So after watching Swanest for a while I thought I’d roll my up sleeves and join the DIY investment crowd. I did get an invite to try out Swanest but had been too busy to check it out, until I got a second invite. Thanks Swanest for the second invite!
Having previously had a chat with Spiros Margaris about the bright future of “Robo+Advisor” (and not just the pure play “Robo-Advisor”) I was intrigued. The Swanest idea is really to put people at the heart of financial services through a technology that empowers DIY investors to build and manage personalized investment portfolios.
Since I normally would leave all the hassle to my money manager, I was completely open minded going in and ended up testing Swanest with a lot of questions in mind. The personal assistant at the start was a nice touch. Realistic? Yes. Coming from a mobile background with PFM products with Personal Assistants, I thought this was a very intuitive setup.
The “Yes, help me” qualifying questions were very useful and DIY investors will love the added touch of being in control. I immediately thought of how brokers tend to sell you on options that are designed to benefit them more than you in the long run. With Swanest I actually enjoyed the informational aspect of knowing what to expect.
As far as my risk appetite was concerned, I settled for number 5 … “I’m willing to lose some to make some”. As a DIY investor, the whole concept of rebalancing my portfolio is very appealing. Bottom line is my portfolio would stay within my risk profile and volatility acceptance levels.
Now Explore Your Swanest Portfolio!
When it came time to explore my portfolio, I was surprised at how user friendly the whole platform is. My initial expectation was the usual challenge having tested other platforms. I was pleasantly surprised and the two things that I honestly enjoyed were:
- FAQs as “Learn Space” – The wording is great! That made me have a sense of ownership of the whole process.
- The upvote system – The concept of inviting users to vote on future features in an upvote system is genius.
The customer-first approach that Swanest is taking or the product-market fit that they are developing is in my opinion a win-win situation for both DIY investors and in the longer term for Swanest. I found the whole process very simple and engaging (If my money manager uses such a simple innovation as Swanest, I will have to consider the fees he charges) All in all, I plan on maintaining a Swanest account. I’m hoping that they live up to the “putting back the people at the heart of financial services” claim. Wanting to get a bit more information, I approached Swanest.Putting back the people at the heart of financial services - SwanestClick To Tweet
UPDATE AFTER BETA TESTING:
This week I got a chance to talk with Silvan Schumacher, who is CEO and co-founder of Swanest and asked him a few questions regarding the beta testing and the overall direction the company was taking.
[Kevin] Silvan, thanks again for scheduling me in this week. First of all, what’s the history? How did you guys meet and decide on the idea of Swanest?
[Silvan] Some time ago, I did an exchange semester in Belgium. I am originally from Switzerland. It was there that I got to know Nicolas. We attended the same class; international entrepreneurship. He was into finance a lot and because of that, we quickly connected. As we had to present a business idea, we proposed something around micro investing. We built up a team and wrote a business plan. After the end of the semester, Nicolas proposed joining forces. Because he already run a software development company together with Cyril and Youri, we had all the capabilities needed to launch the project ourselves.
Since then we have changed the idea many times, tested different value propositions and even participated in an accelerator program here in Belgium. We finally ended up with Swanest. The name is composed of “swan” and “nest”. The “swan” is a monogamous animal that does not change partners in its life. That is why swans are often associated with love. The “nest” is a symbol of someone’s financial nest egg. Hence, Swanest is about the long-lasting relationship with someone’s finances. The kind of relationship that traditional financial institutions seem to have forgotten.
[Kevin] The first question I have for you is: I’m sure you are getting a lot of valuable feedback from the beta testing. How are you guy assimilating this info?
[Silvan] It is important to note that what you see currently online will not be our final solution. We tried to innovate from the very beginning and now started to understand everything that is actually possible … Importantly, we like to invest in whatever financial product we believe in; shares, ETFs or even funds. However, traditional robo-advisors will always sell you the same portfolio. This is why we decided to merge the liberty of an online broker with the kind of automated intelligence and ease of use you know from robo-advisors. This will create an entirely new experience … but we are currently just at the beginning of unfolding all this innovation.
To become what we really want, which is essentially the best investment management tool for people like yourselves, we will keep innovating quite a bit … We have plenty of ideas and we love involving our users in this process. Hence, the upvote system is just the beginning … we will soon unveil a lot more innovation on which we will seek input from our users. To innovate fast, we will not directly connect to a broker. Rather we prefer staying independent and letting our minds free room to reinvent online investing.
[Kevin] From a customer perspective, what kind of impact do you think Swanest will have on the consumer’s life?
[Silvan] We are currently focused on building an Investment Management Assistant with real-time tools and analytics. This is geared towards helping a DIY investor make the right investment decisions. We are initially going to concentrate on this customer facing aspect until we have a product with a frontend that’s 100% consumer-centric. Plugging in Swanest as it is now to the market would require a monumental shift of resources towards Security and the backend, leaving very little time to focus on the most important aspect, which is the frontend and the customers.
[Kevin] So it would be premature talk about monetization at this moment in time?
[Silvan] With the focus on the frontend and the customer engagement, it would be. Traditional robo-advisors make revenues through the investment management. However, as their portfolios are rather small, a user might generate a yearly revenue between €50 – €100. However, these businesses spend up to €400 – €600 to acquire a new customer. Hence, you will not become profitable for a long while. This requires investors with deep pockets and you would be forced to metamorphose into a marketing machine. All that will make you loose focus on what is really important; the needs and wishes of your users.
That’s not what we want. We believe the best product wins; loved by customers, built together with them. Fostering our community, creating a brand and re-inventing online investing is our top priority. Rome was not built in a day, but it is here to last.
Also consider that charging for the investment management is not the only way to monetizing such a solution. There are others too, we will opt for the one that makes most sense for our users.
[Kevin] Since 2008, investment brokers have had this negative reputation. Earlier this year the Evening Standard wrote “Over the past few years, the city has had a bad reputation-decidedly anti-social in fact” when referring to The City in London. Is it safe to assume that the appeal that Swanest has stems from this kind of sentiment?
[Silvan] This is what drives the people behind Swanest. Traditional financial services became disconnected from reality. They have built a system full of short-term incentives, non-transparent practices and hidden fees. All geared towards filling up the pockets of a certain elite. The more we engaged with the investment industry, the clearer their flaws became. We want to shift the power back to the people. We might be small, but we have a vision and technology is our weapon.
Even though our guns are loaded, we do not just shoot blindly. We meet quite a lot of people from the traditional financial industry and address our concerns. Some are surprisingly open to change … they are even frustrated with their institutions, but it is just so hard for them to change. This is also why talent is increasingly leaving the traditional financial industry to start working with financial technology startups.
[Kevin] Thank you very much for taking the time to clarify my questions. I’m looking forward to testing Swanest again as you unveil more new features and I will be participating regularly in the Upvote system.
[Silvan] Thank you for your support. For those who haven’t tested Swanest, please do and let us know what you think.
If you have been involved with the Swanest beta testing, I would love to hear you opinion. Feel free to use the comments section below.