Editor’s note: This is The Money Principle interview with Adam French, founder and CEO of Scalable Capital. Scalable Capital is an online wealth manager and has been in the news lately as the only European start-up included by CNBC in the list of the top 25 in the world. You’ll learn what this online wealth manager is, what it does and how it is different from other online wealth managers.
Maria: Hello, Adam, and let me say first how pleased I am to have you on The Money Principle.
Adam: Thank you very much for having me, Maria.
Maria: My pleasure. Adam, you are the CEO of Scalable Capital. Could you please tell my readers what is Scalable Capital and what does it do?
Adam: Yes sure. Scalable capital is well… we call ourselves a digital wealth manager. What we essentially do is, we provide investment management but digitally: online and through our mobile apps.
We do this for UK investors but also for European investors; we have a regulated entity in Germany. We are one of the few players in the market that operate cross-border and we currently have UK clients and we also have German clients.
What we’re looking to do is to build long-term globally diversified portfolios for our clients so that they can really build their wealth for the future. That is in essence what we are trying to do.
Maria: Adam, I’d like to ask you what is the unique value that scalable capital offers to investors?
Adam: What we are trying to do is to build a technology platform that not only makes the investment journey more convenient and more accessible; you know, having smooth customer journey and having low entry point, we are using technology to improve the investment methodology itself.
Maria: One of the things I’m trying to do on The Money Principle is to encourage more people to invest and particularly women. There is a problem with women and investing; as I put it when we invest we rock but unfortunately very few women invest. How easy, would you say, it is for a beginner to open an account on Scalable Capital?
Adam: I totally believe in what you’re trying to do the because if you look at the data there is a big problem in trying to get women to invest and we will hopefully form a part of the solution to this matter.
Yes, it is easy to open an account on Scalable Capital.
We have a minimum investment of £10,000 which is a hurdle that you will have to reach. We need this money because of the way in which our algorithm for calculating risk works; we need £10,000 for this to work robustly. But the onboarding is very simple. (Note: ‘onboarding’ translates as ‘opening an account’)
Look, investing is complicated and modelling it is complicated as well. But at the end of the day we are doing everything for you. This is very similar to buying a car. When you buy a car, you don’t understand fully how it works but you trust that it will; and if something goes wrong with the car you go and see a mechanic to get it fixed.
People need to think the same way about their finances. The markets are very complicated so they have to outsource investing to someone who is doing something very smart in terms of modelling the markets.
Opening an account on Scalable Capital is very straightforward. At the beginning, there is a questionnaire that guides you to decide on the risk categories that are most appropriate for you. Our clients can get on board within 15 minutes. We provide a lot of information on the way to help people decide whether this is something for them.
Obviously, there’s the website that uses building blocks that start simple but then get into the detail if people are interested in the detail.
We also host regular webinars where people can ask anything and during which I try to present a bit about the company and also a bit about our methodology. We host investment seminars and if you go to the website there is a banner at the top which you can use to get on one of those.
You can also come and meet the team in person. You see, computers are used to do the things that humans are not very good at; mainly number-crunching and removing emotion. We also have a team of 45 people who provide client services, monitor methodology etc. There are real people here and I believe that it should be made clear that it is a digital proposition but this doesn’t mean that there are no people behind it.
Maria: Adam, I may as well tell you that I’m a great admirer of Nutmeg. I have been investing with them since the moment they started. Could you tell my readers what are the main differences between Scalable Capital and Nutmeg?
Adam: I have a lot of respect for Nutmeg and I know the team there. We are different in one main aspect, that we have already covered a little bit, which is the way in which we invest money.
We take risks targeted approach. By focusing on risk, and particularly downside risk, by focusing on the amount you could lose in a certain year and then dynamically changing your allocation to make sure that the risk remains constant we are trying to keep you invested for as long as possible so you can sleep better at night.
The idea of using risk targeted approach, as compared to fixed allocation portfolio or even a human who is making buying and selling decisions, is what really sets us apart from everybody.
When it comes to Nutmeg we’re both low cost, we are both convenient, we both have apps; you know, we are both trying to do good things. I think it is the investment methodology that really differentiates us from each other.
Maria: Adam, I may as well tell you that I’ve opened an account with Scalable Capital and my £10,000 is moving in as we speak. I intend to have a little race and pitch you against Nutmeg. Who would you put your money on: Scalable Capital or Nutmeg?
Adam: This is a loaded question, I think. Still it is an interesting one; I mean nobody is doing this right now. As I said before nobody is looking under the hood. A lot of people compare services, you know, what does it look like, what does it feel like but no one is really looking at what they’re doing. What you are proposing is one way to do that.
I would actually add third instrument into the race: I will do something like a FTSE 100 tracker and compare the three services. Where, I think, you’ll see the difference is…
You see, it is very hard to compare performance over short periods of time because it can take years for the benefits of a particular investment strategy to show themselves against another strategy.
For example, in an upmarket when you invested hundred percent in equities you will do very, very well. But in a downmarket it will obviously do terribly. This is when the risk control strategy comes into its own because in a downmarket you have more protection and it keeps you in the market for longer.
To compare the performance of different investment instruments you will have to go through a full investment cycle.
What is easier for me than trying to predict what will happen in the future, which is difficult for me to predict with certainty, is to have a look at the data. So, using the data that we have, running all the simulations that we have, I am a big fan of the risk targeted approach. Because one it shows versus passive and active investment management strategies that it can outperform them and also from emotional point of view it keeps you, as the end investor, invested for longer.
I like to back the data so that is where my position will be.
Maria: Okay. So, you’re betting on Scalable Capital and I’ll let you know what the result of the race is in about a year.
Adam: Perfect. Sounds like a great idea.
Maria: My final question is: if you were to give one piece of advice to beginner investors what would it be?
Adam: I think it will be start early. You know, the power of compounding is one of the most powerful financial concepts in the world. Getting interest, dividends and income streams from investments and letting it compound really helps.
The flipside of this is obviously if you are in debt which is compounding against you because you have to pay interest on it.
My biggest advice would be: if you have debt pay it off. If you have the opportunity to start saving, start now.
Because, at the end of the day, and this is what people forget, investing is like buying your future self a present. You are not buying something now but in the future, you can buy something nicer. Hopefully it is not buying something nicer, it is getting a great retirement and a great life.
Start early, I think, would be my key advice.
Maria: Adam, thank you so much for coming on The Money Principle.
Adam: Thank you for having me, Maria.