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Ian McKenna: United Income to Capital One

Ian McKenna: United Income to Capital One

United Income to Capital One

A great deal for American consumers, and a big relief for UK institutions and wealthtechs

Looking at it from a purely parochial perspective personally I’m disappointed to see United Income absorbed by Capital One, not because they are not a great business, indeed they are an exceptional one. So much so that if there is one US Digital Wealth proposition I would like to see in Britain it is United Income.  They would undoubtedly have a hugely disturbing impact on the traditional financial services market that would be really good for consumers and leave many of the behemoths of the financial services industry reeling on the ropes, desperately scrambling to deliver the sort of innovation they should have introduced to help consumers years ago. 

United Income is the brainchild of Matt Fellowes, a Brookings scholar and scion of the Fellowes family who, not content to enjoy the family wealth had already built Hello Wallet, the inspiration for most modern digital Financial Wellness propositions and sold it to Morningstar (who then sadly sold it to Keybank, ending any chance of that service making it to these shores or anywhere else outside the US). 

Fellows has a great team including Elizabeth Kelly, previously Special Assistant for Economic Policy to President Barack Obama who played a major role in coordinating the development and roll out of the Fiduciary rule for financial advisers, sadly now reversed by the current administration. The point being usually US wealth technology and especially their robo advice solutions would need a massive overhaul before it could meet UK financial regulatory requirements. I don’t believe this would have been the case with United Income, their concierge style algorithm driven accumulation and decumulation ticks pretty much all the boxes to meet UK regulatory standards, but with Capital One having only a limited UK footprint it is unlikely we will see this great retirement planning service in Britain, where it is much needed. 

I’m sure the deal is a great move for millions of Americans who need more help with their retirement planning. That said, it further contributes to my growing view that the US looks set to lose its global leadership role in personal finance due to a lack of consumer protection regulation and American firms focusing on the significant opportunity in their domestic market but missing the much larger global savings transformation that is taking place. US firms who want to be more than just domestic suppliers must stop thinking the rest of the world will wait while they fix America. A more detailed blog on my rationale on this will appear soon. 

About The Author


Ian founded Financial Technology Research Centre in 1995 nearly two decades before “FinTech” became part of the industry lexicon. A boutique consultancy the firm focuses on how personal finance organisations can communicate more effectively with their customers and help them take better financial decisions. As part of this work the firm work with many of the U.K.’s leading long-term savings institutions, financial advisers and technology providers to identify emerging technologies that can transform customer relationships. More recently the firm has added its own InsureTech and RegTech ventures to help advisers ensure they help consumers find the life insurance and workplace pensions solutions that best meet the needs. In addition to developing a UK view Ian travels extensively to identify similar trends around the world and the lessons that can be learned from other countries.


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