Weinvest.net rebels against 'tyranny of choice'
By Benjamin Cher July 7, 2015
- Provides information on all MAS-approved products
- Includes real estate listings and portfolio management tools
INVESTORS are faced with overwhelmingly large numbers of financial products, with 4,000 approved by the Monetary Authority of Singapore alone.
Yet each individual financial institution provides just a fraction of the products, forcing investors to do all the legwork in making their selection.
It was with this ‘tyranny of choice’ in mind that Weinvest.net, a platform providing the entire investment database of Singapore, was launched earlier this year.
Founded by former banking professional Bhaskar Prabhakara and serial entrepreneur and developer K.S. Seeram, Weinvest seeks to empower investors and keep them informed of all the available financial products before they make their investments.
The tyranny of choice
Choosing an investment product is pretty much unlike other choices one makes. Investors have to pick a financial institution first, before choosing a product. This is the reverse of what buyers normally do, which is to narrow down the product range before looking at the various brands.
It was this same tyranny of choice that Bhaskar (pic) faced when exploring investment products. He found the information available fragmented, messy and confusing – and this formed the genesis of Weinvest.net, he told Digital News Asia (DNA) via email.
Weinvest.net pools and standardises the information of available products from various financial institutions, allowing users to search and compare at their fingertips.
Being able to compare the various products, users can choose a product and be referred to a broker with the best rates.
The platform also offers the first searchable database of restricted funds in Singapore, giving a glimpse into the oft-hidden world of hedge funds, according to Bhaskar.
Beyond just financial products, Weinvest.net also offers real estate properties for sale as investments. The platform pulls listing information directly from the developer, allowing users to have a better picture of the property – instead of agent listings with differing information across the board.
Weinvest.net currently returns a portion of the referral fee as a direct cash discount on users’ purchases, he said.
The platform also offers free portfolio management tools which can manage across asset classes like deposits, cash, mutual funds, restricted funds, real estate and even equity.
Investors are used to doing their own legwork in looking for investment products – from making appointments with ‘experts’ to listen to their product pitch, to understanding the obfuscated terms of investment, according to Bhaskar.
Turning this on its head is a challenge that Weinvest.net faces, he added.
Investing still remains stuck in the past, with no central platform available to compare different products across the various financial institutions.
Unlike other products, where reviews and comparisons are available, financial institutions operate in silos, with their ‘experts’ only able to offer their own products and unable to provide information outside their silos.
“These experts face a principle agent problem where they are driven to sell a product, and not necessarily look out for investor’s interest,” Bhaskar argued.
“This is where Weinvest.net comes in: To curate and present investment data in an easy-to-understand format, providing investors with the tools to discover opportunities and help manage their profile,” he added.
Changing the mindsets of both investors and institutions has been the biggest challenge to date. Finance and investing practices are age-old, and changing behaviour that has been ingrained into both investors and institutions is proving to be tough, he admitted.
Yet Bhaskar continues to be optimistic, adding, “Changing behaviour begins with creating a desire to do things in a different way.”
Things are going Weinvest.net’s way, since it has over 700 registered users since its launch in January. Investments worth S$8 million (US$5.9 million) have been initiated, of which half have been completed.
On regulatory issues, Bhaskar said, “Currently no regulatory issues are faced with the authorities as we have spoken to them previously, and have stayed clear of advisory and direct distribution work, which requires a licence.”
Future plans and ROI
Weinvest.net is currently self-funded, and still in the midst of a round of fund-raising. It aims to raise about S$1 million to S$1.5 million (US$740,000 to US$1.1 million) in this round, and has secured S$700,000 (US$518,000) to date, according to Bhaskar.
“In the coming months, we will be closing the current funding round. With that in place, we are expanding our development as well as data teams,” he said.
“[We] will be upping our already quick rollout of new products and iterations of the site,” he added.
New features will include a portfolio marketplace where users can learn from other successful investors, giving a glimpse of their portfolios. Also in development is a feature for users to pay to copy these trades these investors make.
Finally, Bhaskar also plans to expand the investment product mix to include more product categories, and provide regional coverage as well.
On possibly offering advisory and direct distribution services, Bhaskar said, “We are exploring obtaining a licence in the mid- to long-term, and this growth angle is still in discussion with our business advisors and investors.”
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