Young consumers’ interest in investing has seen a major spike in the last year—this new platform wants to make it easier for them to socialize and discuss decisions…
Millennials have had a reputation for being investment-shy, but YPulse’s research has long shown that lack of capital has been the number one thing holding them back, and between increased savings among employed young people and stimulus checks, interest in investing saw a major spike in 2020. In fact, YPulse found that many young people planned to spend their stimulus on stocks—in both 2020 and 2021.
The influx of cash for young people—and time at home—led to more young people jumping into stocks. YPulse’s most recent finance and spending behavioral report found that 33% of 13-39-year-olds say they have been more interested in investing in the stock market since COVID-19 started—and that number is even higher, 39%, among 18-24-year-olds. In the midst of the crisis and CNN reported that Millennials trading from home were “moving the market.” Trading app Robinhood, whose median user age is 31-years-old, reported that young investors were “actively hunting for bargains” and buying stocks from industries specifically impacted by the pandemic. Some even called the market boosts “the Robinhood effect”—and that was before the Reddit-GameStop frenzy that occurred thanks to young app-connected investors earlier this year.
In the wake of this trend, financial talk on social media has been trending. The #investing hashtag on TikTok currently has over 2 billion views, and according to a CreditCards.com report, social media is one of the most popular sources where 18-24-year-olds get financial advice—second only to family and friends. On top of that, Gen Z is nearly five times as likely to say they get financial advice and stock tips from social media compared to those 40-years-old or older. A Greenlight survey reported that 38% of teens are turning to YouTube, one-third are looking to TikTok, and one-quarter go to Instagram for personal finance and investing advice.
Online community Finary wants to become a hub for all this financial chatter and digital advice. The platform was created to socialize the social investment experience for young investors and investing creators, particularly Gen Z, and describes themselves as an “online community for investors excited to discuss stocks with friends, find new connections, and make trades on the market, all in one place.” Recently, Forbes reported that they raised $3.2 million. Co-founder and CEO Roger Cawdette’s own experiences talking about the stock market with friends helped to inspire the platform. He explains, “By consulting them on trades, sharing research, and even joining in on investments they were making, I was able to slowly grow back my portfolio, better understand the market, and enjoy myself along the way. At its core, this is the concept behind Finary, the idea that investing can be more fruitful and fun when done in collaboration with friends.” YPulse spoke with Cawdette about how young people are using community to fuel their investment decisions, where they’re getting advice now, whether investing will be a long-term trend for these generations, and more:
YPulse: How did Finary get started? How does it work?
Roger Cawdette: A little over a year ago, our team had started to notice that a significant fraction of the students at our colleges were starting to invest in the stock market for the first time. But what really caught our eye was that they were inadvertently creating a social ecosystem around the stock market by texting about their investments with friends and setting up groups with one another on GroupMe, WhatsApp, and other messaging platforms.
Out of curiosity, we posted a quick survey on our Instagram accounts, got a couple hundred responses, and were fairly surprised with the results. Of those who were already investing, 90% indicated that they had started through a friend, family member, or from someone they followed on social media.
With these survey results, our observations of friends on campus, and our own personal experiences with investing, we set out to start Finary with the simple concept of making investing more social. Today, the platform embodies that same idea, being a place where people can come together to chat with friends about investments and discover communities of investors with similar interests.
YPulse: How is Finary distinguishing itself from other investment platforms and tools currently on the market?
RC: We like to say that our biggest competitor is text message in that it’s what young people are currently using to host their conversations around the stock market. What makes Finary different is that it’s a messaging and collaboration platform specifically built for investors. In addition to basic messaging functionality, users are also able to access investing tools like real time stock data, portfolio sharing, and the ability to execute their trades.
It’s clear that the number of investing communities are increasing by the day, ranging from small text message groups, all the way to r/wallstreetbets. But the thing about all of these is that they lack the mechanics to make the process of talking about investments and actually making investments one and the same. With Finary, we’ve thought a lot about how to make the experience of these two activities seamless and delightful for the Gen Z consumer.
YPulse: Why did you want to socialize the investment process for young consumers? The Reddit-Gamestop story obviously pushed the stock market more into the mainstream, and a recent Deutsche survey claims that young retail investors are now planning to spend almost half of their stimulus checks on stocks. Are you seeing that Gen Z and Millennials are investing more during this time?
RC: There are a number of benefits to making investments more social—increased collaboration, access to shared resources like research, and the opportunity to meet new people with shared interests. That being said, we also recognize that there are quite a few downsides, as shown by some of the events on Reddit and similar open investing forums. At Finary, a major priority of ours has been to build out tools that allow individuals to establish their credibility and build trust—tools like portfolio sharing and historical performance.
While some may argue for keeping investments non-social altogether, the reality is that Gen Z is the social generation and want many things in their lives to be done in tandem with others—gaming with Discord, shopping with Instagram, and countless other examples. Rather than try to maintain the status quo, which has a host of fundamental issues, our team is on a mission to build the future of investing for the next generation of consumers.
YPulse: Is this a trend you think will continue, and why?
RC: Gen Z is the social generation. With everything we do, we love for it to be alongside friends. Whether that’s discovering new music through Tik Tok, sharing our daily lives through Snapchat stories, or streaming on Twitch, all activities come back to that same theme of togetherness. Historically, investments has been a particularly non-social category with many brokerage tools optimizing for privacy, security, and the individual experience. Considering this, the space is especially ripe for modernization so we’re excited to take on the responsibility and explore the possibilities of what investing can be.
YPulse: Where are you seeing that Gen Z is going to make investment decisions?
RC: Soon enough, they’ll be making these decisions on Finary, but the more interesting part of that question is where they’re currently finding investing ideas and content. Interestingly enough, it’s on Reddit, YouTube, and even TikTok. What we are seeing is that Gen Z consumers are following creators like Austin Hankwitz who’ve mastered the art of making investment research digestible, engaging, and well-informing, all in 30 seconds. Another large part of our work at Finary has been focused on providing these investing creators with the tools to host more intimate communities where they can create content, engage with their audience, and make a living. Think of it as giving creators the ability to make their own personal broadcast similar to Jim Cramer’s Mad Money.
YPulse: What should other brands know about Finary?
RC: Finary is a Gen Z team—a superpower that allows us to actually understand the consumers that we’re building for. The cool thing about our work is that at the end of the day, we’re simply trying to make something that we ourselves would use. For other companies that might be interested in targeting younger demographics, I’d suggest they bring on individuals of that very demographic. Speaking from personal experience, the best people to build for young people are young people, plain and simple.
What’s next for Finary?
RC: We just recently raised a $3.2 million seed round so we’re excited to expand our team, set up a headquarters in New York City—the heart of the world of investing—and continue to build the best community for investors. I might also add that today we’re thinking a lot about how to make investing more social for Gen Z, but there’s always the possibility that we’ll begin to think about other financial services and the opportunities they might have for change.
Roger Cawdette is co-founder & CEO at Finary, an investing community platform backed by Upfront Ventures and Y Combinator. Originally from Boston, Roger attended Harvard College and studied Technological & Social Innovation before dropping out after his sophomore year to start Finary. In the past, he’s also worked in venture capital at Blackship Ventures and Contrary Capital.