Socially responsible investing is getting easier with help from Betterment
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Socially responsible investing is getting easier with help from Betterment


Invest responsibly through Betterment.
Invest responsibly through Betterment.

Image: Shutterstock / Billion Photos

Socially responsible investing is popular, and Betterment is finally getting in on the action. 

The roboadvisor is adding a socially responsible investment portfolio for Betterment customers, providing users with a way to easily direct money to companies that have broader goals than just turning profit.

Betterment users rely on the company’s roboadvisor technology to manage their savings automatically. The roboadvisor acts like a traditional financial advisor and chooses which stocks and bonds to invest in for the best financial performance based on a variety of factors dictated by users.

Like in most diversified portfolios, though, that sometimes puts customers’ savings behind companies whose ethics they might not agree with, whether because of labor practices, social policies or ties to fossil fuels. 

A crop of startups have popped up to solve this problem, urging customers to invest their savings responsibly with a roboadvisor that incorporates social responsibility into its investment decisions. OpenInvest, Grow Invest, and Aspiration all offer socially conscious investment options. 

But now the major roboadvisors are themselves filling this gap. Betterment—and rival Wealthfront—both introduced their socially responsible portfolios this month. Betterment said its new SRI portfolio offers a 42 percent improvement on social responsibility scores compared to its traditional portfolio. 

“At Betterment we’re dedicated to offering a personalized experience for all of our customers,” Alex Benke, Betterment’s vice president of financial advice and investing, said in a statement. “This means offering portfolio options that help customers align our advice to their personal values.”

It’s not perfect yet. Betterment couldn’t swap out everything in its major portfolio for an investment with a social good element, but the company said improvements are coming. 

And some of the socially conscious investment startups still offer features that Betterment doesn’t, like lower minimums to start investing. 

But now Betterment’s 280,000 customers—and their $9.6 billion in assets—can use their investments to make an impact. 

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July 19, 2017
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