For many, investments can be confusing enough to put them off completely. While a number of platforms exist, the space still isn’t easily accessible for many, with most not catering to their specific investing wants and needs.
Andrey Dobrynin is the managing director at InvestEngine, an online investment platform that focuses on long-term investments, which is aiming to simplify creating investment strategies in an affordable way.
In this week’s Behind the Idea, Dobrynin explains why InvestEngine was set up, its evolution since then, and its plans for the future.
Tell us more about your company and its offering
InvestEngine is an online investment platform that specialises in helping people to invest for the long-term via exchange-traded funds (ETFs), a type of investment fund that’s designed to track the performance of a stock market or other financial index.
The reason we focus on ETFs is because they are diverse, stable, low-cost and easy to use for both new and experienced investors. Since we launched in 2019, we’ve become trusted by tens of thousands of customers to look after and help grow their wealth through ETFs.
Our mission as a company is simple: to make investing accessible to as many people as possible and to help them build a more secure financial future for themselves.
What was the problem your company was set up to solve?
The digital investment platforms that existed before InvestEngine tended to either focus on trading, encouraging their clients to buy and sell regularly, or promoting trendy investments as opposed to what is right for the user’s long-term financial needs.
We are completely different. We built a DIY platform where you can create and automate your long-term investment strategy.
Previously, this was only really possible with robo-advisors. But while the philosophy is good, you’re not able to create your own investment strategy. You can join one of the models that they run, but that’s not suitable for everyone. So we created a hybrid platform, to give long-term investors who want to be hands-on the tools to manage their own investments.
Since launch, how has the company evolved?
After we launched, we very quickly learned from client feedback that a lot of customers wanted more control over their investment strategies. They wanted to invest in certain funds and they wanted to be in control. That’s why we launched our DIY platform.
Secondly, commission in the industry tended to be high. So, we started thinking about how a commission-free DIY platform might work, and we launched that. That helped us to start growing virally, using word of mouth that’s had a massive impact on our business. Our happy clients recommend us to their friends and family, so that’s great.
We also launched a bunch of new features. We’re very focused on the automation of long-term investment strategies. We’ve launched open banking-driven recurring top-ups, which is something unique, and we’ll soon be launching our pension offering.
We now have tens of thousands of customers and, with that, you really need to make sure that the technologies are 100 per cent reliable. Our top priority is providing excellent customer service and we’re proud that we provide customer support during the weekends and evenings.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge was to overcome the high client acquisition costs and to find ways to grow without spending a fortune on marketing.
It was the launch of our DIY platform – we had days when we onboarded over a thousand customers in one day. So, when that started happening, we realised we had that all-important product market fit, but that was a tricky moment in our journey.
What are your biggest achievements or ‘proudest moments’ so far?
You know you are building something for people when they actually use it and they really like it, so the rest is just scaling that. Passing from that initial startup phase to the moment when you have viral growth – that was the best and biggest challenge so far. I think that’s our biggest and proudest achievement.
We had a few other challenges. ISA seasons are a big one. We successfully transferred thousands of ISAs from well-established providers. We’re a relatively new startup but people trust us with their life savings – that’s definitely something to be proud of.
What’s the culture of the company like?
I think friendly is the best word to use here. We’re also deeply collaborative and we have a healthy mix of people, from those with backgrounds in the financial services industry to those that come from the energetic, ideas-driven startup culture, where people aren’t afraid to take responsibility for new projects and lead the way. This creates a great, innovative culture that’s backed up by a lot of industry experience.
What’s in store for the future?
The next big thing is pensions. We’re launching SIPPS in the coming weeks. That’s the most requested feature currently. Our platform is perfectly set up for those self-invested personal pension (SIPP) clients because it’s set-and-forget with our automation, and it’s long-term by default.
Exchange-traded funds (ETF) education is another big thing. We’re partnering with the ETF providers, who have a lot of educational content and they’re very keen to share it with people. So, we want to become that education hub. We want to build a community around long-term investing, and we want to do it together with the ETF providers.