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Apr 26, 2024 Alumni Finance

Schumm working to help people, companies close savings gap

The 2024 V. Dale Cozad Lecture on Entrepreneurship on April 3 featured a discussion between Dean Jeffrey Brown and Aaron Schumm, founder and CEO of Vestwell. Vestwell is an employer and individual savings platform that is transforming access to essential financial wellness and savings programs and working to close the American savings gap.

Schumm, a 2000 Gies College of Business alumnus with a degree in finance, described his company’s mission as solving the problem of the savings gap. “People don’t save enough,” he said. “We’re trying to reshape how people engage in saving and reduce the barriers to do so.”

Schumm and his team at Vestwell create digital platforms to provide the underlying architecture to power financial services, payroll, and state partnerships. The company grew out of Schumm’s experiences in the first company he cofounded, FolioDynamix. While there, he worked on setting up a retirement program for his employees, and he discovered just how difficult that could be. There were regulations and ingrained procedures that made it difficult for him or his employees to get information and advice on retirement and to feel they were in control of the process.

After selling FolioDynamix, Schumm kept coming back to the frustration he felt with this workplace savings program for his employees. This led to the founding of Vestwell, which serves businesses of all sizes, including small businesses, that still want to provide savings options for their employees. “The majority of the workforce are in small businesses, and they are missing out on ability to save,” said Schumm. “We focus on helping those who need it most.”

Most savers will not necessarily know that they are working with a Vestwell product. Vestwell provides the platform on which other companies run their savings programs. Vestwell started with workplace retirement savings and has since expanded to offer a full suite of saving programs, offered either through the workplace or directly to individual savers. Vestwell’s holistic financial wellness offerings now span across the critical areas of life – retirement, education, healthcare, and more. According to the company website, Vestwell powers more than one million savers and 350,000 businesses across the country.

Vestwell, according to Schumm, is about creating savings by providing the tools for employees to make informed decisions. “I’m not here to be prescriptive,” Schumm said. “I looked at this problem as the ability to create a construct where people can make informed decisions. Do you have enough info to understand why you went in that direction, and that kind of thing?”

And helping people is a central part of Vestwell’s culture. “I wanted to make sure we could create a great business and help people out. We align ourselves to complementing the mission of a company’s HR – and other groups,” he said. “The majority of our team love our mission. For a lot of them – the mission is the reason they show up every day. We’re solving a real problem that impacts people’s lives.”

The conversation also touched on the idea of purpose. When Schumm arrived as a student at Gies College of Business, purpose was not something on his radar. “When I first came here, it was because I wanted to go into asset management. That wasn’t a real purpose,” he said. “Looking back, I wish I had thought about purpose more. There’s a balance there. There’s a lot to be learned from even what you don’t like. As I matured, my purpose has grown to be more important.”

In the questions from the student audience, several related to founding companies and finding and working with investors. Schumm had several pieces of advice for the students. “The key is finding the right investors at the right time,” he said. “Raise money in advance of when you need it, and remember that it will go faster than you want it to. Put your investors to work before they invest in you. They need to show that they should invest in you.” He also said that it is important to ask investors for feedback. “Even if they say no, ask them why. What did you like? What didn’t you like? What factors should we consider? And then you can start to tune up your pitch.”

About Aaron Schumm

Aaron is the founder and CEO of Vestwell, a leading employer and individual savings platform. Founded in 2016, the New York City-based fintech company is transforming access to essential financial wellness and savings programs to close the savings gap. As an extension of its partners, Vestwell enables a suite of programs, including retirement, health, and education, such as 401(k), 403(b), IRA, 529 College savings, student loan services, ABLE disability savings, and Emergency Savings programs. Today, Vestwell enables over 350,000 businesses, and over a million active savers, with more than $30 billion in assets saved in all 50 states.

Before Vestwell, Aaron co-founded FolioDynamix, now part of Envestnet (NYSE: ENV). He brings over 20 years of enterprise fintech experience from industry-leading companies, including previous roles at Northern Trust, Citigroup, and Fiserv.

About the V. Dale Cozad Lecture on Entrepreneurship

This annual lecture series was established in 1997 to honor the memory of Dale Cozad, founder of Cozad Asset Management. It provides a way for Gies Business students to hear from alumni who have gone on to be successful entrepreneurs in a wide variety of fields.