Pandemic or not, it’s September and that means it’s time for FinovateFall (v14.0). While networking, happy hour, and my overnight accommodations are much different, the demos work very well in a virtual format. And Finovate tweaked the format slightly, adding a 3-min scripted Q&A to the core 7-min “live” demo (pre-recorded but in a single take with questions by long-time Finovate host Greg Palmer).

One downside this year is fewer early-stage startups willing to make the investment without the face-to-face piece. That will change as companies realize that the ROI on virtual events can still be sizable. One brave (see Note 1) early-stage startup at FinovateFall this week was newly-funded Icon Savings Plan. The SF-based company is one of the “covid class” having received its initial seed funding ($3.2M) in July 2020 (though it was founded in late 2017).

The company offers U.S. retirement plans as a service to employers. As you can see in the demo (above), employers can establish a new plan, invite employees, and connect to their bank/payroll in just a few minutes. Fund management fees are under 10 basis points and there are no ongoing SaaS fees at this point (though I predict employers will eventually be faced with a freemium model allowing them to pay subscription fees for more services).

The main selling points are:

  • No ongoing cost to employers
  • Low ongoing funds management costs by utilizing low-cost ETFs (average annual cost of 7 BP)
  • Robo-advisory model
  • Portability for end-users (assuming they are subsequently self-employed or employed by another Icon-enabled employer; see Note 2 below)

Icon also offers SEP IRAs to the self-employed, though that doesn’t seem to be its emphasis at this time.

Pricing: The startup charges a small one-time setup charge (approximately $10 per user; waived for very small companies), but no ongoing fees to the employer. However, employees pay $4/mo for the plan (which sometimes is waived for beginning users; see also Note 3 below).

* Laurie Rowley (serial entrepreneur in behavioral finance)
* Alex Rowley (Fisher Investments)
* Sasha Mace (Simple/BBVA)

Total employees: 10 as of July 2020, hiring 5 more (per Crunchbase News)


1. Icon knows the value of a good pitch, having won the grand prize ($25k) in Money 20/20 startup competition in 2018 with check presented by Shaq (see pitch video below).
2. The startup is using portability as its flywheel. As employees move to other companies, it’s relatively painless for the new company to setup Icon in addition to its current 401(k). Then as they realize how much they could save with Icon, they will convert their entire plan to Icon.
3. Employers cannot simply cover their employees’ admin costs as that is not allowed by ERISA rules.

Icon’s winning pitch at Money 20/20 in October 2018 (will substitute FinovateFall 2020 demo when available)
Icon founder Laurie Rowley receives $25k check from Shaquille O’Neal at Money 20/20 2018.