For today’s profile we have Silvan Schumacher, CEO of the online investment service, Swanest.
Our questions are in bold.
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Who are you and what’s your background?
I am Silvan Schumacher, CEO and Co-founder of Swanest; an online investment service that helps self-directed investors in building and managing personalised investment portfolios.
My Masters in International Management from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland brought me to institutions like Ernst & Young in Zurich and the American consultancy Hay Group in Indonesia. My second degree opened up doors in the field of International Relations. I ended up working for the United Nations in Lebanon.
Working in both the private and public sector made me realise what connects the world: money. However, I also discovered that money is something most people do not master, instead we rely on institutions whose values do not always reflect best interests.
With Swanest we want go back to the values that matter and focus around self-directed investors and their problems.
What is your job title and what are your general responsibilities?
I do so much that this can seem a bit fussy. But if I had to break it down to one single aspect, then this is communications.
Most important is the communication with the customers. Receiving their inputs and sharing our vision is a very creative process that helps us to build a service around their needs.
Marketing is communication as well. We implement strategies to communicate with people when they need us, away from traditional push-driven communications.
The product needs to communicate as well. Together we innovate and shape the vision of the product. The team is doing a great job with IT, experience and algorithms, my contribution is the communication part.
Also when it comes to managing people or developing a business, mostly it is about communication in one or the other direction – to drive the company move forward towards its goals.
Can you give us an overview of your business?
Swanest is here to empower self-directed investors; those people that want to manage their money themselves.
The investing part especially takes some courage to do it yourself; it can be a rather tricky undertaking and tends to eat up a lot of time.
With Swanest we look at all the frustrations self-directed investors face and use automation & algorithms to build an assistant that can help solve each of those problems in a smart and simple way.
Some might compare us with a robo-advisor. This is where we initially come from, but we realised that such services put investors just in another basket of model portfolios.
This is why we have emphasised personalisation; which essentially means to be able to help an investor with whatever specific need he or she has.
Tell us how you are funded.
Swanest is backed with €750’000 from a Belgian business angel.
Why did you start the company? To solve what problems?
In a nutshell, we are all frustrated with the traditional financial industry.
Look at it from whatever angle; the products, customer service, communication or digital tools, there is not one single investment service that we would really want ourselves.
In the beginning we thought robo-advisors were a great fit with our needs. However, the better we understood our users and the more we liberated ourselves from the idea to copy and paste another business model, the more we understood that we have the possibility to create something entirely new, just the way we really want it.
Who are your target customers? What’s your revenue model?
Swanest is built for self-directed investors.
More precisely, for mid- to long-term investors, not for day-traders or the like.
Thereby, it does not matter whether you have no experience or are look for something truly elaborate, Swanest can adapt to your needs. We emphasise on the learning aspect and our systems have been designed to grow with the experience of the user.
If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you change in the banking and/or FinTech sector?
The monetary system. Unfortunately, it is very fragile and the cause of lots of burst bubbles.
It will not defect one day, but we can achieve much more prosperity and happiness if we rethink who should have the power of money creation and how it is being allocated.
In the end, money is what drives the world and the way it is built has a consequence on everything that is connected to it.
What is your message for the larger players in the Finance industry?
Some traditional players are very reluctant to talk to us. Simply because we want to establish our own brand, institutions fear being left out.
However, there are lots of ways we can work together. Looking at the entire value-chain of an investment services offers lots of opportunities to work together.
For instance, our users will have the choice to invest in stocks, ETFs and mutual funds. We want to give them the right tools, but also free choice. This is a great opportunity for any asset manager to move closer to his investors.
Another possibility is the custody part; we will never want to hold funds. The best thing for an investor is if they can choose the bank with which to hold the investments. We would be happy to arrange the mediation between both.
What phone are you carrying and why?
Sony Xperia Z3, because it has a great battery life and comes at a fair price-tag.
Where do you get your industry news from?
Google and Feedly help me identifying trending news in the fintech sector.
Can you list 3 people you rate from the FinTech sector that we should be following on Twitter?
Anna Irrera @annairrera Trading and tech reporter at Financial News
Huy Nguyen Trieu @Huynguyentrieu CEO of The Disruptive Group, Writes blog Disruptive Finance
What’s the best FinTech product or service you’ve seen recently?
The blockchain technology is very interesting, especially as it can rebuild the traditional monetary infrastructure with the ability to shape it for the better.
Finally, let’s talk predictions. What trends do you think are going to define the next few years in the FinTech sector?
Especially in Europe, regulation will trigger further change in the financial industry. When Mifid II and PSD II kick in, we will see greater competition and experience more transparency in the industry. This will impact the use of data as well and lead to new business opportunities.
Lots of bets on fintech startups have been made. The upcoming years will show which of the business models are sustainable. Those that are not successful, might flee into the hands of established institutions to seek more funding or to find ways to acquire customers more effectively.
Banks will continue to invest in the improvement of their legacy. Increasing efficiency through new technologies is their top priority. However, some get ready for an interconnected world as well. APIs should become standard among the leaders.
Blockchain might become more widely adapted in the industry and take care of handling transactions more efficiently. Companies will start to apply AI in its basic mode to start building up more intelligence.
Moreover, we will find new ways to interact with information. Advancements in augmented reality will impact finance as well.
Lastly, personalisation will be central to the success of every solution. Not only will services become personalised for the masses, but also the communication to the customers.
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