Last night I had the pleasure to attend an event where an incredibly shocking, and at the same time sobering speech was delivered by the very talented Jane Portas. Partner at PWC, advocate of women and next generation empowerment, she stood on stage to present some of the key findings of the IWF (Insuring Women’s Futures) new research “Securing the financial future of the next generation” that she recently authored.
The evening was organized by the Insurance Supper Club (ISC), and hosted by Zurich Insurance in one of their Zurich headquarters. It was an incredibly well attended event, matched with a great vibe and some very interesting introductions, conversations, ideas and KPIs drafted on notebooks and iphones. During an evening attended by 70% of women, I would expect nothing else after all.
The IWF research analyses patterns in the risks to society that are disproportionately borne by women. It identifies six ‘Moments that Matter’ in girls’ and women’s lives, highlighting 12 ‘Perils and Pitfalls’ that aggregate in these moments, together with potential interventions for the profession, policymakers and society to improve women’s risk resilience.
Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of the London Southbank Centre, and creator of the name “IWF”, recently shared that the report gave her a “white face” even though she is so proactively involved in supporting the advancement of women. Equally its findings last night gave me the chills, despite the fact that for the past nearly four years I have been heavily involved in research, data gathering, facts and solutions about the dangers of the lack of financial literacy and confidence for women and for young generations.
Jane Portas` presentation sadly confirmed what many of us know, most of the issues found in the report are deep rooted and will only get worse for the next generation unless we act now with fresh, innovative approaches and a change of mind-set.
"Improving outcomes for women requires collaboration between the insurance and financial planning profession, policymakers, employers and society.
"We need to find new ways of educating and engaging, consider policy approaches that can pave the way for alternative forms of access to risk and financial solutions, and to make financial planning and insurance more relevant and accessible to the many."
Financial experts agree that more is needed to be done to increase women's financial resilience.
But what effective and measurable steps have been taken in recent years? What cross-industry joint initiatives of governments, financial institutions, policy makers and smart communicators are really steadily removing obstacles, and paving the way for increased financial knowledge and hence for increased well being?
As mentioned in an earlier post, "Taking back control", "the fact that personal finances is the largest source of stress for people globally is undeniable and true for everyone. However it is especially true in the case of women. Women live longer statistically and over a life time, for different reasons, earn less than men. It is often the inevitable result of taking time out to care about children or family members. But what increasingly research shows is that women have been holding back from taking charge of their own finances due to lack of confidence. Women suffer more from this than men and in the area of finance – so set about jargon and idiosyncrasies – it`s all too easy to become intimidated. What I have learned is that sorting out finances – to buy property, invest in the stock market, get better educated, take care of your pension - takes time and trust. In yourself firstly and in the advice that sources you choose to trust will provide."
Since launching the #FearlessFridays series on this blog in December 2017, I have been keen to find out how we are driving fresh, innovative approaches and a change of mind-set globally and across topics that impact the future of our society. As part of this quest, last week I sat for coffee with Roi Tavor, a former senior executive and Member of the Management Advisory Board of the bank Julius Baer, now co-founder of Nummo, a successful firm that focuses on “helping the 99% improve their financial health”.
Q. Roi, can you tell us a bit about you and your past?
Hi Manuela, with pleasure. I grew up in Basel – home of one of Europe’s best football teams :-) (As an Italian I am a little smiling here I confess…but I digress.)
I am an attorney by training and studied in Basel as well as in New York City. After meeting my amazing wife in New York, we decided to move to Zurich in 2007, where we still live, with our three wonderful kids. I joined Julius Baer in July 2007 where I had the opportunity to lead various wealth management units and drive several strategic initiatives. I have had an incredible experience at Julius Baer and feel privileged to have been able to work with some of the industry’s best.
Having dedicated my career to the very wealthy, in December 2017 I decided to leave Julius Baer to build nummo.com – in order to help those who need it the most. With less than 1% of the population owning 46% of global wealth, financial wellness will become one of the most pressing issues of this century.
Q. That is a very inspiring story. What keep you most busy at the moment?
Today, I am fully dedicated to Nummo. We are an international, cross-functional team of financial experts, engineers, researchers and designers who are passionate about transforming the financial industry.
We soft launched Nummo six weeks ago. The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive. Our biggest priority is to be as close as possible to our customers. If we want to deliver real value, we must understand what drives our customers and what expectations they have in us. Everything we do at Nummo is based on so-called incremental iterations and constant feedback loops, to ensure that we are and remain relevant to our clients.
We are currently preparing for our official launch campaign and are in the process of establishing our advisory board. This group will be comprised of academic professors from some of the best universities in the U.S. as well as business and thought leaders.
Q. Can you give us more insights into Nummo`s strong added value?
In terms of technology development, we are currently focusing on our app and finalizing our AI infrastructure. With respect to our research, we are constantly enlarging our offering on the investment side. In the next few weeks we will for example add BlackRock’s Future Advisor as well as UBS’ “robo-advisor” investment portfolios.
Lastly, we are actively engaged in sharing our vision of “empowering you to live better” and promoting the idea of total honesty in the financial industry. I recently had the privilege to speak at the Morningstar Awards, alongside Deutsche Bank, Julius Baer and EY. It was an excellent opportunity to highlight the need for total honesty as the basis of any relationship.
Q. Transparency and total honesty. This is incredibly intriguing. What is Nummo`s USP?
At Nummo you gain easy access to the complex world of finance, so you can see all your available options before you start investing.
In addition, we show you how to keep track of your money and stay on top of your finances, while lowering your bills and avoiding unnecessary expenses.
Nummo is the only financial management platform operating with zero conflict of interest. No product-push, no kickbacks. We provide you with 100% transparency, and act only in your best interest.
Q. This sounds very promising and in line with current successful trends. How will you deliver such an ecosystem?
We know how hard it can be to survive and thrive financially. Too many people are hurting economically. The first and most difficult step is to recognize that one must do something. We are here to support people on this journey.
For example, most people are still unaware that they don’t need to be rich in order to invest. On Nummo you see that you do have choices that go beyond overpriced mutual funds. Our users can discover how to invest with a “robo-advisor” with just a few dollars a month. We show you total costs, past performances and much more.
You can also compare over 200,000 financial professionals and read what other people say about them. You can search for investment professionals in your town and find an advisor that suits your needs.
Lastly, we believe that financial wellness begins with a complete overview. With Nummo Vault you can securely connect all your accounts and see the true picture of where you stand financially. It only takes a few minutes and is fully encrypted. Already today you can electronically consolidate your accounts from over 19,000 U.S. financial institutions.
Nummo Vault helps you shape and meet your financial goals. For example, we have a fully automated budget feature that allows you to create your personalized budget based on your actual spending behavior. It only takes 30 seconds to get started, and we automatically maintain it for you! Unlike many budget apps or the traditional Excel file, with Nummo you don’t have to constantly punch in transactions in order to maintain its accuracy.
Q. It sounds like an ideal solution, consolidating all under one roof for clear visibility. What will be the cost?
Today, our users can enjoy Nummo and Nummo Vault for free. Based on our promise to always be totally honest, we plan to charge a few dollars for the Vault in the future.
Q. When will Nummo be available for a European and Swiss clientele?
We have American users living in Switzerland who have asked us the same question. We do plan on making Nummo available in Europe and Switzerland within the next 18-24 months. The main challenge in doing so is technology and the level of transparency. The U.S. is much further ahead in that respect. We do hope that more and more data will be made publicly available when it comes to financial professionals and solutions in Europe. We are encouraged by new European regulations such as PSD2, which enables people to easily connect their accounts. This will allow us to offer Nummo Vault in Europe. We believe, however, that it will take some time until the API standard is defined.
Q. What do you think should large financial services organization do differently or more of?
In many ways the financial industry has lost a true sense of purpose. Consequently, most people have lost faith in Wall Street and the big banks. I believe that re-establishing trust will require not so much new regulation, but a true commitment to transparency. Any meaningful relationship we have in our lives is based on the principle of total honesty. When we go see our doctor we expect that he or she is truthful and only has our best interests in mind. Unfortunately, the same is not yet true in the financial industry. The issue is rarely the people, but rather the system (e.g., short term objectives, incentive structure, etc.).
If we find the courage to adopt the principle of total honesty in our industry everyone will profit. This will require reinventing the business model – from a product-driven to an on-demand (data based) service industry. Something we are fully committed to at Nummo.
Q. Can you elaborate on how you see the current growing trend of executives moving into different smaller, leaner companies or dipping their toe in it?
Whenever bankers have approached me during the last two years, it was always with the ambition to learn more about how they could become independent. I believe the two main reasons for this are purpose and empowerment. Most bankers feel strongly about their clients and want to deliver best-in-class advice. Unfortunately, too often the interests of the organization are not aligned with the client’s interests. Many executives are willing to take on risk in order to gain more entrepreneurial freedom – to ultimately add more value to their clients. Besides offering a wider range of products and services they are now enabled to advise clients on a truly holistic basis.
Q. What does impact mean for you? And how can we create new implementable role models for the financial services world?
For me it means having a positive and lasting effect on someone’s life. No matter how big or small. When it comes to money most people need to shift their mindset and start learning about the importance of taking charge of their financial health. For example, 55% of Americans have less than $10k saved for retirement and about 130 million Americans don’t own a single stock. This is where we want to help.
With respect to role models I believe that first and foremost people need to be inspired. A role model must be able to have a compelling vision, mission and values. However, it must be paired with being genuine, honest and open. At least for me this is where it starts.
Q. What drives you?
Over the last couple of years, I have started to realize how important it is to have a clear purpose and to constantly learn. While most people understand that major changes in the financial industry are imminent, I wanted to take a pro-active stance in driving and shaping our industry. With Nummo we have built a platform that can really help the ones that need it the most.
Q. There is a large debate going on around the future of work, talent retention, women and millennials values. What do you think the future holds for old school organizations?
I truly believe that the importance of purpose and empowerment cannot be overstated. When one understands why he or she is doing something and sees the impact it can have, it has a great effect on motivation. One key aspect is to bring transparency across the organization, which in turn leads to more accountability within the firm. When silos are broken down and teams start collaborating on a cross-functional basis, wonderful things can happen.
Q. When we first met you mentioned a very interesting angle, the lack of financial literacy as driver of the current populist wave we see across the US and Europe. Can you elaborate more on this?
While I don’t want to become too political, I am convinced that there is a correlation between the current political environment and the financial situation of many people. The populist tone that has overtaken much of the political discourse in the U.S. and parts of Europe is a direct result of a large part of the population feeling economically hurt. If we want to limit radical views across the political spectrum, we need to start a meaningful dialog about the importance of one’s financial health. Similar to awareness for physical health and the environment, a movement about financial health and the growing economic inequalities is needed.
Thank you Roi for a great exchange!