Entrepreneur

Because Building Your Financial Portfolio Is A Nightmare, This Startup Lets You Begin With Just $50

Investing can be tricky – if you don’t choose the right company, you just might end up losing money instead of gaining. Factoring in the extra fees, and the fact that you don’t really know where your money is going to, one might be hesitant to invest.

Image Credit: Smartly
Image Credit: Smartly

But that’s where Smartly come in, as the first automated platform in Singapore that takes out the complexity of investing, and makes the whole process as easy as clicking a few buttons.

The Minds Behind The App

Originally from Estonia, Keir Veskivali and Artur Luhaaar decided to move to Singapore to start up Smartly.

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 2.21.09 PM

When they started the project almost a year ago, there were no news about robo-advisors in Singapore – unlike in the United States and Europe where it was already crowded by some big players.

“Before moving to Singapore I lived in Munich and whenever you buy a product that has been made in Germany people think of it as something with great quality. It is the same for us, we chose Singapore because it is like the Switzerland of Asia. Singapore is respected globally and [it] represents quality and trust”.

As a Fintech startup, Singapore’s overall support in startups and innovation meant that for Keir and his partner, there was no other place to be at for Smartly.

However, moving to another country with the last bit of their savings was not an easy move.

Veskivali explains that he had to make a lot of sacrifices with co-founder Artur, but they knew that these were necessary, as they were going to a place where there were opportunities to succeed no matter which country you came from.

He says that Singapore as whole has helped them a lot, and they are extremely grateful for that. Currently, they have about 1,400 people who signed up with them – most of them from Singapore.

How Smartly Came About

During his college years Veskivali started asking himself a question – “Why is it that in a society driven by money, people are still so bad at managing it?”

That question which stubbornly stuck in his mind over time made him realise he should try and do something to solve it, therefore leading to the creation of platform.

“Since I’m passionate about financial literacy and investing, I decided to narrow my focus on how Smartly could make a change and offer its customers a better solution when it comes down to investing and saving,” he says.

Image Credit: Smartly
Image Credit: Smartly

In addition, Smartly also looks at the financial industry as a whole, which to this date has a lot of issues with transparency, fees (high & hidden) and legacy systems.

Having seen how money influences people in many ways, it was hard for him to accept the fact that people pay unnecessary and high fees to those who often put their interests before their clients.

Smartly

With Smartly, users select a goal they plan to invest for, like a holiday or even retirement.

Smartly will then assess their risk factors and allot them the best portfolio to invest in. From there, users are able to create more investments or even cancel their current ones.

Users choose the reason they want to save and invest in Smartly/ Image Credit: Smartly
Users choose the reason they want to save and invest in Smartly/ Image Credit: Smartly

A key difference between Smartly and other saving plans is that Smartly actually makes their users understand what is happening to their money and where it is going.

Smartly does not force its users to commit any amount of money for any period of time – users can start saving with as low as $50, and have the freedom to withdraw the amount any time.

“In fact, 70% of active fund managers fail to outperform their benchmark after fees are collected. Smartly only charges 0.5% to 1% per year and that is all the customer pays, as opposed to existing products charging hidden sales charges and annual management fees that can add up to 4-5% a year,” Veskivali says.

Challenges Faced

Building a startup itself is a challenge but to build a fintech startup that involves clients and their money is much harder.

Smartly is in a space that is heavily regulated, and for a startup, this becomes a challenge no matter what. According to Veskaivali, people often say that tackling regulatory issues is almost like needing to build a separate startup altogether.

Finding local talent to work for Smartly also poses as a challenge to Veskivali and Luhaaar.

“How can you find people who are motivated, share the same values enjoy challenges and have a deep skillset combined with an open mind?”

The Millennials Are The Key

Being their target customers, Millennials or Generation Y would be more keen to the idea of Smartly than the Generation X explains Veskivali.

“The millennials on the other hand were born into technology, and they way they use the Internet is  completely differently from their parents. This is something the banks are having trouble understanding, and will have an even harder time getting their heads around,” he states.

Millennials to Veskivali and Luhaaar are more tech savvy – they like things simple and fast and lack trust in the old industry.

Young adults using technology/ Image Credit: Buzzfeed
Image Credit: Buzzfeed

He reveals that they did a small case study with a group of millennials to test out their theory.

“We educated a small group of millennials about what Smartly does, what they should know about investing, what is passive investing, how can fees hurt their portfolios, and what we noticed was that millennials tend to pass that knowledge to their parents – who are the Generation X batch.”

“It is a good example of how Generation X is learning from the Generation Y, and we believe that Generation Y is in some way obliged to share knowledge – or at least we like to believe so,” he disclosed.

Maybe it’s time the rest of Singapore joins in the new world of investing as well. It’s hassle free and technologically efficient – what more do we need?

Feature image credit: Smartly

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