Invest early and often. That’s the idea driving WiseBanyan, a VegasTechFund startup billing itself as the first free financial adviser in the world. Led by former hedge fund manager Herbert Moore and investment banker Vicki Zhou, the nascent firm aims to eliminate barriers of entry for investors by minimizing fees and investing minimums, so clients can start with as little as $10, and expect to see returns of 5 to 8 percent over time.
“Older firms built their brand around, ‘If you have enough money we’ll let you invest with us,’” says Moore, who consulted with Zhou for a boutique firm in New York City. “We felt that with technology there should be a way for anyone to invest.”
So they made one. WiseBanyan plugs clients’ financial goals and contributions into an algorithm that calculates risk and spits out a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds and exchange-traded funds. WiseBanyan creates portfolios for free (it makes money selling upgraded products), though EFTs charge fees of about .09 percent. From there, the process is automated. “The client doesn’t have to do any real work aside from sit back and watch it grow and contribute monthly or weekly,” Moore says.
If WiseBanyan fails or is sold, the accounts would remain with Folio, a Securities Investor Protection Corp.-insured broker-dealer that serves as a third-party custodian for the startup.
“We’ve seen this divergence between capital and labor,” Moore says. “A lot of us fall into one of those two camps: Are we working for money or is our money working for us in the background? I hope to see a future where we’re all benefiting both ways.”