A year ago today, 18 September 2018, the Joint Venture agreements between NTUC Enterprise and Providend that formed MoneyOwl were signed. At that time, it was a small, private event. We couldn’t even post it on our personal FaceBook pages, because we hadn’t yet gone public – we hadn’t gotten our licence, we hadn’t launched any services and we only had 11 staff!
A year later, we have launched insurance, investment and will writing services complemented by three corresponding robo-advisory platforms.
- Our insurance platform has more than half a million quotes.
- Our investment account is truly straight-through allowing you to open an account within 6 minutes and fund online immediately.
- Our will writing service is the first such online service by a financial advisory firm.
We are working now on our fourth platform – our comprehensive planning platform to be ready by the end of the year. We have a thriving financial literacy training programme under which we have trained hundreds. We have held an Investment Symposium at which more than 400 young and old attended.
We are ISO27001 certified and we are even building a corporate financial planning portal for the regional headquarters of the one of the largest Technology MNCs in the world. Our team has grown more than three times to 42, including more than a dozen licensed representatives, and almost our entire Advisory team is at least Associate Wealth Planner certified.
This has been a surreal journey. Yes, we have a long way to go and so much to get much better at. But it would be ingratitude not to acknowledge that we have come very far in a short time. So much of this is because of the support of our two corporate parents who have brought their respective strengths to bear.
This was an unlikely union of a large corporate group and a boutique firm. But it was possible because these two home-grown Singapore companies each with decades of corporate history, share the same heartbeat, which is their love for Singapore and the ordinary working families who build our home.
And of this company that seeks to Do Well, Do Good, Do Right and Do Together – the youngest newly set-up NTUC social enterprise – I am honoured to be its CEO. I leave you with an excerpt of a memory from a year ago on this happy occasion of Coming Together.
“JV AGREEMENT SIGNING FOR MONEYOWL, 18 SEP 2018 –
WELCOME REMARKS BY CHUIN TING WEBER, CEO, MONEYOWL
Dear friends and colleagues,
Welcome to MoneyOwl!
We have invited you here today to share our joy in the signing of two agreements:
An agreement between NTUC Enterprise and Providend that will constitute MoneyOwl as a 60-40 joint venture company; and
An agreement for the transfer of DIYInsurance business from Providend to MoneyOwl
If I have made it sound like a wedding, you aren’t too far off. I personally believe that NE and Providend are coming together by divine providence, for a special mission in a specially appointed time. But even if you set that aside, at a minimum we see two corporate persons coming together because of a common vision, even if they seem to be unlikely partners at first glance.
In fact, right from the start, MoneyOwl has been about unlikely combinations, about crossing boundaries to come together for a common goal. When we first started the Basic Financial Advisory (BFA) project that was to lead to MoneyOwl, we pulled together persons from the NTUC group, retired persons, public sector participants and private sector practitioners, and grabbed an unsuspecting project leader from a related entity. We spent every Friday for 8 weeks in a pre-accelerator programme, and then some!
Yet underlying the chaos wrought was the belief that human beings are capable of transcending their silos to come together for something greater than ourselves and our corporate tribes. The fact that some of you are here today, even after a hiatus, speaks volumes as to the sense of ownership you have for BFA; to you and to many others who are not able to be here. Thank you. MoneyOwl is the fruit of your labour.
And the coming together has not stopped. Today, in this very ground floor space, our technology and design team build MoneyOwl’s platforms that will be nothing like what Singapore has ever seen before. Alan Chiu is CTO of MoneyOwl and he comes to us from NTUC Link; as does Harry Ch’ng, our CFO. Talent from NTUC Link Design Centre, despite not having a formal role in MoneyOwl, have come together with our in-house talent, and Providend designers, to make all things beautiful and delightful on our platforms. Thank you for coming together to share our purpose!
Coming together takes courage and trust. Often it feels so much easier for people and even companies to put ourselves into separate, neat boxes and draw lines that say, do not cross.
So, NE could have easily said no to doing BFA for fear of a disruption impact, but it did not. NE could also have done BFA on its own as greenfield, given its resources and reach, but it chose not to. In this regard, I want to acknowledge the management of NE for their leadership and courage in choosing to do BFA – and launching MoneyOwl as its first consumer-facing social enterprise after LearningHub was founded in 2004. And for your humility and wisdom, in acknowledging that another may have better capabilities in execution, which is why we have this JV today.
As for Providend, thank you also for your courage in taking the risk to impart to MoneyOwl the knowledge, expertise and experience you have built up to a gold standard over the past 17 years. Of the seven deadly sins, I especially confess greed and pride; I only want the best, and you, Providend, are a best-in-class IFA like no other, that punches above its weight and stands for all that a financial institution should be.
We are signing the docs only today, yet over the last 9 months – the time for a baby to come full term – Providend has already put in so much, on the basis of trust, to enabling MoneyOwl to set up its business model, financial advisory content and philosophy, resourcing plans and so much more. Thank you for your commitment also, in giving us three of your department leads – so that MoneyOwl can start strong. To Christopher Tan, MoneyOwl Executive Director and Providend CEO, I want to say a personal thank you for also being my mentor and coach, which every new CEO needs but not many find.
So, what is MoneyOwl going to do as a Joint Venture company after this coming together? Over the past month, I have had discussions with the two shareholders’ business owner representatives, on what they hope MoneyOwl can do and what we should stand for. The alignment was astounding. They want to see MoneyOwl make an impact on people by changing behaviours and mindsets from one of maximisation and constant chase, to sufficiency and active contentment, which comes with a sense of peace and a sense of security, that is so lacking in our society today.
What this means is that MoneyOwl will tell you that you probably have enough if you plan well and if you prioritise your life goals – so that once you realise that you don’t have to have everything, you are free not to chase the latest investment fads and you are empowered not to do things that you hate doing just to earn more money to buy things you don’t need.
It might take some time for the import of this to sink in. Have you ever heard of a fund manager that says it does not want to maximise returns for you, or a financial adviser that says you do not have to buy this product to fill a desired retirement gap? Yet this is what these two JV shareholders have asked MoneyOwl to do.
Over the past month, MoneyOwl Management has articulated this in a purpose statement:
MoneyOwl’s purpose lies in empowering people to live fulfilling lives by helping them make wise money decisions easily and confidently.
It is this desire to impact lives and empower abundant living that drives us. And how we go about helping people to do what is wise and right, with ease and confidence?
We use your CPF and other free government schemes to start, and advise you how to buy as much protection as you need yet pay as little as you can, and how to capture long-term investment return of markets without the angst and futility of market timing. You can feel safe with us because we are conflict free and competent, and using technology, we will make the process and user experience as easy and enjoyable as it can be, so that you can take that last crucial step to action.
So this is what is unique about MoneyOwl:
We are Singapore’s 1st Bionic Financial Adviser where human wisdom and technology come together to deliver financial advice that integrates national schemes
So you see, we are once again back full circle to “BFA”, but B is for “bionic” – which is not just one-dimensional, of roboadvisory only or human advisory only, but using the best of both worlds.
Humanity is where we find the capacity for gratitude and contentment; for resilience of spirit and self-discipline in thought and deed; calibration and judgement in situations of uncertainty; and deep empathy and understanding, which is so important to us as advisers as we coach people in money decisions.
Technology gives us precision and speed, as we get ever more excellent at the calculations we need to do, and the projections we need to make. It ensures consistency and integrity of system and processes, and brings us constantly through that childlike journey from unknown unknowns to known unknowns and finally the wonder of better knowledge, as we join up the dots using data, artificial intelligence and so much more.
So why would you give up one for the other? Yes, once again we really want to make the seemingly disparate come together – public schemes and commercial solutions; technology and human wisdom; financial plans and life decisions.
Can we do this? It has not been done before and it will not be easy. The revenues are thin, the business model is untested and there will be pushbacks and naysayers. But if there is one entity that has the best chance at it, it will be this company, MoneyOwl, your JV, where unrivalled reach and network come together with the best expertise and experience, on top of a bedrock of a strong common purpose and shared social values; where humans and technology come together; and most importantly, where our people come together supported by a whole community of friends cheering us on, in unity of purpose.
So congratulations again to NTUC Enterprise and Providend on the Joint Venture. Thank God for both of you, and for all our friends here.”