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Wealthsimple exits UK market (for now) – Too many investment apps in the UK?

Betakit | | Dec 6, 2021

elephant bank - Wealthsimple exits UK market (for now) - Too many investment apps in the UK?As Wealthsimple exits another international market, the Canadian FinTech giant has completed the transition begun earlier this year to focus solely on Canada.

Wealthsimple announced today that the company has sold its UK book of business to European digital wealth manager Moneyfarm (terms of the deal were not disclosed). Wealthsimple UK will transfer its existing 16,000 customers to Moneyfarm by end of January next year, and no longer provide advisory services.

The sale is the last step in a transition out of international markets begun earlier this year. Wealthsimple sold its US book of business to Betterment in March, citing a desire to focus more directly on the Canadian market.

“I think what you’ve seen from us, as we’ve divested from the advisors business a year ago, as we left the US market to focus on Canada, it’s about focus,” Katchen said, referencing Wealthsimple’s sale of its advisory service in 2020.

See:  Wealthsimple adds crypto portfolios to group-retirement plans

In contrast to its market scale-back, Wealthsimple has been aggressive in expanding its product offerings, adding savings and spending, cryptocurrency asset purchasing and spending, as well as peer-to-peer payments. In June, Katchen also told BetaKit that the company is exploring credit and insurance offerings.

Still, at that time, the CEO noted “our ambitions remain beyond Canada, and certainly we’re excited about other markets in time.”

The phrasing closely mirrors that of Murphree, which indicates Wealthsimple might not remain Canada-only forever.

Before new markets might come an IPO. In 2019, Katchen told BetaKit that Wealthsimple had set a target of $20 billion in assets under administration (AUA) before considering an initial public offering. According to the company, Wealthsimple currently sits at $15 billion in AUA, with over 2.5 million clients and tax filers across its Invest, Trade, Crypto, Tax, and Cash services; that’s three-quarters of the way to the finish line and a significant number of customers.

At the start of the decade, the standard FinTech approach to growth was to own one segment of the local financial value chain and scale to own it globally. Such global ambitions have mostly been dashed by a highly-regulated space where regulations differ per market, limiting the traditional scaling benefits of technology businesses (see Revolut’s on and off and perhaps on again-relationship with Canada).

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Following this year’s Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas, the aspiration for FinTechs now seems to be becoming financial services ‘super apps’, adopting the model of Chinese giants like Alipay and WeChat. Both Revolut and PayPal have warmed up to the branding, and with some analysts skeptical that local wedge-product incumbents have what it take to compete globally with the likes of Apple and Amazon, the proposition of using regulatory hurdles as a walled garden to becoming a national FinTech super app seems quite appealing.

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The Armchair Trader | Stuart Fieldhouse | Dec 6, 2021

Low cost investment app Wealthsimple announces exit from UK market

Investment app Wealthsimple has announced it is closing down its UK operations and transferring its existing clients over to rival service Moneyfarm. The Canadian-based investment service said it would instead be refocusing efforts on its Canadian clients.

Wealthsimple had been active in the UK offering low cost investment services for almost five years. The company said it had contacted all its UK customers today about the transfer to Moneyfarm. Eligible assets will be transferred over in cash and will be reinvested in Moneyfarm portfolios based on the client’s investment goals.

Too many investment apps in the UK?

The decision by Wealthsimple to pack its bags is being seen by some experts as evidence that the low cost money app game is getting a little overcrowded. Further withdrawals and collapses are anticipated next year, including some M&A activity. There just seem to be too many so-called robo-advisers operating in the UK market, and margins are very thin indeed.

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“The difference between setting up an app-based investment service and full financial advice couldn’t be larger and the general public is clearly waking up to this,” said Adam Walkom, co-founder of IFA Permanent Wealth Partners in London. “Finance can be scary and intimidating and people can and will make mistakes. That’s unfortunate but there is no substitute for a real person to talk through your situation and help you. Yes, of course it costs more, but what price do you put on peace of mind and long-term wealth building?”

The apps have succeeded in assisting many first time investors into the market in a cost-effective way, including helping them to benefit from the massive rally in stocks last year. But now it does look as if the UK market has become too crowded. Some pundits are wondering this morning whether Wealthsimple was getting distracted by the Canadian market.

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