Betterment adds Labor department, BlackRock experts to 401(k) plan board

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Robo-adviser Betterment, in a push to try to get more big companies to sign on to its 401(k) plan, beefed up the board of advisers of its retirement product on Friday by adding two leaders in the movement for cutting investment costs for companies and employees.

The digital financial services company added former U.S. Labor Department retirement policy expert Judy Mares and former BlackRock consultant Laraine McKinnon to the board of Betterment for Business, its 401(k) division.

Betterment for Business, which uses algorithms to digitally manage participants’ retirement plans, has reportedly attracted around 300 mostly small businesses to its platform, as well as some high-profile start-ups like Casper, the online mattress company, and Boxed, a New York-based wholesaler.

In February, Betterment added Google’s director of global benefits John Casey to the board of Betterment for Business.

Mares and McKinnon have both worked with Fortune 500 companies on investment and retirement plan management, and their presence on the board will likely help Betterment’s bid to be taken seriously as a big plan provider.

Mares worked in the Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration as the deputy assistant secretary for policy from 2013 to January 2017 helping to develop the fiduciary rule, which requires financial advisers to put their retirement clients interests first.

Before joining the Labor Department, Mares served as the chief investment officer at General Mills, Ameritech and Alliant Techsystems.

McKinnon spent over 20 years at BlackRock, most recently helping big companies and states to analyze data about their retirement plans and participants to cut costs and increase investor returns.

McKinnon said she thinks Betterment could be a good tool for companies to reduce “hard and soft costs” of plan management.

“I think they can become a provider of choice in the institutional market,” McKinnon said.

Reporting By Elizabeth Dilts; Editing by David Gregorio