Shift Savings acquired by CUNA Mutual’s SafetyNet

Startups combine savings and insurance offerings

Craig Sweeney of Shift Savings describes the company's goals.

The assets of Delafield-based financial technology startup Shift Savings Inc. have been acquired by CUNA Mutual Group spinoff insurance company SafetyNet. The transaction closed April 3 for an undisclosed price.

Craig Sweeney of Shift Savings describes the company at a Startup Milwaukee event in 2017.

Shift Savings was established in 2016 as Milo Savings, and in 2017 changed its name. It offers a platform that rounds a user’s purchases up to the nearest dollar and deposits the difference in their savings account. Shift markets the product to employers to offer as a benefit to help employees save. The employer pays a monthly subscription fee and can offer an employer match, and employees contribute a percentage of each paycheck.

“Our core product is really to help the financially vulnerable simply save for short-term life goals, allowing them to become more financially stable and thus start to look toward long-term savings goals,” said Craig Sweeney, who co-founded Shift with Tom Wondra.

Madison-based SafetyNet spun off from major Madison-based insurance provider CUNA Mutual Group in 2016. It offers consumers insurance to cover a job loss or long-term inability to work due to illness or injury. It has 15 employees.

“Shift’s mission and what they had built aligned really well with our mission and the business that we’re building, so we had been working very closely with them,” said Dan Murray, chief operating officer and chief information officer at SafetyNet. “We just decided to take it one step further and acquire their solution.”

SafetyNet acquired the software solution, marketing and branding from Shift and is bringing those in-house at its Madison headquarters. Sweeney and Wondra will serve as consultants to SafetyNet; Shift’s two other part-time employees were not retained. SafetyNet will begin administering Shift’s 14 southeastern Wisconsin employer accounts.

Sweeney and Wondra bootstrapped Shift from its inception to their exit.

“Whenever you start off on the startup journey, if you will, you have various goals and certainly at some point in time, an exit was one we had considered,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney said he and Wondra met with CMFG Ventures LLC, CUNA Mutual’s corporate venture capital arm, and that eventually led to the partnership and acquisition.

“Those (CMFG) discussions went well and then through our relationship with gener8tor…the folks over there thought we should talk to the SafetyNet folks,” Sweeney said. “We started integrating our products and we actually added a SafetyNet insurance platform to our savings platform.”

Shift completed Milwaukee- and Madison-based startup accelerator gener8tor’s gBETA program in 2017.

Shift and SafetyNet had the shared goal of helping consumers break out of the cycle of living paycheck-to-paycheck, they said. SafetyNet also has several undisclosed new products in development for the same market that will integrate well with Shift, Murray said.

“We feel like people need both. A lot of people are just not equipped today and if an emergency happens, they have nothing to fall back on,” he said. “SafetyNet has a mission to improve the financial wellbeing of millions of hardworking people and the way we accomplish that is by bringing financial solutions to the market that help people manage risk and cash flow and savings.”

Sweeney said about two-thirds of employees don’t contribute to employee benefit programs such as 401(K) retirement savings programs.

“It’s really a systemic, endemic type of problem we’re looking to put a dent in,” he said.

With the resources available from SafetyNet, Shift will be able to expand its offering nationally, Sweeney said.

“The goal is to really take this to market in a big way,” he said.

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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