InterviewInterview with Founder and CEO, Invstr – Kerim Derhalli

FTB News Desk FTB News DeskMay 20, 202015 min
Kerim Derhalli Founder and CEO, Invstr

There’s more to the founder and CEO of Invstr, Kerim Derhalli than finance, but operating at the sharp end of the financial sector is where he’s best known. He’s lived and worked in London, New York, Singapore, and Tokyo, but no matter where he called home, he noticed the financial industry was being left behind by social technology. That’s why, when he left his role as Global Head of Equity Trading at Deutsche Bank in 2012, he set out to democratize finance through technology with Invstr. He wanted to give aspiring investors the platform they need to hone their skills and grow their confidence.

1. Tell us about your role with Invstr?
I am the founder and CEO of Invstr, the award-winning investing and financial education app providing a social network where members can play the markets, learn about investing and start to invest with as little as $1.

2. Can you tell us about your career journey that brought you to the fintech market?
I have over 30 years of experience in investment banking, holding many senior leadership positions at Deutsche Bank, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan. During this time, I built, grew and managed multi-billion dollar businesses in both developed and emerging markets.

3. Why do you think technology is key to the development of the financial services sector?
During my banking careers, I saw that the financial world was simply not accessible or understandable for the average person. I realized that unlike other industries, finance was being left behind by advances in technology, and there was an opportunity to apply social technology to financial markets. With Invstr, we’re changing that to enable anyone with a smartphone to become an investor.

4. Why do you think the younger generation needs to learn how to invest confidently?
Investing is for everyone. Our goal is to tear down the barriers that have prevented people from investing and help everyone become financially independent. That means creating a safe and welcoming environment where anyone can learn the principles of investing in plain English, practice their skills in a fun and risk-free way, and then start to invest with modest amounts of money from a young age. We believe in empowering individuals and then creating an environment where they can learn not just from the content and experience we provide, but also from each other.

5. How does having a fantasy portfolio with virtual stocks help young people become skillful investors?
Building a fantasy portfolio is an excellent risk-free way to learn how to invest, particularly for younger people who may be novice investors.

We learn naturally when we are playing, and even more when we are playing with others.

We also tend to learn from our mistakes more than our successes. Invstr enables people to make mistakes without risking any real money. Using Invstr’s engaging Fantasy Finance investing tool also helps our users build a sense of community by discussing strategies with their peers on the app and by competing against others to claim real cash prizes. Schools and investment clubs can also use these tools to teach financial literacy to their students.

6. How has social media contributed to the growth of the financial services sector?
Financial markets are all about people. On Invstr, we enable our members to communicate one-to-one through direct messaging, one-to-many through private leagues and group chat and one-to-all via our social feed. Members can view each others’ profiles, portfolios and timelines and follow their posts and trades in the feed. Younger generations love to learn from their peers and this is all possible on Invstr. Many who are part of our digital community build friendships that transcend the app and rely on each other for investing advice. We also maintain active social media channels to promote financial education and investing as broadly as possible.

7. What advice would you give to other fintech startups starting out?
Find your niche. While there are many fintech companies, we wanted to open access to the finance world for the everyday investor through a simple app.

8. Which aspect of digital innovation in fintech do you think will mark 2020?
Given the economic effects of the global health pandemic, even more people will want to find new ways to become savvy investors and financially independent. With more people staying home, I predict investing apps and platforms will have a resurgence. We are seeing continued interest in Invstr – as of March, Invstr has had over 750,000 downloads and is used in 216 countries.

9. How should financial services companies continue to prepare for a technology-centric world?
Bring technology tools home for investors by continuing to build digital products that make investing easy and engaging. One study found that in the U.S., 92% of 18 to 37-year-olds use finance apps, which means there is plenty of market opportunity.

10. Can you tell us about your team at Invstr and how they support you?
We have an amazing team at Invstr across content, product, design, development and marketing. They are all exceptionally talented at what they do. What I also love is the collective enthusiasm and positive energy. It means that we have been able to achieve far more than normal with a relatively small number of people.

11. Can you tell us about the workplace culture at Invstr?
We are huge believers in diversity, individual empowerment and helping people achieve their full potential through active collaboration. We give everyone clear responsibilities and then the freedom to do their job to the best of their abilities.

12. Can you tell us about some future developments that Invstr currently has in the works?
We are excited to be Beta testing an Invstr app designed to help professors and teachers make financial education available to young people everywhere. The app enables teachers to create virtual classrooms with an investment leaderboard and group chat; to communicate with their students, share content and set assignments; and to monitor the activity and progress of every student individually as they go through the 85 lessons in Invstr Academy and play Fantasy Finance. We are reaching out to professors at 1,200 leading U.S. universities and look forward to expanding this network to other colleges and high schools.

13. Which apps do you use most on your phone?
Invstr naturally. It’s my go to app for understanding what is happening in the world, following the financial markets and increasingly for communicating with family and friends.

14. What book are you reading these days?
“The Snowball. Warren Buffet and the Business of Life” by Alice Schroeder.

FTB News Desk

FTB News Desk

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