? What are the changes that are taking place in someone’s finances? What are the events that are taking place at a company, right, we obviously continue to configure and customize that experience for that end group of users. But in terms of setting it up, if it’s something that isn’t a net new build, we can, we can deploy quite quickly.

Peter Renton  18:42

I presume everything happens on your site, right? Like you have a login and everything, you’re in control of how everything operates. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to do it and you couldn’t integrate into a payroll system or an HR system in 24 hours.

Ana Mahony  18:54

So we can integrate HR information into our platform within that, within a pretty fast timeframe. And then we can integrate to, through SSO, into other people’s platforms as well. Again, it depends on what the company wants to do, but we are able to integrate into other platforms.

Peter Renton  19:13

How much does it cost to get you guys on board? I imagine it varies depending on the size of company, but can you give us some type of range?

Ana Mahony  19:20

We work with companies depending on their size. So the larger, we typically charge in a per employee, per month fee, and then the larger the company, then you start to decrease that PEPM a bit.

Peter Renton  19:34

Okay, and then are you’re going at one company at a time? I imagine this would be a great thing for the, you know, the ADPs and Trinets of the world. What’s your go to market strategy?

Ana Mahony  19:46

On the go to market front, we do engage with companies, right, so we will engage with companies directly. We will also create partnerships with other groups that are connected with company so that we can do a distribution partnership, if you will. And we can partner, partner on different fronts.

Peter Renton  20:07

Okay. Okay, so then can you give us a sense of the scale you guys are at today? Like, how many clients? How many employees? Something that gives us some sense of where you’re at?

Ana Mahony  20:16

Yeah, we are in the 10s of 1000s of employees. And we don’t release the number of customers that we have on the platform today.

Peter Renton  20:26

Okay. Okay. And what about the journey towards breakeven? I mean, like, I know, you haven’t been doing this company that long. But how are you guys doing financially, shall we say?

Ana Mahony  20:38

We’re in a strong cash flow position today, in large part, because we’ve been very thoughtful about growing our business, while being very thoughtful about building a technology that scales. So we can use what we’ve built, right, we can configure it for the next client by being really thoughtful about what they need, and building out a scaled operation and team. So we are in a very strong financial position today.

Peter Renton  21:05

Okay. So then you’ve also got a good window into what people care about financially. What do people care about, in general? What are some of the things that they really want to know more about?

Ana Mahony  21:18

It’s a great question. So we see a few different things, I’ll share a couple of quotes that I pulled ahead of this that have just been very meaningful to me. So last year, I was at an employee benefits fair. And an employee walked up to our table and said, I never dreamed that I could own my own home. But thanks to the work that I did with your company, I not only was able to save for a home, but I was supported through the process of buying one as well. That was extremely meaningful. More recently, I’ll read a quote that somebody submitted on our platform, my student loan rate was getting super high. And I was freaking out and couldn’t focus, I set up a one-on-one with an advisor, I felt better, it was one less thing I had in the back of my mind, it may feel really terrible to have this much debt, but at least I know what I’m doing. And then we had another one, I can’t tell you what I spent all my money on before Addition, I just know it was all gaming and food. Once I started using Addition, so many other things changed. I ended up losing weight, I ended up spending more time being productive. It’s so crazy how your money dictates what you do with your self.

Peter Renton  22:25

Interesting.

Ana Mahony  22:26

It’s really interesting, Peter, because the thing that has been the most validating about the work that we do is since we were in private beta, with our first company now over two years ago, the end user impact was always clear. This is the type of product that helps people. Some of the initial quotes that we had, these are the types of questions I was holding on to for the last two years, but I didn’t want to spend $3,000 to get them answered. And so we see their their everyday problems, right? People are worried about their retirement, people  want to work through equity compensation decisions, which are very expensive to understand, it can be very expensive to know what to do. On the equity compensation front. We’re helping people who are figuring out how to plan their finances after a divorce. I mean, it really spans the gamut. There are a lot of people who are planning for a family and thinking about okay, what does that mean? How do I invest in my child’s education? Because we service as companies, we engage with employees who really range the span of early in their career learning and thinking about what to do with their finance, for the first time, all the way through to people who have savings, are planning for their retirement, are really in a very lucky spot to be in. But when you go through the go to market channel that we’ve gone through, you have to be really smart about how do you set up a product, a technology and a content solution set that really speaks to people who engage on a broad range of financial issues, and with different levels of financial education. So it’s been really great to see that that has worked. We obviously spend our days on how can we grow? What can we do better? What do we need to fix? What can we build, but the solution is helping solve a problem that is very well documented. And that is clear that people need.

Peter Renton  24:16

And I imagine this is going to be pretty sticky. Because once you put this in and people are used to this, you would have an incredibly hard time with employees. If you say yeah, we can’t really afford that anymore, sorry. Are you finding this is a really sticky solution?

Ana Mahony  24:32

We see on average that 70% of employees are engaging with our offering, which is a number we’re very proud of, and frankly, that we work very hard to achieve. And we have a CSAT from the employees of 90%. So we’re very proud of that. We have seen very sticky renewals from employers for the exact reasons that you mentioned. The other thing we’ve seen that’s been really great is we’ve seen some of our HR partners or employees that were at companies that we launched with, then move employers and ask if we can bring it to their new employer. So that has been, that is always extremely flattering and validating and inspiring for our team, when that happens.

Peter Renton  25:13

So how small a company will you go down to work with? I mean, what’s the minimum?

Ana Mahony  25:18

We like to work with companies that are at least in the hundreds, up through 1000s, 10s of 1000s. We can go even into the 100s of 1000s of employees, and we do that today. But we’re open to working with companies of all sizes.

Peter Renton  25:33

I’m sure you did market research, I mean, some maybe some of the big fortune 500 companies have some of what you’re doing in house. But it sounds like in some ways, you’re introducing a new product to market. And oftentimes, it’s better to have, being an existing market and bring in a better product. But are you finding this given this is new product, are you competing against existing products? I mean when people say no, why do they say no? I imagine you don’t get 100% yes?

Ana Mahony  26:06

No, I would love to get 100%. We’re not in the business of, when you start a company, you’re not in the business of 100% yes. No, it’s a great question. So I would say it comes in two fold. Sometimes companies don’t have the budget, right for a new benefit for their employees. And that just is what it is, right? We work with them, we see when that might be the case. And we see some companies turn. There’s a second set of pieces here, which is some of the very large retirement providers do provide access to some financial solutions. And so sometimes an employer will say, Well, I have a solution here. And what we find is that for employers who truly want to help their employees work through their financial decisions, they want more than what is currently available. Because our, the clients that we work with today, they all have, obviously the solutions with these retirement providers. But those companies are often incented by a business model that is very AUM oriented, right? And so when it comes to decisions, like how should I think about paying down my debt, or if I am going to invest in a home, or continuing to rent, right decisions that we all make, unless some of those assets are going to go to the institution, it’s not, maybe they will help you, maybe they won’t, but that’s not really how they’re earning their funds. Right. And so we at Addition Wealth are in the business of helping people make the financial decisions that are best for them and their family. Like that is our mission. That is what we do. That is what we get paid to do. And so we don’t mind at all what that problem is, and we help people with, you know, how do I plan my budget after getting divorced and being in a new life, right? How do I invest money if I’m planning for a child, and I want to think about education, but that same family planning conversation can also be I’m going to have a child and I don’t know if I can afford the childcare or some of these other unexpected costs, what can I do? And we are more than happy to dig into all of these questions. And these are the questions that are causing stress to 58% of people in the US.

Peter Renton  28:21

Well, you’ve got a big market that you can you can attack here because there’s a huge percentage of population that would that would love to have this this product offered by their employer. So what’s your vision when you look at it in the context of I just said, there were this is really, like your TAM is as big as anybody in fintech, really. So what’s your vision?

Ana Mahony  28:43

Yeah, our vision is twofold. One, to continue helping as many people as possible, right, we are, we kick off our Mondays with the celebration of the customer impacts that we’ve had the prior week. And we always have something to share, because we have great impact on our employees that we that we work with and for, every week. So we’d like to expand that into the millions and the 10s of millions and 1000s of companies that we can work with. The second piece of our vision is really thinking about how can we integrate into some of the existing distribution channels that where people already touch end consumers, right? We have built a technology that is very smart about how do you help people work through better financial decisions. And there are many places where people are making financial decisions where they’re not necessarily going to go to Addition Wealth first, and that’s fine. But can we use some of the tools and technology and consumer first orientation that we’ve built, and help integrate it into some of those other solutions? So there’s work that we’re doing there, we’re earlier in that phase, but that’s been very exciting and very promising as well.

Peter Renton  29:54

Okay, well, I have to leave it there Ana, it really is super interesting, I think. I wish you the best of luck. I think we need to attack financial health in every possible way we can. I think what you’re doing is brilliant, so thanks for coming on the show.

Ana Mahony  30:08

Thank you so much for taking the time, Peter.

Peter Renton  30:12

Well I hope you enjoyed the show. Thank you so much for listening. Please go ahead and give the show a review on the podcast platform of your choice and go tell your friends and colleagues about it. Anyway, on that note, I will sign off. I very much appreciate you listening, and I’ll catch you next time. Bye.

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