Tom McGillycuddy, co-founder of ‘socially responsible’ passive investing app tickr, speaks exclusively to Good With Money about his new venture.
Like it or not, these days we do everything on our mobile’s. From catching up with friends, to our food shopping, to our banking – if we can’t do it through our smartphone on our lunch break, chances are we won’t be doing it at all.
Companies that have tapped in to this sea change in our everyday habits have enjoyed strong success in recent years, with app-based suppliers like Just Eat and Uber now some of the fastest growing companies in the world.
In the finance space, start-ups like Monzo and Revolut are transforming banking as they attract millions of young customers, while Moneybox – an app based investment platform that also helps users put their spare change into index trackers – is finally getting young people investing.
The idea you could do something positive through investing is alien to many – that’s what we want to change
It is the success of the latter companies that tickr, a new investing app, is hoping emulate. Co-founded by former Barclays analysts Tom McGillycuddy and Matt Latham, the app uses a range of cheap, passive ETFs to create what it calls ‘socially responsible’ portfolios based on a range of exclusions.
McGillycuddy explains: “It’s well known that millennials are more socially and environmentally conscious consumers than previous generations, but still – levels of financial awareness and engagement are low. The fact is, most young people don’t have a clue about investment, and don’t trust it. The idea that you could do something positive through investing is completely alien to many. And that’s what we want to change.”
tickr’s inception started with what McGillycuddy describes as a “lightbulb moment” during a 2016 visit to a group of social housing projects that his former employer, Wellington Management, invested in.
“My interest in environmental and social issues started at Barclays and to be honest, for a while I thought I wanted to leave finance altogether. However a few years later I was at Wellington, where we invested in impact projects all over the world.
“One day, I was speaking to an Indian family that was being helped by one of the companies I was investing in, and I thought: ‘this is exactly the sort of story that would get my friends investing.’ Basically, I realised that we need to tell the stories behind the companies and the money: that this was how we could get young people to invest.”
I realised that we need to tell the stories behind the companies and the money
And so, the seed for tickr was planted. Sitting down with Latham, who invested for charities at Barclays, the pair had a think about how they could deploy their expertise as Chartered Financial Analysts to create accessible portfolios for more socially conscious investors.
Compelling, active, and accessible: an impact first
On the storytelling, the pair decided early on they would produce a range of videos that would feature both investee companies and the people they are helping.
Eventually McGillyCuddy says he hopes to produce a range of clips featuring users actually meeting the CEOs and beneficiaries of the projects their money goes into, recreating that lightbulb moment in India, where everything started for him.
As for the model, looking at the runaway success of Monzo – which now boasts over 1 million customers despite being founded only three years ago in 2015 – McGillycuddy knew Tickr also had to be a mobile-based application that was intuitive, easy to understand and a cinch to sign up for.
Figuring out finances
The result is a range of three themed portfolios that use passive ETFs (otherwise known as index trackers) to invest across markets. The themes are climate change, disruptive technology and social impact, with the option to combine all three for an annual fee of 0.7 per cent, charged monthly.
McGillycuddy says: “We thought a lot about the model and presentation. So far we have gone for simplicity: we list a selection of companies that people will be investing in through the trackers, then users that are interested can see a full portfolio breakdown if they want to.
We thought a lot about the model and presentation: we’ve gone for simplicity
“The default option is to invest monthly, as historically that’s usually the way to get the best returns. As for the fee, we’d like to charge a flat monthly rate but we’re not sure how to make that fair for all users, so its percentage based for now.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the huge success of the aforementioned companies, seed funding was not hard to find and the beta version of the app went live in the IOS app store in October. The android version goes live on Google play on Friday (18 January).
Attracting the ladies
While McGillycuddy is not yet in a position to disclose numbers, he says take up has been almost surprisingly strong, particularly among women.
He says: “We’ve discovered some really interesting things during the test. The first is that, proportionally, a lot more women are signing up than on other investment apps. At the moment our user base is 40 per cent female and so we expect our app to be more gender balanced than others.”
However, he says that all users are interested in the human stories behind the portfolios and the videos are already gaining a lot of traction.
If we can get people to see investment as a buying decision, that could be really powerful
McGillycuddy concludes: “Despite the fact this is all app based, it really has to be a human story told by humans for humans: that’s the key.
“If we can get people to see investment as a buying decision with a tangible positive outcome, just as with fairtrade coffee, or a plastic-packaging free food, that could be really powerful.”
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