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Northwestern Mutual Shuts Down FinTech Unit

Three years and $250 million later, the insurance company’s financial planning acquisition LearnVest has gone dark.

Insurance giant Northwestern Mutual has pulled the plug on LearnVest’s core product — financial advice — three years after buying the startup for a reported $250 million in cash. 

The parent company quietly released a statement last week titled, “Northwestern Mutual and LearnVest Take Next Step in Integration,” which noted that the wholly-owned advisory “will discontinue its financial planning offering for consumers, as well as its LearnVest@Work program for businesses.”

LearnVest’s website now shows an automatic message with a support email address and note that “we’re a work in progress,” and several customers have taken to Twitter to complain about the shutdown. The LearnVest account, meanwhile, hasn’t tweeted since its May 1 missive, “Your wedding may be one of the best days of your life — but it can also be the one of the most expensive... Enter the microwedding!”

Some have speculated that Northwestern Mutual overpaid for LearnVest, which founder Alexa von Tobel started in 2009 after dropping out of Harvard Business School.

The insurer was freshly off of a major deal to sell Russell Investments to the London Stock Exchange Group, which brought in $2.7 billion for Northwestern Mutual, according to a 2014 release. 

Purchasing LearnVest aligned with similar moves by other traditional financial firms into robo-advising and Millennial-friendly retail investing. 

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Northwestern Mutual has embraced von Tobel, who remained unit CEO after the acquisition, and last year was promoted to be the first-ever chief digital officer of the parent company. 

LearnVest’s website will relaunch later this year as a “fresh, digital resource focused on educating consumers on how to meet their financial goals,” according to the May 3 announcement. 

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