“We wanted to design a card that makes people feel good, but we don’t want them to feel good because they’re spending money with their flossy card,” Noah Kerner, CEO of Acorns said during a talk with McKinsey Global Institute partner Michael Chui at the Center for Digital Transformation's Road to Reinvention conference.

Acorns is Making Saving, Investing and Earning Accessible to Everyone, Says CEO

May 03, 2019 • By Jessie Yount

Four million members since 2014. A new checking account and debit card offering that sold out the first 100,000 cards in just four days.

Financial technology company Acorns has experienced breakneck growth since its launch roughly five years ago, scaling up rapidly and disrupting its industry with innovative ideas.

Acorns CEO Noah Kerner shared the company’s story and latest product offerings at the fifth annual Road to Reinvention conference, which is hosted by the Center for Digital Transformation at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business.

The swanky design of the new debit card — green tungsten, with a vertical orientation that reflects the company’s digital-first mindset — demonstrates Acorns’ mission to serve younger, up-and-coming professionals with the best products available.

“We wanted to design a card that makes people feel good, but we don’t want them to feel good because they’re spending money with their flossy card,” Kerner said during a talk with McKinsey Global Institute partner Michael Chui. "We want them to feel good because they’re saving, investing and earning while spending.” 

The R2R conference is meant to illuminate leadership and success in the digital world –– and in the case of Acorns, show how a startup company can rapidly scale and disrupt industries. 

“There haven’t really been financial institutions built from the ground up to serve everyday Americans. So we thought, we should do that,” Kerner said.

Acorns began with the idea that from little acorns, mighty oaks do grow. In other words: anyone can grow wealth and prepare for their future by micro-investing and spending smarter.

Customers pay a low-rate, monthly subscription fee, and every time they make a purchase, the cost is rounded to the nearest dollar and the extra amount is invested in exchange traded funds.

Acorns members receive additional investment funds or “cash forward” when shopping with Found Money partners, such as Apple, Nike, Sam’s Club, Sephora and more. 

“So if you fill up your tank at Chevron, Chevron will put 25 cents into your Acorns account, and you’ll get a message that says Chevron just invested in your future,” Kerner said. 

Acorns strives to help its members save, invest and earn, but it also aims to broaden financial literacy for all. The company provides money advice in Grow Magazine, and has partnered with CNBC to further its educational reach. 

“A recent survey on our culture revealed that 100 percent of employees feel connected to the mission at Acorns,” Kerner added. “We have five core values: lead with heart, make bold decisions, always build trust, never stop growing and advance our society.”

“Everyone at the company can recite those cold, and it’s not because we have a weird, cult initiation process, but because we try to live them and breathe them.”