Marty Bicknell-led Shark Tank-style contest chooses to back super-ambitious RIA-automation startup, but his $25-billion RIA'll keep Orion for now
Aug. 01, 2018

Marty Bicknell's ScratchWorks, a 'Shark Tank' for RIA software firms, is backing a five-person, Potomac Falls, Va., startup, a finalist in its competition to find the next great fintech idea, but the prize is more tough love than easy money.

InvestmentPOD LLC was one of the final three, chosen from 50 applicants who pitched ideas earlier this year in hopes of landing venture capital investments and big-time RIA guinea pigs. Its CEO, Jacqueline Ko Matthews, must now move on to more lightning rounds behind closed doors before bring home the bacon. See: Five RIA principals with $60 billion of combined AUM form ScratchWorks as 'publicity stunt' and serious effort to fund fintech startups.

InvestmentPOD is arguably the most ambitious robo-advisory B2B play yet.

It asserts that it can automate a big RIA's entire investment management portfolio, its onboarding, rebalancing, and risk management, yet still allow advisors the option of choosing between putting their own imprint on the investing process or using model strategies with a very unrobo buy-and-sell approach for ETFs, mutual funds, individual stocks, and fixed income.

It had better if it wants to more than scratch the surface with the RIA big shots who are honoring its promising start.

Alongside Bicknell, InvestmentPOD's investors include fellow ScratchWorks partners Jon Jones, CEO of $5 billion AUM Seattle, WA.'s Brighton Jones Wealth Management LLC, Eadie, founder of $1.5 billion AUM Covenant Multi-Family Offices LLC, St. Louis, Missouri-based VC groups Prosper Women Entrepreneurs and SixThirty Inc., and Kansas City's UMB Financial Corporation Inc. Only Prosper's $50,000 investment has been disclosed.

The two ScratchWorks judges who chose not to invest in InvestmentPOD are Richard Burridge Jr., CEO of Chicago's $8.4 billion AUM RMB Capital LLC, and Michael Nathanson, CEO of the Boston, Mass.-based $5.2 billion AUM Colony Group LLC.

The contest was a prelude to the three sharks investing in and -- if all goes well -- applying the startup's software to their RIA accounts. Bicknell and others will use their personal accounts as guinea pigs first, as part of a trial run.

“A handful of us will onboard ourselves so we can see the real life experience and we haven't done that yet ... [but] there is no part of me that believes InvestmentPOD is ready for total adoption by a firm of our size,” says Bicknell, CEO of Mariner Wealth Advisors LLC, the Overland Park, KS.-based RIA with $25 billion in assets under management.

Launched in Oct. 2017, ScratchWorks has no outright winner. The finalists showcase themselves, then five judges and the audience bid for a slice of the VC action. This year, InvestmentPOD's Matthews faced John Michel's NYC-based all-in-one advisor portal CircleBlack Inc., and Ormond Beach, Fla.-based Snappy Kraken LLC, which personalizes, automates and tracks marketing campaigns.

Effectively, Matthews has won a combination of funding, advice, and the opportunity to bid to be the in-house robo-of-choice at Bicknell, Jones, and Eadie's RIAs, which have a combined AUM of about $32 billion. The bid, however, is contingent on meeting the shark's challenges, step by step.

Although ScratchWorks is planned as once-a-year event, the possibility of a bi-annual format is presently under consideration.

Any move to bring InvestmentPOD to the higher end of the market at a firm like Mariner is in its earliest stages, he adds. "[With] 23 locations, 200 advisors, and $25 billion in assets, we've got a lot of work to do before we know if we're ready to roll it out. We're going to do a very managed approach to figuring this out,” he says.

“Will we be able to get InvestmentPOD to a level that will let it take care of an entire $500 million relationship? I don't know. I'm not worried about that today … This is more about finding a solution for my advisors than it is an investment .”

If Mariner can help design something that takes a benchmark 75 clients-per-advisor to 100 or 120, "that's a big impact,” he adds.

Digital advice for HNW clients gains RIA support
Jul. 25, 2018

For a platform that can deliver tailored service to select clients, even RIAs are willing to invest in digital advice.

With its focus on the high-net-worth client through multistrategy management, InvestmentPOD set out to distinguish its white labeled platform for advisors from automated passive, buy-and-hold offerings.

Jacqueline Ko Matthews, CEO and co-founder of InvestmentPOD, now has the backing of three prominent advisory firms attached to ScratchWorks, an advisor tech accelerator: Mariner Wealth Advisors, Covenant, and Brighton Jones. Terms of the funding agreement were not disclosed.

But with the potential for use by over 100 advisors spread across these firms, the platform is expected to quickly grow from its current $40 million in assets. “Wealthy investors have the same requirements as all investors in this age of Amazon,” Matthews says. “The challenge for advisors to bring this level of advice and yet stay streamlined and efficient is double fold.”

The platform’s ability to customize strategies at a single client level was very attractive to Mariner, says Marty Bicknell, the advisory firm’s chief executive.

Bicknell, an investor in several fintech and advisor tech platforms including data aggregator Quovo, says he welcomed the opportunity to help fine-tune InvestmentPOD.

“Having the ability to have our fingerprint on what that looks like, providing access to real life advisors and client experience is really what interests me,” he says.

Bicknell says another motivation to invest is that for all the attention paid to digital advice, “it really hasn’t moved very much,” for advisors. The market remains fragmented, he says, since most platforms face an uphill battle to secure RIA firms' buy-in.

Another motivation to invest, he adds, reflects a wider industry imperative to improve operational efficiency.

“In general RIAs are effective but very inefficient,” Bicknell says. “If the average advisor can handle 75 households, wouldn’t that be great for the consumer if we could take that 100 by increasing the efficiency of advice delivery?”

"We are digitizing the multistrategy approach," says Jacqueline Ko Matthews, CEO and founder of InvestmentPOD.

With a focus on advisors and on serving more wealthy clients, Bicknell expects the platform to fare better than many retail investor-focused robo advisors, a market unsettled by the recent shuttering of Hedgeable's robo advice offering.

Matthews says that with the new funding and additional advisor exposure, InvestmentPOD will work toward a broader growth strategy. She hopes to appeal to advisors currently on custodian-supported platforms.

“As an independent, third party technology platform, we believe we have a much more transparent platform that is agnostic,” she says. “We do not have any retail offerings, so we continue to avoid the channel conflicts that can arise with a retail-custodian platform.”

She adds her platform is already working with multiple model marketplaces and technology platforms to integrate their strategies as options for advisors to choose from.

“We are truly open architecture,” she says.

RIA 'Shark Tank' backs a digital adviser out of the gate
Jul. 19, 2018

Consolidation among consumer-facing digital advice firms isn't stemming the flow of funds into robo platforms designed for financial advisers.

ScratchWorks, a Shark Tank-esque program for financial technology founded by five independent registered investment advisers, announced Tuesday that white-label digital adviser InvestmentPOD will receive its first investment.

InvestmentPOD bills itself as "the first multi-strategy, automated investing platform" that combines the benefits of digital advice technology (automated trading and rebalancing) with the sophisticated asset diversification strategies needed to serve high-net-worth clients who require more than a buy-and-hold portfolio.

The POD stands for passive, opportunistic and defensive.

While existing robo-advisers provide passive investing, InvestmentPOD lets advisers customize automated portfolios to take advantage of opportunities in the market with individual stocks, bonds or ETFs, or protect against downside with hedging strategies.

Marty Bicknell, CEO of Mariner Wealth Advisors and one of the five RIA members of ScratchWorks, was an early investor in Betterment for Advisors, but he said he hasn't seen any technology that integrates all of these strategies in one product. This is what ultimately convinced him and the other ScratchWorks advisers to get behind InvestmentPOD.

"I can tailor the technology to my practice instead of having to tailor my practice to the technology," Mr. Bicknell said.

While there's nothing wrong with a white-label robo that offers a preselected menu of investment models, InvestmentPOD makes it easier for him to include his firm's proprietary strategies, he said.

"I do believe that from an industry perspective, there are a lot of advisers who believe their value proposition is how they run money," Mr. Bicknell said. "This gives them the ability to fit in to the digital space."

As with the direct-to-consumer robo-advisers, InvestmentPOD's challenge will be getting advisers onto the platform in a market increasingly crowded with other independent vendors as well as products coming from custodians, broker-dealers and the wirehouses.

Ken Schapiro, the president of Backend Benchmarking, said there is still space in the B2B market as many advisers still haven't adopted robo-advice technology in their practice. That is probably because existing products on the market aren't doing enough yet to convince advisers to buy in, he said.

"You need something that works a little bit better with what the advisers already do," Mr. Schapiro said.

While he isn't familiar with InvestmentPOD, he said something more customizable than other robo-advisers could stand out as unique and be attractive to both advisers and custodians looking to improve their tech offering.

ScratchWorks' involvement in InvestmentPOD, both financially and by advising the company on its development, could help the technology grow into a better mousetrap that will attract independent advisers, Mr. Bicknell said.

As firms like Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley introduce their own automated investing technology, there's even more urgency to develop a product for the independent market that provides unique capabilities.

"The more technology we can have to serve more households per adviser is a great thing for the end client," Mr. Bicknell said.

InvestmentPOD will use the investment from ScratchWorks to further build out development resources, hire new talent and invest in emerging technologies to become the go-to resource for RIAs to automate and expand their investment management services through the InvestmentPOD technology platform.

The five RIAs that make up ScratchWorks manage more than $60 billion in AUM for high-net-worth clients and include: Mariner Wealth Advisors, RMB Capital, Covenant, Brighton Jones, and The Colony Group.

InvestmentPOD Receives Strategic Investment from the ScratchWorks FinTech Accelerator
Jul. 18, 2018

InvestmentPOD for Advisors, the industry’s first digital advice platform to offer multi-strategies, announced today that the company has received a strategic investment from the ScratchWorks Fintech Accelerator.

Investment POD is the first multi-strategy, automated investing platform offering advisors white-labeled robo automation with high net worth sophisticated asset and strategy diversification. Advisors are able to automate their trading and rebalancing process and deliver multiple solutions, above just buy and hold, which has been the typical offering of the current crop of robo advisors.

InvestmentPOD combines the sophisticated HNW investor requirements for asset and strategy diversification with robo automation, making InvestmentPOD truly unique in the wealth management industry, garnering multiple award recognition through the highly prestigious Industry Awards program as a finalist in the disruptor and robo advisor categories over multiple years.

ScratchWorks is a new FinTech Accelerator that connects innovative tech companies with investment and wealth management luminaries to advance the digital transformation of the financial services industry.

Earlier this year, ScratchWorks held its inaugural live event at the Barron’s Top Independent Advisors Conference featuring three top FinTech companies, pitching their business models and platforms as potential investment opportunities to the five luminary founders of ScratchWorks: Mariner Wealth Advisors, RMB Capital, Covenant, Brighton Jones, and The Colony Group. Collectively, these five leading RIAs manage over $60 billion in AUM for high net worth clients.

The ScratchWorks’ investors were impressed with the opportunity to partner with InvestmentPOD and have since worked out a strategic investment to help fuel the growth of InvestmentPOD.

“We were extremely thrilled and honored to make it to the finals of the ScratchWorks accelerator,” said Jacqueline Ko Matthews, CEO and co-founder of InvestmentPOD. “The idea of these five leading firms coming together to create opportunities for firms like us is very inspiring and now with this strategic investment, we will be able to grow and expand InvestmentPOD to the entire RIA industry.”

InvestmentPOD will use the investment from ScratchWorks to further build out development resources, hire new talent and invest in emerging technologies to become the go-to resource for RIAs to automate and expand their investment management services through the InvestmentPOD technology platform.

“We founded ScratchWorks to identify early-stage FinTech companies that showed a lot of promise to help transform the wealth management industry,” said Marty Bicknell, CEO of Mariner Wealth Advisors. “InvestmentPOD stood out to us as one of the most innovative technology platforms in the automated investment space and we are very excited to become strategic investors and partners with InvestmentPOD.”

Season 2 of ScatchWorks will kick off this Fall with a call for nominations from the FinTech community of early stage companies to showcase their platform in hopes of being selected to pitch their company for investment at the finals of ScratchWorks in March 2019.

To learn more about InvestmentPOD, please log onto

To learn more about the ScratchWorks FinTech Accelerator, log onto http://www.Scratch.Works.

InvestmentPOD Shines on ScratchWorks – Barron's Own FinTech Shark Tank
Apr. 11, 2018

In yet another sign that technology is having a big impact on the wealth management industry, five leading RIA firms are banding together to create a “fintech” accelerator.  Called ScratchWorks, this new platform is designed to identify and fund promising fintech startup companies and held its inaugural debut in a live session at the recently held Barron’s Top Independent Advisor conference.

In a format similar to the popular television show, “Shark Tank” three fintech companies presented their pitch live on stage to the five investors of the ScratchWorks collective in front of a capacity crowd of over 500 of the industry’s largest independent advisory firms. 

These five investors from leading RIA firms including, Marty Bicknell of Mariner Wealth Advisors, Jon Jones from Brighton Jones, Richard Burridge of RMB Capital, John Eadie of Covenant and Michael Nathanson of The Colony Group, collectively manage over $60 billion in assets. Sponsored by Fidelity, eMoney and the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business, ScratchWorks attracted over 50 fintech firms to submit an application to pitch to these five investors for potential venture capital investments, strategic partnerships and distribution agreements.

After a rigorous review process with leading academics from the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business, 10 semi-finalists from the initial 50 submitting firms and ideas were identified for further consideration which led to the choice of 3 finalists selected to pitch live to the five ScratchWorks investors.

Those inaugural ScratchWorks finalist firms are InvestmentPOD, Circle Black and Snappy Kraken.

First up on stage was InvestmentPOD. CEO Jacqueline Ko Matthews who pitched her technology platform as a multi-strategy white-label robo advisor for advisors. “Everybody wants to build a portfolio that stands the test of time,” she said noting that every 10 years or so there has been a major market downturn that can significantly impact client portfolios, such as what occurred in 2008-2009 during the Financial Crisis.

Matthews’ idea is to leverage technology to create a platform that combines a multi-strategy portfolio management approach with both asset and strategy diversification that lowers costs that are typically paid to expensive outside money manager specialists. Through her automation, algorithms and technology, she is able to simplify the process and make it more accessible so that advisors can make these sophisticated investment strategies cost-effective for all of their clients, not just their high net worth clients.

“The current crop of robo advisors are over simplified and only provide one approach, passive indexing, which has become over commoditized.  In order to justify their 1% fees,

advisors are going to have to provide a higher service level such as dynamic indexing, which historically has been done through manual efforts and expensive outside money managers.  We are bridging this gap with InvestmentPOD by using robo automation to deliver a sophisticated multi strategy approach.”

The ScratchWorks investors were impressed with InvestmentPOD and saw a lot of promise in the platform. As a result, they made a significant, “exploratory” investment offer, which Matthews accepted.

Initiatives such as ScratchWorks will be a harbinger for the future of advisor technology as advisors themselves jump into the VC game to invest in their collective futures.  To learn more about what went on at ScratchWorks, check out the many tweets on the #BarronsTIAS on Twitter.

InvestmentPOD Named Finalist in ScratchWorks Investment Competition at Barron’s Top Advisor Summit
Apr. 11, 2018

CEO Jacqueline Ko Matthews pitched her technology platform as a multi-strategy, white-label robo-advisor for advisors.

“Everybody wants to build a portfolio that stands the test of time,” she said, noting that every 10 years or so there has been a major market downturn that can significantly impact client portfolios, such as what occurred during the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

“The current crop of robo-advisors is over simplified and only provides one approach, passive indexing, which has become over commoditized,” she explained. “To justify their 1% fees, advisors are going to have to provide a higher service level, such as dynamic indexing, which historically has been done through manual efforts and expensive outside money managers. We are bridging this gap with InvestmentPOD, by using robo-automation to deliver a sophisticated multi strategy approach.”

Introduction to ScratchWorks:

Meet the “Sharks”

CEO Jacqueline Ko Matthews at WealthManagement Executive Roundtable
Nov. 09, 2017

Executives from technology vendors and wealth management firms discuss the future of the industry.

Technology is forcing change on all aspects of life, and the financial services industry is no exception. assembled some of the top executives from major technology vendors, custodians and registered investment advisors to discuss these issues and more at the the 2017 Wealth Executive Forum.

InvestmentPOD Named Finalist in's Disrupting Technology Category (2017)
Aug. 15, 2017

InvestmentPOD is one of only six companies named a finalist by in the category for Disruptive Technology!

About the Event:

Now in its 3rd year, the 2017 Executive Forum and Industry Awards recognize the companies and organizations that support financial advisor success. It has as been expanded to include an afternoon program filled with keynote speakers, CEO panel discussions and breakout sessions covering prevalent issues around technology, asset management, broker/dealers and marketing — followed by our evening industry awards gala. Over 350 professionals attended the galas in 2016.

By recognizing outstanding achievement in the industry, the Industry awards will continue to inspire innovation and leadership among industry participants., creating an environment that will enable the industry to better support advisors in their roles as leaders to their clients and communities.

3 Questions with Jacqueline Ko Matthews, CEO Of InvestmentPOD
May. 16, 2017

What does your firm do/offer within the fintech sector?InvestmentPOD is the industry’s first digital advice platform to offer multi-strategies, by providing a revolutionary approach for professional financial advisors to offer their clients sophisticated, customizable portfolios, along with enhanced trading and rebalancing capabilities. Unlike traditional “robo” investing platforms that only provide passive options, InvestmentPOD’s sophisticated investing algorithms provide multi-strategy and asset diversification, all while lowering trading costs.

Previously, this type of sophisticated approach was only available through a portfolio of hedge funds; however, hedge funds have shown to be an expensive and inefficient way to achieve these investing goals. Now, through the vast liquidity and global availability of ETFs, combined with InvestmentPOD’s advanced and sophisticated algorithms, advisors can enjoy the benefits of diversification, automation and lowered costs to take their firms to the next level.

This Robo Is Anything But Passive
Apr. 28, 2017

One of the common knocks on the automated investing services is that they can only offer a simplistic buy-and-hold strategy that can’t produce alpha or defend against a market downturn the way a traditional advisor can.

It’s a fair criticism, says Jacqueline Matthews, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker who helped spearhead the firm's Asia Pacific business. Passive investing has major peak-to-trough losses that can devastate retirement portfolios, but most people cannot afford the other strategies that HNW advisors and family offices use to safeguard assets.

“The universal problem is everyone is trying to create a portfolio that stands the test of time and weathers the storm through all sorts of cycles,” Matthews told So to create something that can work for investors big and small, Matthews launched a new robo advisor that combines passive, opportunistic and defensive – POD for short – strategies.

Investment bank techniques migrate to digital advice
Apr. 26, 2017

Up against robo advice platforms, advisers need to tap into tools from the investment banking world, says one ex-Goldman Sachs executive.

Launching her own white labeled platform for RIAs, Jacqueline Ko Matthews says that multi-strategy management allows advisers to distinguish themselves from automated passive, buy-and-hold offerings.

"We are digitizing the multistrategy approach," says Ko, CEO and founder of the newly launched InvestmentPOD. "We're taking what I used to do for UHNW clients. Wealthy people have always known you have to diversify across strategies."

The platform will offer 10 different strategies for advisers, with the option to create custom strategies, Ko says. The platform is ideal for advisers with $100 million in AUM, she says, though they can work with quick-growing practices too.

Robo offers white-label version for advisers
Apr. 20, 2017

InvestmentPOD, a Washington, D.C.,-based robo advice provider for advisers, has launched a white-labeled version of its multi-strategy product that RIAs can offer to clients as their own.

InvestmentPOD for Advisors, as the service is known, is a multi-strategy and multi-asset-class approach to algorithmic advice, the company said in a release. Unlike other robo platforms that provide passive, long-only approaches, InvestmentPOD's algorithms are designed to deliver alternative, hedge-fund-like strategies through low-cost exchange-traded funds, the company said.

"Passive, buy-and-hold strategies have resulted in significant losses over market cycles," said Jacqueline Ko Matthews, CEO and co-founder of InvestmentPOD. "Research shows that combining opportunistic and defensive strategies to complement a passive portfolio generates equal or higher returns with less risk."

T3 Technology Tools: InvestmentPOD for Advisors Launches
Apr. 19, 2017

InvestmentPOD for Advisors, the industry’s first digital advice platform to offer multi-strategies, announced today the official launch of its white-labeled automated investing platform for independent Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs).

InvestmentPOD provides a revolutionary approach for advisors to offer their clients sophisticated investing strategies, customizable portfolios, and enhanced trading and rebalancing capabilities. Unlike traditional “robo” investing platforms that only provide passive options, InvestmentPOD’s sophisticated investing algorithms provide multi-strategy and asset diversification, all while lowering trading costs.

“History has proven that passive, buy and hold investing strategies have resulted in significant losses over market cycles,” said Jacqueline Ko Matthews, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker, wealth manager and now the CEO and co-founder of InvestmentPOD.

InvestmentPOD CEO, Jacqueline Ko Matthews, named in the top 12 women in Financial Technology innovation by BBVA
Mar. 09, 2017

“With significant experience in investment banking, Ko Matthews has developed one of the most disruptive asset management platforms for institutional customers, brokers and insurance companies. Her company Investment PoD was a finalist in the 2016 BBVA Open Talent.”

InvestmentPOD Selected to Demo & Exhibit at TechCrunch DC
Feb. 21, 2017

InvestmentPOD is one of only twelve companies invited to exhibit & demo at TechCrunch’s legendary MeetUp & Pitch-Off – which came to D.C. on Tuesday, February 21, 2017.

About the Event:

TechCrunch’s legendary meetup + pitch-off event is coming to D.C.!
​So join us for good conversation and a battle to the death as these select entrepreneurs try to  dazzle and excite the judges in under sixty seconds.

​And whether you’re an investor, entrepreneur, dreamer or tech enthusiast, we want to see you at the event so we can hear your thoughts.
​Come one, come all. It’s sure to be a night to remember.

InvestmentPOD Featured on ThinkAdvisor
Feb. 13, 2017

As the largest gathering of the advisor technology community outside Joel Bruckenstein’s T3 conferences, TD Ameritrade’s “Veo Village” featured the latest and greatest in advisor tech in 2017.

Held in early February at the TDA LINC conference in San Diego, Veo Village features the best of the 115 technology vendors who have integrated their systems and software with TDAI’s innovative Veo advisor workstation.

Copyright @ 2018 Investment POD. All rights reserved.