For many of us, talking about our personal finances is one of the last taboos. A survey by a team of researchers at University College in London, found that Britons were seven times more likely to reveal bedroom secrets with a stranger than share details of their salary. Travel 17,000 kilometres to the sunny shores of Australia however and it’s a slightly different story. We’d rather talk about sex than money, according to a recent ME Bank survey. Who would have thought antipodeans would be more uptight than the Brits!
This probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise – money being a taboo topic that is. There’s just something inherently uncomfortable about talking about our financial position. Our egos are inextricably wound up in our bank balance, to the extent that we are sometimes paralysed when it comes to improving it.
In a world where wealth inequality is on the rise, taboos around money manifest themselves as yet another handicap for those in lower income brackets. A report released this year by the Australian Council of Social Service found that the wealthiest 25 per cent of Australians are now a staggering 70 times better off than the poorest.
The most telling aspect of the report is just how wealth has been amassed. The top fifth owns more shares and investments, while the bottom fifth is more likely to own low value, depreciating assets, such as cars and household goods. It would follow then that if we are to haul Australians up the financial ladder, lowering the barrier to accessing investment products is key. And that means lowering the cost of advice and increasing ease of access.
Well, thanks to fintech, this just might be possible. With technology powered automation and smart data harvesting, access to investment advice and products is being given a new lease of life. And much to everyones relief, this new makeover includes fewer fee hungry financial advisors, fewer sterile meeting rooms and less exposure to slick looking individuals in three piece suits, pointing at big and intimidating looking charts. Thanks to roboadvice, low to middle income earners can now access investment advice and products right from their laptop – minus the gatekeeper. For the same cost as a few cups of coffee a month, more Australians than ever may be able to start moving the needle on wealth creation.
Leading the roboadvice charge in Australia is local entrepreneur Chris Brycki, founder of Stockspot. The startup is Australia’s first fully online investment service, removing ‘fat cat’ fees and automating the mundane and tricky aspects of portfolio management. It’s one of a new breed of companies democratising access to professional wealth management. And it couldn’t come at a better time.
Why? Well, despite growing wealth inequality, an estimated 80% of Australians still don’t actively seek financial advice. While there’s no doubt taboos around money are a factor, so to are the prohibitive costs in seeking help, along with a lack of trust in the industry.
“Our technology helps to reduce the costs and risks of investing – while making wealth management accessible to more people,’’ Brycki says. “It’s an online product that enables us to scale across a lot of people, allowing them to start with a very low first balance, just $2000, so almost anyone with a little bit of savings can get started.”
The good news is Gen Y, Stockspot’s target market, is ready to get engaged on their finances. ME bank’s survey found that 56% of Gen Ys were more likely to discuss money openly, compared to 28% overall.
However even with this encouraging statistic, it’s still a big job to educate a generation of Australians about investing. While companies like Betterment and Wealthfront are yet to land on Australian shores, other roboadvice startups will appear over the next year or so. Much like other entrepreneurs, Brycki welcomes the competition. A few more players to help do some of the ‘heavy-lifting’ when it comes to educating the market can only boost his brand.
In the meantime, Stockspot has a good first mover advantage, clocking up over 6000 registered users so far and nabbing the backing of influential global and local investors. The key will be to keep staying relevant and to continue increasing mindshare, in what could easily become a crowded market. That’s where getting creative about how you get your message across starts to become more and more important. Brycki seems up to the challenge however, leveraging content partnerships and getting out as the face of the brand whenever he can.
The problem with taboo topics is that we often suffer unnecessarily in silence. I can’t help but think about that British TV show, Embarrassing Bodies, which has done wonders for making, ‘taboo’ ailments mainstream. Maybe we need Embarrassing Money. Then perhaps we could all stop beating ourselves up about how terrible we are with our finances. Maybe it would turn out we’re not that bad after all. Or maybe we would learn more about companies like Stockspot, and feel brave enough to start talking more openly about wealth creation.
Money can’t buy happiness but it can get pretty close. And if Stockspot can help me get more of both for less, I’m in.
This is the fourth story in my Fintech Founders series. You can read them all here.
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