What's this all about?
At LEVERIS, we believe that the future of banking starts at the core. Core by LEVERIS is an interview series where we address the issues at the core of banking, fintech and financial services. We speak to those working at the intersection between tech and finance about everything from the future of money to investment in fintechs. Through their insights, we explore current trends, predict future outcomes and get a taste of what it takes to succeed in the new age of banking.
Our latest guest in the series co-founded an exciting Irish wealthtech company that is helping demystify the stock exchange. Aptly named, MyWallSt provides a free app that offers jargon-free information on investing for beginners as well as a subscription-based service that advises on the kind of stocks to back. At a time when an increasing number of people are playing the markets alone on free apps or in groups inside private chat rooms stirring up plans to take on Wall Street, the company’s offering and its considered approach is a much-welcomed one. As co-founder and Chief Operations Officer of MyWallSt John Tyrrell tells us, “our advice will always remain the same: invest sensibly”.
In the following interview, John discusses the six golden rules of investing, the role content plays in the business, a growing appetite for ethical investing, and the wealthtech companies to keep an eye on. He also shares his predictions for wealth management in 2021 and gives us his take on that much-talked-about GameStop saga.
LEVERIS: Could you provide some background on MyWallSt and how you are making private market investing (investing in publicly-listed companies) accessible and easy to navigate?
John Tyrrell: MyWallSt was officially founded in January 2014. We were called Rubicoin at the time and rebranded to MyWallSt five years later in January 2019. My co-founder, Emmet Savage, and I set up the business with one purpose in mind — to inspire people to own their financial future.
We have a number of different product offerings with over 3 million downloads and counting, but central to everything that we offer is our core, award-winning MyWallSt app. In this, users can learn about investing, get daily insights, articles and podcasts from our analyst team, and also access to our Stock of the Month pick. Our stocks are currently up over 180 per cent compared to the S&P 500’s return of 62 per cent in the same timeframe.
We also offer a premium service called Horizon which is led by our Chief Investor and CEO, Emmet Savage. This is a chance to look over Emmet’s shoulder and to see what stocks he is buying, how much, and why — all with his own money. Emmet has a tremendous investing track record and his aim is to multiply by 10 his money over 12 years.
Everything we do is through the lens of our community and we are strong advocates of educating investors on how to conduct proper research and adopt a long-term, buy-and-hold mentality. We base our brand and philosophy on six golden rules of investing:
- Get Started
- Think Long-Term
- Never borrow to buy
- Buy what you believe in
- Invest what you can, when you can
This mix of education, research, and insight from our expert analysts gives investors of all levels the tools they need to invest in a knowledgeable and responsible way that will help them to own their financial future.
LEVERIS: How has the global pandemic impacted the wealth management space? How would you rate the risk appetite out there right now?
John Tyrrell: The pandemic, while a very challenging time for many, has also brought some very interesting trends along with it. There has been a surge in interest in retail investing for a number of reasons. People can’t spend on some of the discretionary things they would normally spend on and this has led to more available capital and a reduction in debt. Savings rates have never been higher, but with interest rates on the floor, people are turning to the stock market to get more returns on their investments.
Our approach to the markets and investing has not changed, however. We still advocate for a responsible approach, proper research, and a buy-and-hold mentality. Unfortunately, easy access to zero-fee brokerages through apps like Robinhood increases the likelihood of trading as opposed to investing and this has led to more risk-taking. We can all see that certain stocks or verticals are looking volatile right now, but our stance remains the same — if you think long-term, buy what you believe in, and diversify appropriately, there is great opportunity out there to build personal wealth.
LEVERIS: A big part of what you do is educating people about investing in stocks and making it accessible. What are you witnessing in terms of the types of demographics now engaging in wealth management? Has there been a shift?
John Tyrrell: We are seeing a real shift in terms of increased interest from those in their 20s and 30s — college age and up. We are actually working alongside educators in the US and we see an increased appetite from a much younger cohort to start financial planning, saving, and investing early. This can only be a good thing, provided that the education is in place to promote sensible and responsible investing. Traditionally, access to the markets and brokerages was a lot more expensive and there was a perception that investing is for ‘those with money’. That perception has really shifted as the cost of investing has decreased and with access to trading through mobile technology. Long may this trend continue, but it has to be paired up with education and a healthy buy-and-hold mentality.
LEVERIS: You invest a lot in great content. Can you tell us a bit about the channels you use and the role it plays in your overall strategy?
John Tyrrell: Content is core to who we are as a business. We have a really strong content team and invest heavily in our newsletters, daily insights, articles, podcasts, webinars and in our social media channels. This plays two roles for us — it helps us to find new users and we also provide our existing community with premium content too.
We also have a number of B2B relationships with large businesses, funds, and education providers across the US and Europe where we partner and provide our education and content, and where our content has become a huge value-add for them.
LEVERIS: Would you say the integrity of the companies in which people invest is under much more scrutiny these days? What are people looking for?
John Tyrrell: Given the incredible amount of info and knowledge that is now available, investors have all they need to make an informed and personal choice on who they decide to invest in for their future wealth. Yes, we see a significant increase in that type of scrutiny and investors really should take that care and time to understand where their money is going.
People are looking to invest more in what they believe in — well-run businesses with a strong track record and a roadmap for growth. But investors are also increasingly looking for ethical business practices, transparency, and for companies that are investing in our futures. Renewable energy and ESG stocks, ethical and responsible food production, democratisation of old and traditional industries like banking and insurance to name but a few. I hope that this research and scrutiny continues!
LEVERIS: Where, in your view, does cryptocurrency fit in with the future of wealth management?
John Tyrrell: Crypto and blockchain is a complex area. We see Bitcoin as an asset rather than a currency and we don’t view it that differently to gold. Honestly, it’s not an area we focus on or have deep expertise in.
It can take a small percentage of your portfolio if you wish, but it’s also no different to any other investment in that you need to make sure you understand what you are buying, that there is bound to be continued volatility. And if you do buy, buy it for the right reasons. Oh, and HODL.
LEVERIS: 2020 was another bumper year for venture capital investment into wealthtech. Aside from your own, of course, what are the companies operating in the wealth sector worth keeping an eye on?
John Tyrrell: Broadly within the fintech and wealthtech space, the advent of PSD2 and move towards open banking, including brokerages, has been a welcome one. We love what companies like Plaid are doing in this space. Facilitating these connections and joining up the dots on accounts, brokerages, and bringing better reporting and transparency has been a really important step towards open banking.
This also facilitates products like Plum, who are cleverly utilising AI to help users spend and save better. We really like where they are going with this.
We are also big fans of DriveWealth (API-driven brokerage infrastructure), who are facilitating easy access to the markets.
LEVERIS: What are your key predictions for the wealth management space in 2021?
John Tyrrell: I think we will continue to see a bubbling market with a lot of opportunity, but some continued volatility and some crazy trends (one only has to look at GameStop right now to understand what I mean!).
As vaccines roll out, and governments get more of a handle on the virus, we will begin to see a rebound within certain industries like retail and travel as things move toward some semblance of normality.
As always, our advice will remain the same: invest sensibly, follow our six golden rules of investing and — most importantly — buy to hold. If you don’t believe that the stock you are considering buying is one that you could still see in your portfolio in 10-15 years, it may not be one for you right now!
LEVERIS: What were your thoughts on the recent GameStop story and what might be the wider implications for companies like yours and for wealth management in general?
John Tyrrell: Here at MyWallSt, we’re long-term investors. Part of this requires us to not be reactionary towards events that cause massive volatility. So while the GameStop story is bringing a lot of attention to stock investing as a whole and in some instances impacting individual company valuations, we should always remember that filtering out the noise and focusing on finding businesses that will grow in the long-term is the key to being a successful investor. There are three things that long-term investors should remember amidst all this madness:
1. We’re investors, not traders. Our goal is to find great companies to invest in. When we buy stock, we do so in the belief that this company is well-positioned to grow in the future
2. ‘FOMO’ is a killer. We all hate missing out on good things. But there’ll always be “the next Netflix” or “the next Apple”. Remember — it just takes one well-timed (and well-researched) strike to change your personal fortunes immeasurably.
3. Education is key (and often free!). If you take the time to educate yourself about investing and how the market works, you’ll have the confidence of knowledge in your corner — an invaluable asset in navigating your way through times of volatility like we are seeing right now.
LEVERIS: Ultimately, what kind of companies do you believe will be the winners within the wealth management industry? Traditional financial services, digital banks, wealthtech or a combination of them all?
John Tyrrell: It has to be a combination. However, as I have mentioned earlier, traditional banks and financial services will be under pressure to adapt to a more open and transparent model as users flock to digital banks and services. There’s a place for everyone, but as always, it’s an ‘Adapt or Die’ mentality that is required. If traditional services ignore the signs, they will suffer for that lack of movement.
LEVERIS: Any news or plans in the pipeline for MyWallSt that you can share with us?
John Tyrrell: We’re continuing the momentum from a really strong 2020 and have big plans for growth this year, as well as an additional fundraise which we hope to complete in the coming months to fuel that growth. Very exciting times for MyWallSt and our users.
LEVERIS: Thanks for taking part in our Core interview series. Any final comments?
John Tyrrell: Thanks for having me! I’d just finish with a reminder that for anyone looking at the markets today in terms of getting into investing, just remember our six golden rules and it won’t steer you far wrong:
- Get Started
- Think Long-Term
- Never borrow to buy
- Buy what you believe in
- Invest what you can, when you can