Evest: a new-born start-up in FinTech

When I met Guillaume Piard in November, his office was his living room: “We are still at the very beginning of the project”, he said enthusiastically, “but I am meeting with the AMF (French regulator) this afternoon and everything is building up really fast.”

During 10 years in capital markets, Guillaume conceived his own tools to invest his savings with minimal effort. “ But it’s such a waste of time to have to manage your investments, even if it’s something you’re used to doing professionally!” In the US, he discovered robo-advisor companies like Betterment and Wealthfront. Those FinTechs start-ups create software to manage portfolios, thus reducing human intervention and costs.

Analysing the French market, Guillaume identified start-ups that provided investment advice but most of them didn’t have a license to fully manage assets on clients’ behalf… and the idea of Evest was born.

Here is a map to give you a quick overview of robo-advisors in Europe. You can add Evest in France and Yellow Advice in Italy, both launched this month.

A simple product to understand

I used to work in retail banking in France where most people are still risk-averse. The last decade reinforced this trend. The star savings product is a state-regulated and tax-free savings account called livret A: 75.8% of French households had one in 2015 vs 57% in 2004[1]. In the meantime, the percentage of households saving in securities portfolios dropped from 24% to 16.5%. The typical client’s argument against securities is that shares and bonds are too complex, unknown, and good ways for the banks to make a lot of money giving back a little percentage of it. As a result, Evest chose to work with life-insurance which represents the “comfy intermediate”.

How to define an accurate risk profile?

One of the main problems Evest has to deal with is correctly assessing the customer’s investing profile in order to get an accurate investment horizon and risk appetite. “The problem, underlines Guillaume, is that when you compare risk profiling results from several competitors and services, you find that one single customer can have as many risk profiles as the number of tests he answers! So I met professionals in behavioural risk profiling, like neurodecision.”

Investment for everyone

Even if highly-qualified, tech-savvy customers would naturally be early adopters, Guillaume wants to address the whole market eventually. “Evest will build a personalized investment plan and portfolios for each customer, managing the assets en bon père de famille[2], ie in a reasonable way” Guillaume explains.”We want to give people confidence and control of their future with goal-based investments”. When you see the last decade evolution for savings, it’s a major challenge. Just the beginning of the new adventure, I wish them good luck!

[1] INSEE Première, Nov 2015 
[2] I love this expression! Literally, it means “as a good family father” and conveys the image of a reasonable and reliable patriarch. In French civil law, it appeared as a core notion of the Napoleon code in 1804 until 2014… just imagining the emperor figuring himself as a “good family father” in dressing gown and slippers makes me laugh!