At first no one could explain why business was picking up at Betterment, a robo adviser aimed at newbie investors. There were about 10,000 signups in one day. Then came the answer: A 25-year-old TikToker from Tennessee was posting videos describing how to retire a millionaire by using the platform.
His name is Austin Hankwitz, and he’s managed to land one of the hottest new gigs: full-time “finfluencer.”
“We were, like, where is this increased activity coming from?” Betterment’s director of communications, Arielle Sobel, said of the sudden increase in customer inquiries. “It was not sponsored by us, so we had no clue.”
Smash that like button, Wall Street: The teens and 20-somethings who steer online conversation — about life hacks, beauty products, Hollywood blockbusters, you name it — are now blazing their way into finance. Influencers like Hankwitz can translate concepts like passive investing or tax harvesting into digestible social media videos using playful twists, music and colorful captions, making investment products and the like feel accessible to millennials and Gen Z-ers.
For the finance industry, partnering with those influencers can be a no-brainer: There’s never been faster and more direct access to that demographic, particularly at a time when retail investing has skyrocketed.
Once Betterment saw the traction it was getting through Hankwitz’s posts, it hired him within a month to plug its services via social media.
Wealthfront, another robo adviser, has partnered with about 15 influencers including Haley Sacks — known on Instagram as Mrs. Dow Jones — according to Kate Wauck, the firm’s chief communications officer.
Until last year, Hankwitz was toiling away in old-fashioned finance, working on mergers and acquisitions for a health care company; making TikTok videos was his side hustle. Now, he’s a hot commodity to startups and finance companies eager to reach his 495,000 followers. Some of them have also hired him for marketing advice, had him sit in on chats with the CEOs, and have even invited him to sit on the company board.
Hankwitz charges anywhere from $4,500 to $8,000 per post on his TikTok page. He said Fundrise, a real estate investment platform, pays him every month to post two videos on his TikTok, and also offers him a monthly bonus of as much as $2,000 based on how many people he pushes to the platform. BlockFi, a cryptocurrency trading platform, offers him $25 per person pushed to the platform through his unique code. And stock trading app Public.com offered him a monthly retainer and company equity for a contract that includes replacing the Yahoo Finance stock charts on his videos with theirs.
Hankwitz estimates he’s funded well over 240 accounts for Fundrise, 1,653 for Public and tens of thousands for Betterment. His unique BlockFi code brought in $268,000 of crypto purchases in a month. In all, he’s currently representing six companies. And for anywhere between $4 and $17 per month, superfans can subscribe to his Patreon channel, where he offers deeper investing and financial analysis. Hankwitz currently has about 1,100 subscribers.
Hankwitz declined to say how much he brings in annually, but acknowledged that he makes more than $500,000. He also said he’s built a portfolio valued at about $1.3 million since March 2020, in part with the equity received from the brands he represents.
Social media can be a lucrative business for those with big follower counts and the prowess to push customers toward financial products. Creators can get paid anywhere from $100 to $1,500 for a swipe-up advertisement on their Instagram stories to $1,000 to $10,000 for a single post on their feed, according to figures from Brian Hanly, CEO of Bullish Studio, a talent agency for influencers. On TikTok, the cost of one post can range from $2,500 to $20,000 depending on the video’s virality and the creator’s follower count.
Take Sacks, aka Mrs. Dow Jones — the influencer with 215,000 Instagram followers. Sacks, 30, began her career in comedy, working for TV host David Letterman and Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels. Learning about money was a struggle for Sacks, but one way to make it more relatable for her was to compare it to pop culture and celebrity gossip. On that premise, she launched Mrs. Dow Jones in 2017, and her following has since flourished.
Four years after launching Mrs. Dow Jones, Sacks has signed with a talent agency, and has built a team of people, including an assistant and a manager, to help her negotiate six-figure deals with brands. She started partnering with Wealthfront two years ago.