Getting started with investing is often seen as tedious and unapproachable by those new to the financial world. Without familiar associations, it’s hard for people to identify with a service, leading to the feeling that “it’s just not for me”.
Why is investing seen as something that’s hard for many to approach?
One reason lies in its history. In our minds, we paint a picture of well-groomed men in their suits walking down a bustling Wall Street while making daring investment bets on their oversized late ‘80s cell phones. Not exactly an image many Finnish households can relate to in 2021.
Of course, the brand of investing is only part of the story. As progress marches on, we need to take a hard look at how the world of investing is keeping up. Is there such a thing as an expiration date to the experience of a service?
As humans, we constantly create mental images of everything we experience. As times change, so do our expectations, and this is especially true for any consumer-facing service. Something that’s just five years old can easily be seen as old-fashioned and outdated if it doesn’t keep evolving and changing with the world around it. In highly-regulated industries such as investing, change can often seem glacial, but regulation can also spur innovation when channeled correctly. A good example of this is a fairly young investment instrument called the “ETF”.
What’s in an ETF
ETF, short for Exchange Traded Fund, is effectively a fund that can be traded on the stock market. Unlike stocks, however, they consist of up to hundreds of individual stocks. This means they’re highly diversified by nature, and are priced continuously throughout the day. This makes ETFs convenient for trading, and more transparent than traditional funds.
ETFs have their origins in North America in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s as instruments for institutional investors. Over time, they became well-regarded due to their advantages of pooled investing and trading flexibility. About 20 years ago the first ETF landed in Finland, “OMX Helsinki 25”, which includes the 25 most-traded stocks on Nasdaq Helsinki. Managed by Seligson & Co Rahastoyhtiö Oy, it remains the sole ETF on that exchange.
The Right Tool for the Job
Our mental models help us navigate the world, and this is true for any product or service we use. As investing has moved to the digital age along with the rest of our society, along come the expectations we bring from other parts of our digital lives.
ETFs answer the call. Due to their transparency and real-time nature, they remind us of social media and the convenience of modern technology. Their constantly changing valuation can be mesmerizing, teasing our mind to find causal relationships: did the morning news affect an ETFs performance today, or was there perhaps some other reason for the abrupt change? It’s easy to see why the intriguing world of investing can become a life-long hobby or even a professional career. No matter your background, ETFs have a lot going for them. They’re interesting to more advanced traders as much as they are approachable to novices looking for long-term savings.
The Battle for Our Attention
The world has changed radically in the past few decades. Gone are the days of meticulously saving your pennies to a bank account, patiently waiting for interest on your savings down the line. We all know that we should be investing, instead, but getting started feels difficult and the perceived risks weigh down on us. It’s hard to know what to invest in, how to do it, and who to trust with our hard-earned money. Even before starting, many get a sinking feeling that they don’t know enough about investing to even give it a try, leading to a vicious spiral of self-doubt and an ever-increasing barrier to entry.
At the same time, as outlined in a study by Microsoft six years ago, we humans have decreased our ability to focus on one thing at a time. One reason is the advent and popularization of smartphones which require our constant attention with their barrage of notifications, urgent work emails, and allures of social interaction. In the busy world we live in, it’s ever more difficult to find the needed space and time to sit down and actually start investing.
Forces of Nature
We’re best at learning when we get positive feedback and reinforcement. That’s why starting something like investing, a big and daunting task for many, needs to be done piecemeal — broken down into easily consumable bits with plenty of support along the way. This can be a web of known and trusted influencers, or even better, close friends and family who themselves have already taken their first steps. Either way, once people get a taste of what investing can be when presented on their terms, there’s no going back.
Competing with User Experience
Lately, the industry has seen a surge of new entrants who compete with their user experience. Not only does it differentiate them from the existing players, but also answers the needs and expectations of customers today. A good example of this is Revolut, which has put a tremendous effort into their product, especially its design. In October 2018 at
Future Digital Finance Forum, Revolut CEO Andrius Bičeika stated that they had started to focus more on strengthening their design team rather than their technology.
At the end of the day, the pressure to improve the user experience of investing comes from the consumers themselves. Only when a new service reminds them of the positive experiences they’ve had in the past, will they be willing to give it a serious try. If the industry wants to expand its audience, it needs to rise to the occasion.
Writer Ida Mänty is a Startup CEO at ROI Financial Technologies. She has always been
deeply passionate about creating innovative, beloved and trusted products in traditional
sectors. Ida Mänty in LinkedIn
ROI helps companies tackle the costs of stress caused by financial distress. ROI employee benefit enables ETF savings plans with mere pocket change. In addition to an easy-to-use investment service, ROI gives users the financial tips and lessons to support their financial skills.