Image credit: WeInvest

Image credit: WeInvest

WeInvest is an interesting FinTech startup in Singapore that has been operating quietly in beta since October 2014. Pegging itself as ‘neither a broker nor an advisor’, the platform wants to offer locals ‘the most comprehensive directory of investment options in Singapore’.

The pain-point? No banks or brokers in the city show clients more than 10 per cent of available investment products.

“The journey started in terms of thinking about this a couple of years back. The whole pain of having the best set of choices has not been a forte of the wealth management space, [which] operates on you going and setting up a relationship with a bank or broker, who then gives you a set of choices,” Bhaskar Prabhakara, Founder, WeInvest told e27.

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“I’m talking about the wealth management space not necessarily as an active trader. The percentage of active traders is maybe less than two per cent. The remaining 98 per cent of people invest in a lot of passive [areas] — could be funds, deposits, real estate,” he added.

A typical bank may have 300 investment products on offer, but will only suggest maybe 10 to a client following a risk profiling. This benefits the complete novice, but not the increasing segment of investment-savvy population.

In some ways, the bootstrapped WeInvest sees itself as bringing an e-commerce model to the wealth management space, but with a level of simplicity and trust that would be expected from a reputable financial institution in 2015.

“You first go and figure out what product you really like, then you see which seller is willing to sell it to you at the best price… It’s maybe the most important purchase you’re making right now in your life,” Prabhakara said.

“We are trying to make it a real open architecture for people to discover the best choice for themselves. Wealth has not been an open architecture because everyone makes it so complex… It’s almost like the agent benefits out of making it so complex, so they will throw a lot of jargon and fact sheets at you,” he added.

The platform isn’t only catering to the wealthy elite; people with as little as US$1,000 in savings can jump in. It has real estate investment opportunities starting from US$5,000, right through to US$5 million. In funds and deposits, you can also start with US$1,000 and grow from there.

Subscriptions from financial advisors, connections with brokers, and a service to help foreigners open local bank accounts all offer ‘trickling’ revenue streams for WeInvest at present. By year end, it hopes to see a modest US$100,000 in revenue. From next month, hedge fund listings will be available for as little as US$100 per month. The idea is to keep prices low to drive up initial traction.

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“The entry [price] is really low for both sides of the platform; for investors it’s completely free, and for some of the providers, we charge them depending on the kind of products they have,” Prabhakara said.

WeInvest is looking to raise a US$1 million seed round in March, with three rounds of investor talks already under its belt. Right now there are at least ‘four or five’ interested angels, and VCs may not be approached at this stage.

While wealth management is a highly competitive space, that competition is more from established banks and brokers rather than fellow startups looking to encroach on the territory.

To build consumer trust, WeInvest has tried as much as possible to partner with credible brands — it recently launched a campaign with the Securities Investors Association (Singapore), a non-profit organisation often looked to as an investor watchdog of sorts.

“It’s about building credibility with trusted sources in the market already,” Prabhakara said. Other notable partners at the time of writing include DBS Bank, OCBC Bank, Citibank, Standard Chartered, and ANZ.

An experimental model WeInvest is building out — and an additional revenue stream — will allow users to replicate real investment portfolios from successful or established investors, who can charge a custom fee of their own choosing for that insight. Expect that feature to be launched in about two months.

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