Chris Hutchins has always been looking for ways to save a dime. For years, friends have sought out his advice on how to live frugally and be smart with their money. “I’ve always been someone who optimizes money in every way possible,” he says.
In 2015, while working at Google Ventures, Hutchins wanted to figure out a way to combine his savvy with technology to help people better manage their money on a larger scale. “I realized most people don’t have a clue what’s going on with their finances,” he says. “They know it’s important, but generally aren’t willing to spend thousands of dollars a year to figure it out.”
Though 85 percent of adults say they feel financial anxiety, only 32 percent actually seek out professional financial advice, according to data from the 2016 Northwestern Mutual Planning and Progress Study. Part of the reason is that working with a financial advisor is notoriously expensive. Creating an initial financial plan costs an average of $2,500, according to data from the Financial Planning Association. Hutchins founded Grove to make it easier for people to manage their finances and their future responsibly. He built a financial planning service that costs considerably less than a traditional advisor, while still offering very personalized advice. To bring down costs, the Grove team figured out a way to automate and streamline as much of the process as possible.
Collecting data from clients has typically been done manually by financial advisors, making it a time and labor intensive process. Grove has built software that can gather this information more efficiently and then assist advisors in using the inputs to create a financial plan.
Because Grove is able to automate much of its information-gathering process and develop algorithms to streamline financial planning, it’s able to offer individualized services at a much lower price point. Grove charges $900 per year for financial planning, which includes an annual update of the plan. This compares with the average cost for a one-time plan at $2,500, or potentially over $5,000 per year for a traditional financial advisor. Hutchins notes, “This dropstep-change in price will open financial planning up to a whole new set of people.”
In addition to creating efficiencies through software innovations, Grove is focused on making financial planning feel more approachable for people. Hutchins knows that financial advice can be intimidating. “Getting a 60-page report with huge tables and tiny print is totally overwhelming for people,” Hutchins says.
Grove is leveraging clean design and clear language to deliver financial advice that is jargon-free with easy to understand visuals and actionable recommendations. Where a traditional financial plan might advise a client to invest her 401(k) into 60 percent stocks and 40 percent bonds, Grove offers advice on which investment funds to choose, and how much to allocate to each.
The team at Grove has been experimenting with how to maintain the personal connection that traditional advisors have while driving more of the communication with technology. “You see companies trying to use technology to replace humans in so many different ways,” says Hutchins. “Our secret sauce is that we are not trying to replace humans. We are trying to make our advisors more efficient, and make the touchpoints they have with clients as impactful as possible.”
Instead of shying away from regulation, Grove embraces it. Grove is a registered investment adviser and makes their fiduciary duty clear to their clients. Hutchins explains, “Our responsibility to give the best advice to our clients is a great match with our mission as a company.”
Partnering with CFSI as part of its FinLab has also been crucial in getting Grove off the ground. “We started this as a very mission-driven company. The goal was to identify a really big problem and find a way to solve it,” says Hutchins. “CFSI is also very mission-driven. Because of the history of the FinLab, there’s been a great pool of founders who’ve solved similar problems that we can lean on.”