There are a few financial challenges we all face, and saving for retirement is one of the biggest.
But the process is confusing and often expensive, meaning millions of Americans don’t actually have a retirement plan. Enter Vault, a Portland-based financial tech startup that is developing a platform to make saving for retirement easier and more accessible.
Vault lets users automatically invest part of their paycheck into a retirement fund, taking advantage of tech to make the process much simpler than traditional retirement plans. The idea is to make saving for retirement easier and more affordable for the increasing number of people who don’t have retirement plans through their employers.
Vault CEO Randy Fernando told GeekWire that the genesis of the company started with a call from his mother.
“She was looking for a retirement program for employees and at the time, I was a financial advisor at JP Morgan,” he explained. “After hunting for months, we couldn’t find anything that fit small business workers or independent earners with variable income.”
Since late 2015, the company has expanded to a team of 12 employees and today launched a web, iOS and Android version of their app.
We caught up with Fernando for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Vault is the first retirement product that automatically invests a percentage of your paycheck into an IRA. You earn, automatically save, and we invest.”
Inspiration hit us when: “The day I discovered that more than 70 million Americans don’t have a retirement plan because the investing tools that existed were too expensive and inaccessible with high investment minimums.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Vault has raised $1.6 million from angels in Portland and San Francisco. We’re incredibly proud of all that we’ve achieved as a lean startup and I’m excited to see what we can do with the infusion of a Series A. We plan to begin raising immediately.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We’ve automated retirement investment with new technology that tells Vault when you’re paid so you can save a set percentage of every paycheck in a Vault IRA for your future. Your money is then automatically invested into a highly competitive, globally-diversified portfolio of ETFs based on the customer timeline to retirement.
Above all else, we’ve made Vault accessible to everyone with a low $1 monthly fee and a $1 account minimum. We’re here to disprove the idea that retirement planning is limited to people with a certain income and encourage people to start today and invest at whatever pace is comfortable, even if that’s 1 percent of their income.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “To build and keep our company in the Pacific Northwest, a community that was built by entrepreneurs, small businesses, and creators, the true engine of America.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Not keeping an external conversation going in the tech community as we’ve gained customers and business momentum.”
Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Zuckerberg. He wasn’t the first to build a social media platform, but he was the best. By learning from his competition, he designed something that was built to last.”
Our favorite team-building activity is: “Vault Day!”
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Personality, drive, and passion. Some startups call this a cultural fit. We think of it more as a penchant for helping our customers with hustle.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Surround yourself with experienced advisors, strong friends, and deeply-invested stakeholders. Ask questions and approach every problem as a learning experience.”