Source: Financial Post
A Canadian “fintech” company is revolutionizing the wealth management industry with its patented technology that empowers do-it-yourself investors and targets millennials.
Vancouver-based Voleo (The Investor Relations website is https://ir.myvoleo.com/ and the B2C site is www.myvoleo.com) offers its user-friendly mobile app that enables investors to build and manage individual portfolios or start an investment club. They are a regulated broker dealer with membership in both the U.S.’s Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the Securities Exchange Commission, which is not easy to achieve. The company has launched its mobile investing app into iOS, Android and web applications. Now, they are preparing Voleo to bring its award-winning platform to the public markets.
The fun and collaborative gaming-like app is leading to a revival of investment clubs. Members, who aren’t necessarily geographically located in the same place, can digitally connect, propose stocks, vote democratically on stock picks and instantly make the purchase. Members can also measure their stock performance through Voleo’s patented DROID technology.
Definitive Return On Investment Decisions is a performance score that facilitates better investment decisions within a club and helps users identify and track the platform’s top-performing investors. The technology is also Voleo’s significant value proposition to investors, says Thomas Beattie, Co-Founder and CEO of the startup, which hopes to go public sometime next month.
“The scalability of our technology makes it a compelling opportunity, along with the fact that we can greatly increase the number of customer we have in our channels,” says Beattie, a former investment banker who believes Canada’s six big banks are missing out on opportunities to increase market share because they have few incentives to innovate.
The DROID patent has been filed and is awaiting approval, after which it can be leveraged to other industries, including an independent cryptocurrency platform, which is already in development, and gaming platforms for sports betting, eSports and fantasy sports apps, all of which have been conceptualized.
Voleo’s patented technology is highly applicable to anything where people are betting on outcomes because it allows us to measure those outcomes,” said Beattie.
The investor platform is already live in the U.S., operating as a business-to-consumer (B2C) financial services technology company targeting retail investors. With only a soft-launch in 2017, Voleo already has thousands of U.S. customers using its mobile app, both individual account holders and members of investment clubs.
And its revolutionary platform is growing at record pace, averaging growth in new users of 20 per cent per month. That's before advertising and marketing campaigns, expected to launch this year after Voleo goes public and raises the $5-million financing it wants to scale the business as business-to-consumer (B2C) in the U.S. “and business-to-business (B2B) everywhere else,” said Beattie.
Under the B2C financial model, Voleo keeps 80 per cent gross margin for every $12 fee it charges per trade. But the real revenue will come from its B2B model – namely partnerships with banks, such as that announced in December with OP Financial Group, the largest financial services group in Finland. Voleo’s B2B model is a turn-key, white-label service, meaning Voleo builds the platform, in this case for the European market, but it will be marketed under OP Financial name and brand.
A similar partnership should be announced in Canada within the year, said Beattie, adding such partners “will be a big factor of our future growth.”
“There’s no doubt the financial landscape is changing and it’s exciting to be part of it,” says Alana Levine, Voleo’s Marketing director, who was first a Voleo investor before being hired for her impressive background in B2B business development.
“I saw a massive opportunity for Voleo to partner with financial institutions looking for ways to engage their less-active investing demographics,” said Levine.
That less-active demographic is largely millennials. Study after study shows Generation Y carries some form of debt but holds little financial literacy. The majority refuse to seek professional help, turning instead to Google or friends.
It’s this group that Voleo is well-suited to serve.
“We’ve created a digital environment that hasn’t existed before, where communities of new or experienced investors can interact, discuss, collaborate and learn from each other, and build confidence in the process,” said Levine. “Voleo is an ideal entry point.”
After the financial meltdown of 2008, many people became disillusioned with the financial markets, distrustful of investment advisers and cynical about the whole wealth management industry.
In Canada, new disclosure rules followed the crisis, along with clearer financial statements that now disclose how much people pay in fees. Still, a lack of trust in traditional investing methods and institutions remains a barrier, said Levine.
Other barriers include fear of not knowing how to invest, cost and a misbelief that one needs a certain amount of capital.
“Voleo addresses these problems in a safe place, where investing costs are shared among friends and people you trust, and where you can kick-start your wealth growth by learning directly from others,” said Levine.
It’s not just millennials who have found a safe investment haven in Voleo.
Dawna Willis, a 47-year-old nurse practitioner from West Tennessee, belongs to two investment groups on Voleo – Stocks and Stilettos, and Ambrose Bailey Investments. The former club invited her to join, the latter she founded for her family members and named after her grandparents.
Voleo converts savers into investors and research find that billions of dollars
sit dormant in personal savings accounts.
I have gained through Voleo a new-found confidence in investing in the stock market and creating financial goals for myself and my family,” said Willis, the mother of two children, the oldest of whom is in college. “Because of the ease of use with this app, I have invested in courses to learn about more advanced investing techniques, like options and day-trading.”
She also likes the app’s low-fee structure, its user interface, the option to start trading in a simulation account before going live, and the ability to log into the app and have all of the portfolio’s stats at her finger tips. For instance she can track transactions, contributions, what participant owns how much, and the portfolio’s gains or losses by day, week, month or year.
“I also enjoy their Leaderboard section, where they post the top 15 or 16 investment clubs for the week. As a member of Stocks and Stilettos, we love to see when our investment groups make the Leaderboard. And as a member of Ambrose Bailey Investments, I am especially proud that this week, we are in 3rd place as technical newbies.”
Beattie calls DROID “a tool for bragging” because “it lets you learn from all of the decisions you made and prove to everyone else how things would have gone if they had all listened to you,” he said.
“Historically, women have been less involved in the stock market than men and our company’s vision is to change this with the DROID score. We want to empower those who don’t have the confidence to voice their opinions, especially in the presence of those with experience” he said. “The power of this system is that it objectively measures the performance of each member’s decisions and elevates their influence within a group.”
Beattie, 37, tried to get his friends to form an investment club when they were all in their 20s, but couldn’t get them interested enough to fill out the “mountains of paperwork.”
Thus some of his buddies today, still don’t invest. And more than how much you know about investing, or how good you are at picking stocks, it’s starting to invest early – and doing so consistently throughout your life – that will make the biggest difference, he said.
Beattie’s biggest stock tip:
“Beating the market is less important to your financial future than if you start investing at 21 instead of 41. Slightly under-performing or over-performing won’t change anyone’s life but starting at 21 instead of 41 will.”
• Filed its patent for DROID technology in 2016 and is awaiting approval.
• Became a member of the U.S.’s Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in mid-2017, making Voleo a regulated broker.
• Official soft-launch in the U.S. in 2017.
• Announced its first B2B partnership in December 2018 with OP Financial Group of Finland, expanding into the European market.
• Collaborates with both Nasdaq in the U.S. and Canada’s TSX, offering trading competitions to students in both countries.