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A Day in the Life: Sharesies' Sonya Williams

Sonya Williams is the co-founder, director, and chief product and marketing officer at popular investment platform, Sharesies. The low barrier investment company has seen success after success with its focus on helping ordinary Kiwis invest in local and global companies. Here's how she gets through the day, how she organises her time and how she harnesses her 'spidey sense'. 

What time do you wake up?

Usually around 7-7.30am.

What kind of work do you do?

I’m a co-founder, Director, and Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Sharesies. The work can be pretty varied at this stage of the business, but largely it’s making sure we deliver products and experiences our investors love. Sharesies has a massive vision to create a financially empowered generation. To do this we need to know our audience and be both obsessed and committed to delivering services that drive value for them today and in the future.  And making sure we tell our customers about it all.

Day to day this looks like: a range of research, strategy, workshop facilitation, and supporting the team.  A LOT of whiteboarding happens too!

What’s the ideal way to start your day?

Ideally, it would be having some time to enjoy breakfast and a coffee, listen to news on the radio, and just have a chill start to the day.

What’s your media consumption or interaction like – which podcasts, radio, videos, books, magazines, and new sites do you read or listen to?

I mainly listen to RadioActive and RNZ.

I have a Wellington Library membership and get access to digital magazines and books through that. I'm a fan of Wilderness Magazine, The Economist, and having a flick through the New Yorker.

With podcasts, I love “Revisionist History” by Malcolm Gladwell and “How I Built this” – which has interesting background to people who have started and built companies.

What do you think is unique about the way you approach your work?

I LOVE the discovery side of a problem or opportunity. I like trying to identify unknowns and working through them, dreaming of what we could do, thinking of how we can do it, and understanding the impact it could have.

Where do your best ideas come from?

Listening to my spidey sense. Noticing something. Getting curious about it. And doing research.

What does resilience look like to you?

The ability to maintain perspective, have fun, and stay effective in times of pressure.

What has been the most transformational business practice you’ve implemented at your work?

Apart from launching Sharesies back in May 2017 and the changes we’ve made since, we recently undertook a massive change to become an accredited NZX market participant. This was a huge piece of work that spanned business wide, bringing significant changes to our product, marketing, regulation, technology, operations, and customers.

The hard work paid off as it means we can now offer our investors the ability to invest in companies and funds listed on the NZX, from a minimum of 1c. This has been out for a few weeks now and it is really cool to see our investors having access to a wider range of investments.

What social or environmental issues inform the work you do, as well as what you’re aiming to do with your company’s overall vision?

At our core, we’re driven by a social purpose. We started Sharesies to create a financially empowered generation and to democratise the investment market by giving someone with $5 the same investment opportunities as someone with $500,000. Only 20% of Kiwis have shares, and the majority of this group are over 60, living in Auckland, and male. It’s exciting to see change and watch investing become something that is for everyone.

Even after just the 2.5 years we’ve been around, we’re chuffed to have around 55,000 Kiwis investing, 80% of which are under 40 years old who are a balance of genders, and who have invested over $70 million dollars so far.

But it also has to do with how we run the business. We put a lot of focus in the wellbeing of our team and the impact we have on the environment. We recently became a B Corp certified company, the first financial services company in NZ to do so.

What’s the most enjoyable part of your day?

Solving grunty and impactful problems with an amazing team, as well as seeing cool notes from customers.

What about the least enjoyable?

Getting through emails and trying to arrange calendars.

What’s your best productivity hack?

Dealing with action points directly after a meeting, or responding to emails as the come in. I can be pretty terrible at this but when I get into the habit, it definitely helps make a difference.

What’s your interaction with friends and family throughout the day? Can you be both a successful businessperson and a good mother/partner/friend?

Hah, I hope so! My Partner, Ben, is one another co-founder of Sharesies, so it is pretty cool to be sharing this experience together (and we obviously get to see a lot of each other throughout the day). I often have lunch or meet up with my friends and am lucky to have family pretty close.

What do you do once you get home? Can you switch off?

We have great balance at Sharesies and understand that to do our best work we also need to create space and time for rest. This can be harder said than done sometimes, but generally I do this by getting outside and mountain biking, cooking or catching up with friends and family.

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