Fostering Financial Inclusion is Trulioo’s exclusive series covering forward-thinking companies that are pushing the envelope for financial accessibility. In this series, you can expect to get a deeper look at some of the world’s leading socially responsible technology companies and learn about their initiatives in supporting those who are financially underserved.
Investing Made Simple
Changing the narrative on personal finance is not an easy thing to do, but the right technology and level of user traction can go a long way. As it happens, the narrative is already shifting – thanks to Wealthsimple, an online investment management company that is based out of Canada. Over the last four years, it has endeavoured to simplify investing for millennials; its mandate is to make financial services available to everyone — no matter who they are, or how much wealth they have. Since it’s inception, Wealthsimple has raised $129 million in funding; it has helped over 100,000 clients across the world, and accumulated more than $3 billion in asset management.
We spoke to Mallory Greene, Wealthsimple’s head of corporate social responsibility (CSR), about the company’s financial inclusion initiatives. As one of the company’s earliest employees, she has held various roles there: Marketing, recruiting, human resources, events and public relations.
Trulioo: Wealthsimple looks laser-focused on financial education — your product offerings, online magazine and marketing certainly reflect that. What level of financial knowledge is essential for someone who wants to get started with investing?
Mallory: It’s important to understand how to make informed decisions as an investor. That being said, being an informed investor does not mean you have to be an expert. It’s about knowing the basics so you can take control of your finances and ensure that you’re on the right track: Concepts like understanding the fees you’re paying, what type of portfolio you’re in, what account types make sense for you, or how much you should be saving.
Start with one subject; maybe it’s understanding how a retirement account works and what you should be contributing to your savings. You’ll understand the importance of having a financial plan in place — even if it’s just the beginning of one. But that first step will be the most powerful step that you can take for your financial future.
Trulioo: One of your magazine articles states that Wealthsimple is committed to see “access to financial freedom as a human right for everyone no matter where you come from or how much money you have.” In that context, what are Wealthsimple’s social responsibility goals?
Mallory: We’ve made huge strides in removing many of the barriers associated with investing. From a social responsibility standpoint, the next priority is to break down the accessibility components of our product – whether that’s the product language (to cater towards all financial literacy levels), accessibility of onboarding for people with disabilities, or the ability to reach rural communities that traditionally don’t have access to a bank branch.
Our main focus is on children from low-income communities. We want to empower parents living on low incomes to use education savings plans to not only create a foundation of savings, but to also deliver a motivational promise of a post-secondary education to their children. The impact of this program will be powerful for these children: drastically higher lifetime income, decrease in unemployment rate, longer life expectancy, and overall contributions to the global economy.
Trulioo: What is Wealthsimple doing to help those who are overlooked by financial institutions?
Mallory: Wealthsimple was created to bring financial access to those individuals who have traditionally been overlooked by financial institutions; generally, anyone who is: Just getting started with investing, can’t reach the high minimums offered by banks, intimidated by complicated financial language.
But now we’ve taken that one step further. We looked at the financial services industry as a whole and dug into communities that are often overlooked by financial institutions: women, indigenous peoples, newcomers to Canada, or low-income communities. Financially empowering every person, no matter who they are or where they’re from, and guiding them through important investment decisions – this is really what bringing accessibility means to Wealthsimple.
Wealthsimple was created to bring financial access to those individuals who have traditionally been overlooked by financial institutions.
Trulioo: In Wealthsimple’s experience, what is the next step in financial services for the unbanked?
Mallory: Financial inclusion has been accelerated because of technology; we now have the ability to open and access our bank or investment accounts from our phones, anywhere in the world. We’ve made great progress for the unbanked, but when it comes to account ownership, large disparities still exist. We need to address the biggest barriers to accessing financial services: education, accessibility and trust. This effort will require partnerships across banks, fintech companies, foundations and community leaders. When we lift the barriers associated with financial services today, we can take an important step towards greater equality for all.
Trulioo: Can you tell us how Wealthsimple distinguishes itself from others in reaching financially underserved individuals?
Mallory: We are a mission-driven organization. And our mission is to make financial services accessible to everyone regardless of age, net worth or circumstance. Everything we do – whether it’s branding, product or CSR initiatives – ties back to that mission. For example, our Money Diaries blog series revolves around the concept of really interesting people sharing their most personal stories. It’s a new narrative in the financial industry – one that’s honest and vulnerable. It showcases everyone’s unique relationship with money and how it’s not always perfect.
Trulioo: Can you share with us a story of how Wealthsimple has helped someone begin investing even when they thought otherwise?
Mallory: A touching story I heard recently was from a woman in northern Canada, who thought investing was out of reach for her because she lived too far from a bank branch. She didn’t know a lot about investing, but we had numerous conversations with her and helped her get signed up. It was an important milestone in her life and we were happy to be a part of it.