Michele Ferrario is the Co-Founder and CEO of StashAway – a Singapore-based robo advisor that provides a convenient, digital user experience with personalised portfolios with no minimum balance, no restrictions for withdrawals, and real-person customer service. Michele believes that StashAway empowers customers to reach their financial goals sooner by making investing more accessible and enjoyable.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
My name is Michele Ferrario. I was born in Italy, and I have lived, studied, and worked in Europe, South America, North America and Asia.
My career is split in two parts: I spent the first half working with financial institutions as a McKinsey consultant, and as a private equity investor; in the second half, I have launched and scaled several consumer internet companies. In this latter part, I launched two companies in Italy and three in Pakistan as a Rocket Internet Managing Director. I was then asked to be the Group CEO of ZALORA, the largest fashion e-commerce company in Southeast Asia, backed by Rocket Internet.
I currently live in Singapore with my wife Ludovica, my 3 years old son Matteo, and my 1 year old daughter Agnese.
What is your business venture about?
StashAway is a digital wealth management platform that makes it simple and cost-effective for everyone to invest and build wealth intelligently. StashAway is the faster way to reach your financial goals.
What is your mission at the outset?
StashAway empowers people of all net worth to accumulate wealth and meet their financial goals.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
StashAway solves a personal problem of mine. Throughout the last few years, I have been saving money but was not able to find a financial advisor that helped me get the most out of my savings with unbiased advice and intelligent support. StashAway provides that unbiased advice, and gives everyone access to institutional-level, sophisticated asset allocation strategies.
What is unique about your business?
There are three major differentiators of our business: Our use of technology, the experience we provide our customers, and the low fees that we charge.
We leverage technology to transform what it means to invest, so that customers have more control over their money. We provide financial advice and management through digital channels, focusing on the quality of the portfolios we build, and therefore of the returns customers can expect, rather than on the ancillary services that most incumbents provide.
At StashAway, we focus on how customers think about their financial goals. They no longer expect to meet a well-dressed financial advisor in an upscale office over a nice cup of tea; instead, they expect easily accessible, detailed advice on how to think about their financial situation and goals.
We charge only 0.2%-0.8% of a customer’s assets under management for our services. Individuals of all net worth now have access to top-quality investing at a fraction of the cost of traditional investing, and with fewer restrictions; the fee is inclusive of all services, and is available with no minimum balance, no withdrawal fees, and no lock-up periods.
Who do you sell to and how do you get customers?
We sell to individuals of all net worth, by providing sophisticated advice irrespective of the customer’s total assets, starting with minimum balance of S$ 0 (yes, zero!).
We work across all digital and offline channels to get customers. One area that we spent significant time on is education. We are at the forefront of transforming a decades-old system, and we feel we need to help people make the right saving and investment decisions, irrespective of whether that would end up being using StashAway’s services. In our free-to-use Resource Center, customers can find lot of information about investing, starting from the basics (e.g., what is an ETF?) to more detailed opinion pieces (e.g., should I invest with a DIY approach or rely on a financial advisor?).
Why will customers stay or do repeat business with you?
Customers will stay with us and increase the “share of wallet” they want us to help them manage, because we will offer delightful service, and it’s going to continuously improve.
We have built a product that meets the needs of today’s digital, value-seeking consumers and investors. The investment advice is intelligent, and the platform is intuitive.
What have been the biggest obstacles?
Early-stage companies often face many challenges that range from funding to finding the right team, to validating the product. From Day 1, we focused on building a foundation that would address obstacles before they become obstacles to our operations. By viewing and treating regulatory officials as partners in helping us build a strong product, we were able to weave compliance into our DNA. By building a top-tier, in-house team, we have been able to build the best possible product. Thus far, our challenges have been building the most advanced, innovative product possible. Because we have proactively managed potential external obstacles before they became problems, we have been able to develop and grow quickly. Now that our product is developed, we look forward to working towards communicating to consumers about how the investing paradigms are transforming.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you, know what they’re doing in detail, and are fun to work with.
Do you have any final thoughts?
For Singapore to maintain its position as Asia’s financial hub, the country needs to become the home of several firms that use technology to improve the quality of financial services. StashAway aims at covering this role for wealth management by using technology to provide a superior customer experience at a fraction of the cost, not just in Singapore, but in multiple countries around the region.
Who is your biggest inspiration or drive to do what you are doing?
My inspiration, drive, and stamina come from my beautiful family. Our kids Matteo (3) and Agnese (1) and my wife Ludovica, who has gone through 3 years of sleepless nights and still have the energy to wake up at 5am to make sure everything is ready for the day.
What’s next for you and for StashAway?
We’re working hard towards successfully launching our product in Singapore. We will then focus on launching in a few more markets.
Hock Lai has 18 years of experience in the financial industry, having performed roles in both business and technology. He graduated from the National University of Singapore (Real Estate), Nanyang Technological University (Infocomm Technology) and Nanyang Polytechnic (Fund Management & Administration).
He is also a Fellow of the Singapore University of Social Science, advisor to FinTech Startups and mentor to student FinTech projects.
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