“In an era of so much technology and technological advancements, it’s time to make investing as simple as having a smartphone and a good WiFi connection – the way it should be,” says Stephanie Brennan, one of very few female leaders in the global fintech industry.
TFT: How did you get into Fintech?
Stephanie: My professional career has always been somehow related to the financial and investment services industry. And it wasn’t a coincidence. Being an investment enthusiast I’ve always found these two sectors particularly interesting and important. Working as a CEO of a company specialising in financial services & real estate in Australia, I’ve noticed that the finance industry can’t keep up with the next generation of investors the way that tech companies like Facebook, Uber and Spotify can – both in terms of convenience and cost-efficiency.
It was then when I realised that the financial world needs a modern investment solution, one that will be easy to use, quick and inexpensive. Although in today’s world 93% of stock market value is divided between three continents, America, Europe and Asia, the access to these markets is limited and the cost is high. As a result, many people don’t even think about investing as a way to build their wealth and save for long-term goals, like retirement. My goal was to change this attitude by providing the market with an easy and efficient solution uniting the world’s stock exchanges and making them accessible to investors across the globe. That’s how the idea of Evarvest was born and why I decided to start my Fintech adventure.
TFT: So what is exactly the solution that you’ll offer?
Stephanie: In the second half of this year we will launch a unique stock trading app, which will provide an easy to use, transparent and low cost way to access stocks, bonds and ETFs in over 30 stock markets around the world. In other words: our app will make it possible to invest in some of the world’s most recognisable brands with just two clicks on a mobile, and with little to no cost.
TFT: But there are already a number of trading apps offering various international trade capabilities. What distinguishes you from your competitors?
Stephanie: There are three main features differentiating our application from the solutions provided by our competitors. The first one, is access to over 30 stock markets all over the world. At Evarvest we think that people deserve a choice to select the markets they want to invest in. There are a lot of world famous brands listed in the USA, like Nike, the company behind our favourite running shoes or Apple, the visionaries behind the phone we use the latest tech apps on, but, there are also brands that we know and love in our home towns too, so why not enable people to invest also in them?
The second thing distinguishing us from our competitors is the user experience of Evarvest’s application. Unlike the majority of traditional trading apps, our Spotify-style trading solution has a functional and user-friendly interface, easy picking stock playlists and a number of elements for community engagement enhancing the social aspect of investing. Our users will be able to create and share their own portfolios as well as follow the portfolios of their friends and Evarvest’s top performing investors.
Last but not least – the third feature of our Evarvest app will be a strong focus on education. Believing that the first step to building wealth is knowing how to, we want to support wise investment decisions by promoting financial literacy. That is why we created our Educational Library. Our goal has been to focus on a wide range of useful, and more importantly, practical insights into investing.
TFT: You said that Evarvest would be offering an easy to use, safe and low cost way to access stocks, bonds and ETFs in over 30 stocks markets around the world. It sounds very nice and attractive, but, given the current fees for foreign stock trades, how would you manage to secure it?
Stephanie: Yes, that’s true – given that our goal is to make investing accessible for everyone, we do our best to keep all the fees to a minimum. How is it possible? Well, it’s the scale effect. We are working with trustworthy and licensed partners providing us with direct access to a wide range of financial markets all over the world, and due to the scale of our operation we are able to offer our users far lower costs combined with no minimum account balances. At this stage, we’re happy to confirm that we will be offering commission free stock trading for all stocks listed on the US Market, which is the largest in the world. And when it comes to stock exchanges outside the US, we will place a small margin on the brokerage costs we pay to access them.
I can however assure you that it will be much lower than the fees offered by traditional brokerages. As an example, the average commission paid with a UK stock broker to access the London Stock Exchange would be about GBP 10 per stock. Our commission is much smaller, it’s 0.1% of the trade, so on a GBP 100 trade, it amounts to 10 pence. As we scale, we’ve already discussed volume discounts with our partners, this means the more people that use our trading app, the more we can negotiate. So, our aim is to reduce these costs even further so that investors can access other stock markets affordably and not have their investment returns diluted by high fees.
TFT: When will Evarvest app be rolled out? And in which countries it will be available?
Stephanie: We plan to release our app in the second half of 2019 once we receive our FCA approval in the UK, under which we can use the ‘passporting rights’ to expand into further European countries. Of course, preparing ourselves to secure a smooth European launch of our app in case of a Brexit scenario, we are also simultaneously applying to obtain the Financial Brokerage Licence issued by the Bank of Lithuania and regulated under the European Central Bank. As for the countries, we’ll initially be launching the Evarvest app in the UK, Poland, Lithuania, Spain & Portugal before expanding across the entire EU and the rest of the world. Our plan is to gain the applicable licenses in different jurisdictions so we can make our Evarvest app accessible to investors across the globe within the next few years.
TFT: What’s next? What are your further business plans?
Stephanie: Right now we are focused on the development of our app, and I must say it is a very complex process everything from product design and user experience, to designing the operational architecture that supports seamless cross boarder investing. Once we launch our app in the second half of this year, we plan to continue our global expansion and increase our Educational Library. The next phase of our development is to expand our product portfolio into further financial products, such as a modern pension fund and retirement savings for the next generation of investors.
TFT: If you had to give a piece of advice to someone starting a startup what would it be?
Stephanie: If I had to advise someone starting a startup I would say: first do your best to understand your end goal and the kind of company you want to be as it will define the decisions you make, and second: make sure that you’re supported by the right people, who share your idea and vision.