Empowering Clients To Invest Better
BiZQ chats with Mr Gregory Van, CEO and founding partner of Endowus, to get insights into his goal of changing the wealth management industry for the better. Mr Van is also a member of the SBF Young Business Leaders Network (YBLN).
Experiencing the complexities of investing in stocks early in life gave Mr Gregory Van a head start in the world of finance. At a young age, he learned the key differences between investing and speculation, setting a solid foundation for his career.
His first job out of college was in investment banking for UBS which honed his financial expertise. Later, his stint with Grab in 2015 exposed him to fintech as he helped set up the company’s payment services. There, he realised how fintech can build scalable experiences.
But according to him, the clincher in all this was when he was helping his wife invest money from her Central Provident Fund (CPF). Amidst struggling with the experience and the products available, something just clicked. To him, it was an “absolute no-brainer” that technology should solve this problem, and this should be done not just by packaging it for convenience, but by changing its core business model, which includes eliminating trailer fees and serving all clients directly with transparency.
In 2017, he co-founded Endowus, a fee-only wealth management platform, with the mission of empowering people to invest better and live better. Fast forward to today, the company is the first and only CPF digital advisor in Singapore and has also recently acquired Hong Kong-based wealth manager Carret Private.
BiZQ speaks to the father of three to learn more about his journey and how he balances running the business and being a family man.
In just a few short years, Endowus has grown to become Asia’s leading digital wealth platform. How has entrepreneurship been like for you?
The perception is that we are this super venture-backed company, but we were actually very bootstrapped until 2021, when we raised money externally for the first time. We had started this company from the ground up with our own money and we have a strong sense of ownership in what we do.
The journey is difficult, and it is non-linear. Different things get thrown at you every day that you would never have thought of, so you must keep on adapting. For example, when we launched our first MRT campaign we were still funded by employee investment, and it was the same week that the first Circuit Breaker started — imagine how scary that was!
Market conditions have been challenging. How did Endowus tide through these challenges?
Stocks and bonds went down over 15% last year and we haven’t seen this in over 40 years. It is quite incredible that we lived through this as a young company. Despite that, Endowus grew in 2022, even crossing S$2 billion in assets mid-year.
But before and during this turmoil, our financial advice has always been consistent, and our portfolios did what we said they would. Being evidence and data-based has empowered us and our clients to do the right thing when it comes to investing during this difficult time. We also found product-market fit which is important for any business to continue to thrive amidst the challenging business landscape.
Are there any major differences in the way different demographics approach wealth management?
The biggest activity is with the millennials who are around 40 years old. They are more likely to have experiences with various financial institutions. They are also in the stage of life where they have financial commitments such as mortgage, rent, children’s education, ageing parents, and planning for retirement and hence it is a critical time for them to take charge of their finances. Due to inflation and speculative investment blowing up, there has been a lot of interest from this group about how to grow their money in a rational and responsible way.
The Gen Zs are still at the very early stages of their careers and do not have much savings, so it’s likely they have not started putting their money to work yet. As for Baby Boomers, their opportunity cost is enormous. I think they will struggle because they have not been receiving proper financial guidance throughout their lives.
On top of your responsibilities as CEO, you’re also a husband and a father. How do you juggle between these roles?
I try to stay very involved both at work and at home, and it gives me a strong sense of empowerment to run Endowus because I have the support of family and friends to make it happen. Without that, it would be very difficult. Running Endowus is a 24/7 job, but it’s important to have moments where you can unplug. Sometimes, I leave my phone at home on the weekends to avoid having to be connected and act on things.
What’s your advice for budding entrepreneurs?
Everyone is just trying to figure things out as they go. Just put one foot in front of the other in the most rational way possible. Chart a path but do not overcalculate the entire journey. Like the Nike ad, you just do it, and you keep on doing it. So don’t be afraid to take that step because that will lead to the next.
You are a member of YBLN. Can you tell us more about your experience being part of the platform?
It’s important to develop a community of young business leaders and entrepreneurs in Singapore. We go through a lot of similar emotional and managerial problems and issues, and with the support of the community, we can trade ideas and brainstorm on how to work through these problems.
Running a business can sometimes be a lonely job if you don’t have anyone to look up to, so finding mentorship is important to keep the community flourishing.
The Young Business Leaders Network is a diverse network of young business professionals united by a desire to create positive impact through their businesses. SBF supports this community by curating opportunities to meet peers, share ideas and experiences, and develop partnerships.
YBLN brings together a cohort of diverse individuals below 45 years of age: entrepreneurs who have started their own businesses, next-generation owners who are taking over their family businesses, and corporate executives who have come into positions of leadership. These individuals are unified in their desire to make a positive impact on society through business, and the Secretariat’s role is to build the YBLN, one leader at a time.