“It’s like an online bank, except that, instead of earning a fixed rate, while the bank lends out the money at a much higher rate, you are actually invested in the underlying assets: stocks and bonds,” I said.

“Oh, so you cut out even more middle men than the branch-less banks,” she replied.

“Exactly.”

I think of our mission as bringing the best possible investments to our customers, and delivering them efficiently.  In the process of achieving that mission, we’ve cut out a lot of middle men.  It just hadn’t occurred to me what a powerful and attractive idea that is, in and of itself. We deliver direct access to the sources of wealth creation – stocks and bonds.

Unlike a bank account or other investment accounts, with Betterment, you don’t have to open multiple accounts to get started.  You don’t have to choose among funds pitched by third parties, or risk buying under-performing proprietary funds.  You don’t have a broker charging you separately from an advisor.  You don’t have several people sitting between you and your investments, earning fat fees for doing nothing. You own the stocks outright, for one low fee.  It’s a compelling proposition.