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Idealog’s Most Innovative in Finance/Money: Sharesies

Crucially, that’s a vision shared by others. The platform now boasts over 28,000 investors – 60 percent of whom log in to Sharesies every month – so the company is well and truly seeing their hopes of the democratisation of investing bear fruit.

“We see a world where people construct and trade their own investment portfolios, essentially constructing their own tax-efficient and cost-effective portfolios,” says Roberts.

“They will create and filter their portfolios based on their individual beliefs, values and behaviours. They will receive personalised investment options, similar to how Spotify creates weekly playlists based on individuals specific music tastes and preferences. This personalisation will transform the financial industry.”

They must be doing something right: In September, Trade Me paid $4 million to become the biggest shareholder in the start-up. (Trade Me paid $14.11 a share to build a 16 percent stake in Sharesies, valuing the firm at $24.4 million.)

Joining the Kiwibank Fintech Accelerator in February 2017, Sharesies was launched in public beta just a few months later.

“Before we launched our beta product, we had grown a database of over 6,000 potential customers. Within a week of the launch, more than 50 percent of those people had signed up to start investing. There was an obvious need for our product,” Roberts says.

Nearly a year-and-a-half on, the company has over $29 million in funds under management. By reducing the cost barrier to entry – and skipping the alienating jargon – Sharesies is finding success making investing available to everyone, regardless of income.

“We’ve provided access to investing that was previously out-of-bounds for a large sector of the population,” says Roberts. “Providing access is just the start. We want to create confident and motivated investors by providing education, and encouragement.”

Suffice to say, the typical Sharesies user doesn’t fit exactly with the stereotypical investor ‘type’. After all, only 20 percent of the New Zealand population invests in the share market and of those, 60 percent are male, over 60 years old and living in Auckland.

“Sharesies has succeeded in changing those statistics,” enthuses Roberts. “We have almost an even split of male and female investors. Our main demographic is aged between 24 and 35 years of age – and 80 percent of our investors are under 40 years old.”

And expect that democratic shift to continue: The introduction of Kids Accounts in August, plus lowering the age of opening a Sharesies account from 18 years to 16 years is providing even younger audiences with the opportunity to invest.

The group is now working hard to increase the number of investment products on the platform, and there’s yet more functionality in the works.

“We’re close to implementing ‘auto-invest’ so that an investor can set-and-forget their investment strategy,” says Roberts. “This supports our dollar-cost-averaging philosophy where we encourage users to invest small amounts regularly in amounts that they can afford.”

“In conjunction with auto-invest, we’re looking at getting an exemption to be able to provide personalised digital advice. We think that in the future, advice will be able to be assessed on an investor’s spending, social, and behavioural habits.”

“Our dream is that investing becomes social, where individuals can follow and copy other people’s strategies, and where recommendations are made based on previous behaviour. We think that Sharesies will become for investing what Spotify is for music – the ability for users to recommend and share their investment strategies.”

“We’ve focused where traditional financial companies haven’t,” says Roberts, “on the aspirational many, not the wealthy few.

“And we’re just getting started!”

Jonathan has been a writer longer than he cares to remember. Specialising in technology, the arts, and the grand meaning of it all, in his spare time he enjoys reading, playing guitars, and adding to an already wildly overstocked t-shirt collection.

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