Today we talk to Kerim Derhalli of Invstr. He was formerly global head of equity trading at Deutch-Bank, and he’s developed a social networking app for finance called Invstr.
Our questions are in bold.
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1. Who are you and what’s your background?
I got into finance straight from university. I studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford and wanted a career that gave me international exposure. Between 1983 and 2008, the finance industry went through a remarkable period of growth driven by declining regulation, increased leverage, tremendous product innovation, the opening up of new markets as the world got flatter, and increased trading volumes, especially by hedge funds. My career took me all over the world – I lived in Tokyo, Singapore, New York and London and travelled everywhere else in between! I was lucky enough to meet a lot of very smart people with very diverse backgrounds. What I enjoyed most was interacting with clients and colleagues and learning new skills in the many roles I performed. I built and ran businesses in Foreign Exchange, Fixed Income, Credit, Commodities, Equities and Emerging Markets. I learned that when we come together with a common purpose, motivated teams can achieve remarkable things. During my career, I always had an interest in technology. When I started trading, PCs did not even exist! In 2001, I ran eCommerce globally for a major bank. I learned a great deal about the proper use of technology in a business. I maintained a deep interest in systems infrastructure in all the businesses I subsequently managed. It was an invaluable education that prompted me to think about the possibilities of transforming finance through technology.
2. What is your job title and what are your general responsibilities?
I am the CEO and founder of invstr. I have been intimately involved at every stage of the business process from developing the concept, raising the funding, hiring a highly diverse and talented team of 23 people in two countries. On a daily basis, I am involved in designing the product, co-ordinating the technology development and driving the marketing of the platform.
3. Can you give us an overview of your business?
At invstr, our mission is to democratise access to financial information and promote financial education.
Invstr is the first app to deliver real time market data, news and content directly to mobile devices that previously were only available to users of expensive subscription terminals. With invstr, financial professionals and independent investors have expansive, on-demand access in one app to live market data, news from leading financial outlets and sophisticated research reports – as well as a transformational crowdsourced predictive marketplace that helps investors gauge market conviction in real time.
We believe there are three things that every investor wants: access to high quality information, the ability to communicate seamlessly with a community of like-minded people and insights that will help them make money. invstr delivers all three things through a mobile first, pay-as-you-go, multi-source, cloud-based platform.
4. Tell us how you are funded.
Invstr is privately funded by myself and another passive investor.
5. Why did you start the company? To solve what problems?
We wanted to make finance more social and to empower individuals. invstr members can access high quality information, share their views with other people and participate in a crowd-sourced market prediction game. The insights that we can get from the game can help all of us to become better investors and to make more money.
I felt that the financial system had become too disconnected from the rest of society and that information was too tightly controlled by a financial elite. We also needed to reduce the systemic risk that almost destroyed our economies a few years ago by putting more information and power into the hands of individual investors.
With invstr, members can now access the following information:
• live on-demand market data on 70,000 individual stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities, as well as millions of delayed priced instruments from markets around the world
• Completely free financial news database that enables users to search and read articles in Dow Jones News, including the Wall Street Journal & Barrons, The Financial Times and other leading outlets
• Research reports on more than 60,000 listed companies available on-demand
• Market predictions on individual stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities from other users through a unique crowdsourcing function
• Social networking and encrypted messaging functionalities that allow users to share information and chat
We say that invstr members can ‘play, learn and share’, making finance fun, fair and collaborative.
6. Who are your target customers? What’s your revenue model?
We have tried to design invstr to appeal to everyone who is interested in the financial markets. Our users can be individual investors, students or finance professionals, They can access all the information they need, anywhere in the world at any time through their mobile phone. The invstr app is free to download. Users pay for the premium information they want only when they need it: real-time data for stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities costs 1 cent, per security, per day. Research reports cost between $0.99 and $4.99. Market commentaries are just 5 cents each.
7. If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you change in the banking and/or FinTech sector?
Give everyone the ability to be their own bank!
8. What is your message for the larger players in the Finance industry?
Work with us to help give consumers what they want! We all deserve a much better user experience that gives us access to all the information we need at an affordable price, delivered through an open-source, cloud-based mobile platform that is seamless across devices.
9. What phone are you carrying and why?
An iPhone 5s. I have been too busy to upgrade to an iPhone 6 and the 5s fits in my pocket!
10. Where do you get your industry news from?
Invstr of course! We have almost 2 million news articles and research reports on our platform sourced directly from The Wall Street Journal, Barrons, Dow Jones, The Financial Times and several research partners.
11. Can you list 3 people you rate from the FinTech sector that we should be following on Twitter?
Brett Scott @Suitpossum – Author of The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money. Exploring urban ecology, economic anthropology, P2P tech & alternative currency
Thomas Power @thomaspower
Internet scout and leading edge professional speaker on technical, fintech, internet technologies and developments.
12. What’s the best FinTech product or service you’ve seen recently?
Simple, a user friendly app providing budgeting and saving tools with practically no fees, to help you make better financial decision. Indeed, “the way banking should be”.
13. Finally, let’s talk predictions. What trends do you think are going to define the next few years in the FinTech sector?
The financial world is changing. Money matters to all of us and yet the financial industry has yet to experience the social revolution that has fundamentally transformed other aspects of our lives. We have all become better informed. We like to share our experiences and learn from others. We like to feel empowered to make informed decisions for ourselves. These experiences have taught us to be more independent and social at the same time. Within the financial industry this is being reflected in an unstoppable trend towards self-directed investing. The experience of the financial crisis has also made us more suspicious of allowing other people to manage our money: 83% of people in the UK trust either themselves or no one to manage their money! Platforms like invstr will become essential in helping us take more control of our financial lives and enabling us to collaborate with each other, whether it is in predicting the markets, peer-to-peer lending or crowd-funding.
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Thanks to Kerim for answering our questions. You can find out a bit more about him here.
If you’ve any suggestions for other hot FinTech companies (startup, or established ventures) that we should be profiling, I’m all ears. Don’t hesitate to drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s more information on this page.