Betterment Appoints Unlikely New CEO as Founder Steps Away

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Sarah Kirshbaum Levy and Jon Stein.

Betterment CEO Sarah Kirshbaum Levy (left) with Founder Jon Stein (right). Image credit: Betterment.

Betterment CEO Jon Stein announced he will step down from his leadership role at the fintech company he founded in 2010. Stein will be replaced at the top of the company, which provides customers with robo-advising and cash management services, by an unlikely candidate — former media executive Sarah Kirshbaum Levy.

Stein won’t be abandoning his company though, as he plans to stay on Betterment’s board and support the team “whether it be via recruiting, investor relations, telling our story, or upholding company culture and values,” he stated in a blog post about his departure and transition.

On the surface, the choice of a media exec to lead a fintech with $25 billion in assets under management is unexpected, but for Stein it was a no-brainer.

“There is something enthralling about (Levy),” he said. “I don’t want to jinx or overload it, but outside of meeting my wife, it’s hard, at present, to think of a more consequential introduction. And this is over video conference!”

Levy started her career at Disney and has spent the last 20 years at ViacomCBS, where she most recently served as the company’s Chief Operating Officer. It was this experience leading a massive public company as well as her outsider perspective that Stein was drawn to while searching for his successor.

Levy initially joined Betterment a few months ago as a full-time consultant and gradually took on more responsibilities as her trial run progressed, including the authority to work with the team to architect plans for 2021 and beyond. Now that her transition to CEO is complete, she could soon guide the company through a transition of its own, as the customer-focused Betterment is contemplating an initial public offering (IPO) in the coming years.

“I believe that she’ll more fully realize the vision I laid out years ago, and make Betterment the most beloved, most essential financial brand for this generation,” Stein concluded. “And in so doing, she’ll power the pursuit of happiness for millions of Americans.”

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