That´s what I like most: Founders and companies that wish to change the game of banking. Swanest aims to”Putting People back at the heart of financial services.” Nico Bindels Chief Product Officer of Swanest answered my Finterview questions and I (like Chris Rea) can´t wait to see those “Beta Tester” Faces!
Please describe your company and product
Swanest makes intelligent investing simple. We are an easy to use online investment service that uses automation and algorithms to help self-directed investors in building and managing personalised portfolios.
Why did you start your business?
We are all passionate Do-It-Yourself Investors and technologists.
A major trigger in our lives was certainly the global financial crisis, which made us realise how flawed the financial system and its services are nowadays. As Do-It-Yourself Investors ourselves, we also experienced how painful it can be to lose some of our savings during that period.
When fintech ventures and robo-advisors started to emerge in the American market we had an eye opening moment. We understood that we could use our capabilities in software engineering to design solutions that help can help ourselves to better manage our own money.
What customer problem will you solve? Your main USP?
Do-It-Yourself Investing is a great way to take control of your own financial future. However, it is very complex. You need to study a lot about the topic, use Excel files to compute portfolios and to keep your investments managed over time.
At Swanest we decided to pick up all these issues and use automation and algorithms to provide assistance. This allows us to make intelligent investing simple.
How is your startup financed? In what funding phase are you?
We are currently bootstrapped, but started to look for funding and are in negotiations with different investors.
Please describe your business model?
Essentially we make intelligent investing simple. To do so we use algorithms and automation to provide a powerful online tool to Do-It-Yourself Investors. We will charge a flat rate fee, which will include the free trading of all the products that we advise: a transparent and simple pricing.
Please tell us some facts about your team? Who are the founders and what are their skills?
We have a great team with strong DNA in technology. Nicolas, Youri and Cyril founded a digital-native software development company some while ago. Besides studying software engineering, business and economics, they pushed themselves to develop fantastic solutions for themselves and for third parties. Silvan brings in a strong understanding of the financial system and its related topics. Together, we are the perfect match to challenge the status quo.
Short answer: Disrupting banks or enabling banks?
Disrupting banks, but we invite them to join us.
In what are you better than banks?
We build the best investment experience there is for people like ourselves.
Banks cannot do that due to different reasons. First, they think in a traditional mindset, fight with legacy and are still very profit driven. Second, the methodologies they use to develop software are not flexible enough to trigger innovation. Lastly, but most importantly, we love what we build and our users can feel that. I don’t know any IT guy in a bank that is truly passionate about what he does, and you can feel that too.
What are the biggest future challenges for banks and for your company?
Banks are fighting to adapt to an environment that is changing with the speed of light. You may think of it as making an old dinosaur to get a surfboard and ride the waves. That’s not an easy thing to do.
As a fintech startup you face tons of regulations and need to build up trust first. You might ride the wave like no one else, but as you are small it will be hard to catch the wave and to be seen by the people on the beach.
Are you satisfied with the progress of your startup? Are you on target?
Frankly speaking, we could have been faster. We have been around already a year and did still not launch. This might be frustrating sometimes. However, we have gained tremendous insights about the industry and the needs of our customers. We experimented a lot, got to know innovative approaches to build startups due to our engagement in the NESTup accelerator and built up a strong network of key influencers and experts. But now we know what we want and we go and get it.
Any advice for people who likes to start a fintech startup?
Be very passionate about what you do, the barriers to enter the fintech industry are very high and unless you truly love what you do you will give up.
More of a practical advice, go out and talk to as many people as you can. Pitch your idea, get challenged, evolve and find the thing that will be amazingly useful to your users.
What are your plans and milestones for 2015?
This week we just reached a major milestones: we will launch our virtual investment accounts. You can start building portfolios and keep tracking different strategies in your personal account space. Almost like real, but without real money.
We invite everyone to open an account and to send us their feedback on how to make the investment experience even better.
Additional Question: What technology will have the main disruptional influence on banking?
Currently you observe technology to disaggregate banks. Startups will not provide all these services together, but will offer solutions for one particular business with a much better value proposition.
What all these banks and startups rely on is a common financial infrastructure. Blockchain technology is the major technology that forces this infrastructure to change. If it does, it will eliminate the ultimate power of banks; the ability to create money out of nothing.