How Sharesies took over the New Zealand online investment market

Brooke Roberts, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of Sharesies. Photo/Tina Tiller

Originally Posted by the spinoff

Just five years after its launch, online investment platform Sharesies has half a million New Zealand users with $2b invested. Simon Pound spoke with co-founder Brooke Roberts about the return of the podcast series business is boring.

For a long time, investing felt inaccessible to many New Zealanders: the stock market was seen as an exclusive space where you needed a lot of cash just to get started. But when Sharesies launched its digital investing tool in 2016, it allowed people to start investing with whatever budget they had available. Suddenly, people had the option to dive into investing with just dollars at a time.

Now the company is valued at $500 million and nearly 10 percent of the country uses it. And five years later, Sharesies is still getting started. Co-founder and co-CEO Brooke Roberts has big plans to expand her reach and take on the much larger Australian market. She spoke with Business is Boring last week about the inspiration behind the business, what it takes to get Sharesies to where it is now, and why financial independence is such a powerful opportunity.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Simon Pound: In 2017, it had 2,000 users. How did you grow the business to half a million in five years? What were the big steps you took?

Brooke Roberts: When we started, there was a real perception that you couldn’t invest if you didn’t have lots of money, you had to know all the jargon to be an investor, and you had to be rich to be an investor. . I think that has changed or really started to change in the last five years.

When I googled “inverter” in 2017, the pictures I got were many guys, usually older and all looking the same, but that has actually changed. We have people from zero to 97 years old and from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. I want to see that change when I look at search investors in the future.

There are still many opportunities that people are excluded from. We really want to give someone with $5 the same opportunity for money as someone with $5 million, and there are still a lot more doors to kick down. There is definitely a changing picture, but there is also much more to be done for underrepresented communities. That’s something we always focus on: making sure it’s a platform for everyone, no matter how much experience you have or your background. I look forward to the next five years, I really see a big change there and I hope we are playing a part.

When did you know it was working?

When we started thinking, “oh yeah, here’s something that works,” that’s when we started to see that organic growth. People who just found us or were referred by word of mouth really started to take off, and that has been a big part of our growth to this day.

I think that shows that you’ve created something adorable that people are going to go and tell their friends or their community about. There’s something there if people are really proud of using Sharesies and they’re really proud of their portfolio and learning how to invest and sharing that. I think that’s when we started to see the tide start to take off.

Sharesies launched its digital investment tool in 2016. Photo/Supplied
Sharesies launched its digital investment tool in 2016. Photo/Supplied

How did you break down the barriers and change the perception of investing in stocks?

We really focused on making a product that was really adorable. We weren’t trying to just take what was out there in the industry and make it more available. It was about reshaping finance and money and investing.

We really listen to people. We wanted to create something that was as easy for them as buying online and really clear and they knew what they were getting into and they could invest as much as they wanted, whenever they wanted. They don’t have to worry about the price of a stock. They can just say, “Hey, I want to spend $100 or $200 on these things.” And being able to do that, more or less.

We made sure that we were building a business that was a force for good, we are a B Corp, and that our business is more than the product you see.

Having nearly 10 percent of the country’s population on one platform is absolutely insane, considering it was such a new idea for New Zealand just five years ago. How does that feel as a relatively new business?

It definitely feels like we’re just getting started, but there are some funny moments. When I meet someone and they say “where do you work? What do you do for a living?” I’m like, “Sharesies.” Then some of them say, “Oh, Sharesies. Oh, I love Sharesies. I’m on the app all the time. Oh, that’s how I started investing and before that I had no idea…”

It’s really cool to hear these stories come to light. There are still a lot of people who don’t know who the Sharesies are. It’s not just me. it’s a team. The team should be really proud of everything they’ve done to date, but as you know, there’s a lot more to do in terms of creating financial empowerment for everyone. It feels like it’s still the first day.

Do you have favorite stories of people, the normal people who didn’t have access to shared resources before, who got involved?

A story that really warms my heart that I remember hearing from a woman who was in a pretty toxic relationship. She was able to save some money on her Sharesies and get out of that relationship and be in a better position for her and her child and also be able to start building a portfolio and feel that financial independence.

There are so many experiences that people can get from that financial empowerment and just learning about compounding returns and how investing works and feeling like there is hope and there is a way forward for your future.

I saw that you mentioned that your grandmother was a very important person in your life. Can you tell me a bit about that and how her inspiration is part of the mix?

He lives in Manurewa, has lived there all my life. She spends the whole day knitting for premature babies and gives it to the local hospital. Back when she could drive she would go and do Meals on Wheels and I would go out with her sometimes.

In addition, she spent much of her weekends volunteering at local operations stores. She is constantly giving. You would say you are cold and she would give you her jacket even though she would freeze.

I think I learned a lot about your place in the community from her, and made sure that I’m really connected to what’s going on and supporting and creating change where it’s needed.

• Business is Boring is created in partnership with spark lab.

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