When you hear of investing the majority of us envisage Leonardo DiCaprio screaming his way around an office with a bunch of raucous ex-jocks swearing at potential clients down phones and raking in millions per day. In reality, investment is a much more calm and controlled reality but it's still a foreign world to almost everyone in New Zealand who hasn’t been brought up with an extensive financial background.
Sharesies co-founders, Brooke, Leighton, Richard, Martyn, Ben and Sonya, were clever enough to see a huge gap in the market, and with their shared financial expertise and overall business knowledge, they created the incredible platform we are discussing today. Sharesies is already developing a huge following and they have filled a niche that really promotes innovation, education and dedication.
Liam: What is Sharesies and how did you come up with the platform?
Sharesies exists to make investing easy. Our aim is to give someone with $5 the same investment opportunities as someone with $500,000. Sharesies is an accessible platform that removes the barriers that stand in the way of people investing today.
It all came about when Sonya wanted to invest but didn’t know how or even where to get started. After asking around she realised that most of her friends had no idea either. The reality is most investment firms needed heaps of money to get started and use a language that is foreign to most who hear it.
For us, it was a natural process going in this direction. For example, Leighton started an investment club when he was only 17 with $50 per week and Brooke had a strong financial background that included running large portfolios and is passionate about democratising investing. Everyone naturally came together with the same goal in mind and from there we began looking into where the issue was with investing. We started with market validation to help us determine if this was a problem, and if so, what was the best way to solve that problem.
After 300 customer interviews, it became apparent that the issue was real. Over 75% of the people we interviewed had no idea where to go to invest. At the time, this was a huge deal, especially with the property market moving further and further out of reach for everyday kiwis.
L: How have you managed to develop the businesses exposure?
B: We were a part of the 2017 Kiwibank Fintech Accelerator and were able to share the Sharesies story through that experience. Alongside some serious blogging activity, and spreading the word through social media we managed to build our brand and exposure. We also focussed on getting in front of the media which gave us a big boost. To date we have nearly 40,000 investors on Sharesies, We’ve achieved that number in a little over 18 months.
L: What were the biggest challenges in the industry that you had to overcome?
B: Fintech is a highly regulated industry—it has to be because that’s what protects customers. We worked closely with the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) and with law firm Minter Ellison Rudd Watts to make sure we have everything sorted. Those relationships continue today as we continue to challenge how investing is done in New Zealand.
L: What’s one massive lesson you’ve learnt along the way?
B: We have always been amazed at how willing people are to help. We’ve had, and continue to have, so many advisors get stuck in and help us, through sharing their expertise and opening their networks. This is the great thing about starting a business in NZ—people are so willing to help and everyone knows everyone.
L: How is Sharesies going to continue to grow and beat out its competitors?
B: Our focus has always been on our customers. We’re solving a real problem and we continue to do it in a way that makes investing an everyday habit. We want our customer’s experience to be great, and to understand, that while returns may fluctuate, if you stay in it for the longer term you’ll be successful at developing your wealth. We listen really hard to what our investors want—in terms of new funds and functionality. We have a lot of amazing things up our sleeves that we are looking forward to launching in the near future, but we are also making sure we learn from our customers and focusing on doing our best to make investing easier, and loveable.
L: What is your inspiration to keep grinding this dream every day?
B: To be honest, it has never felt like a grind. We knew early on that we were doing something that was needed, and that it was a product that would help our customers take control of their financial wellbeing. Everything we do is because we know the positive and big impact that Sharesies can have, and is having, on future generations. Most people learn about money through their families, but that sucks if you don’t know anyone who knows anything about money. Sharesies aims to change that.
Summary: 40,000 customers in 18 months? Sharesies is doing it right. They’ve been successful at democratising investment in New Zealand. Anyone can become an investor, regardless of how much money they have.
By making investing accessible to everyone, and making the experience fun and easy they have captured a niche much larger than people predicted. By keeping the entry a fraction of a dollar, Sharesies attracts those that normally wouldn’t even consider investing as an option.
This is a company that knows what they’re about and knows how to win from day one.
Investment has gone through its swings, from stock market crashes to high rollers living off smart choices. People like Gary Vaynerchuk inspire you with their decisions to invest in companies such as Snapchat and Uber, whilst others like Jordan Belfort a.k.a ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ terrify you with the pitfalls of investment. Sharesies has taken these views and created a platform where you can act like Gary without the risk of making a Jordan like mistake.
I’m lucky to have some financial background, but many out there never even look into the idea of investment, so Sharesies is really providing what I’d deem a vital service for a country that has very little in terms of investment at all.