Retiring wealthy or not at all? InvesTech firms at #afta17

With InvesTech firms redefining the investment sphere and taking the challenge to bloated traditional institutions in terms of solutions, education and platforms, there was naturally a lot of interest in their pitches at the African FinTech Awards. Some big players and familiar foes in the form of EasyEquities, ZAR X and Wealth Migrate went head-to-head on the second morning of Finance Indaba Africa on 13 October 2017.

Charles Savage, the CEO of last year's overall winner, EasyEquities, explained that his firm remained intent on democratising access to investment in shares and in so doing, closing the gap between the haves and have-nots. He said:

"Only a few people around the world hold shares, but these are the greatest assets for building wealth. We abandoned the 'minimum fees and investment' so common in this sector, which exclude 98 percent of opportunities and give people access to shares they loved through fractional ownership. Our users can invest a dollar in a Berkshire Hathaway, for example."

EasyEquities solves the problem of lack of access to education through social media and an intuitive brand interface, Charles said. "In three years, we've saved R100 million in investment fees, which, over the course of an investor's career, could mean the difference between retiring wealthy and not at all. We don't build what we think our customers need - we build what they want us to build."

He added that the recent R100 million investment from Sanlam in the company would be used to expand operations to Australia and six Asian markets, marketing campaigns and the development of its platforms.

Wealth Migrate CEO Scott Picken took attendees through the founding of the online real estate investment company, which was born from Picken being excluded from a 2009 deal involving medical centres on the basis of the high minimum amount needed. It was typical financial inclusion. Some 49 percent of the world's wealth is held in property but only 12.9 percent of the population have access to it and have to go through 16 different middle men to get it.

Scott said:

"We decided to make investment into this global asset easy via a platform that allows users to invest as little as R1,000 into a diversified portfolio. Our blockchain-based GIDDS system empowers and helps educate our 10,000 members, who come from 105 countries."

The only African FinTech to make the KPMG FinTech Top 50, Wealth Migrate is in the process of launching its Wealthe cryptocurrency, which is based on real estate.

ZAR X CEO Etienne Nel said the licenced stock exchange had signed up 4,800 clients despite being in operation for only nine months, and was in a position to collaborate with FinTechs. Etienne explained that principle-based ZAR X's biggest selling point was that it could settle any transaction in just 10 seconds, which allowed for a dramatic reduction in systemic risk.

Etienne said:

"Nelson Mandela said: 'Money won't create success, the freedom to make it will.' We are aiming to reduce the wealth gap by eliminating costly administrative fees and introducing our free 'Gmail account for investing' - clients can begin earning a wholesale interest rate with as little as R100 in investment."

Etienne added that ZAR X offered financial data free of charge on its website and could ensure B-BBEE transactions, and allow black people to trade BEE shares with other black people effectively, driving empowerment.