OneVest wants to make it easier for banks and FinTech startups alike to roll out digital wealth management experiences and services.
In an interview with BetaKit, OneVest co-founder and CEO Amar Ahluwalia said that launching an investing app or product independently can be a time-consuming process. Between hiring the team, building the tech, and gaining regulatory licensing, Ahluwalia says it can take “upwards of about a year, if not more.”
“We want to build the most comprehensive embedded wealth management platform and infrastructure in the industry.”
-Amar Ahluwalia, OneVest
Calgary and Toronto-based OneVest wants to change that. Through its newly launched, turn-key “wealth-as-a-service” platform, Ahluwalia claims that OneVest’s financial services industry customers can bring digital investing experiences to consumers “in a matter of weeks.”
The startup has nabbed $5 million CAD in seed funding and the support of FinTech-focused investors like Luge Capital and National Bank’s NAventures to accelerate the growth of its wealth management offering.
“We want to build the most comprehensive embedded wealth management platform and infrastructure in the industry,” said Ahluwalia. “What Stripe has done for payments, we’re doing for wealth.”
According to Ahluwalia, OneVest offers “the first” platform of its kind in Canada. “The mission for us is really to be able to provide more access to investing experiences to everybody, but really, available anytime, anywhere, through any channel of their choice.”
OneVest caters to a range of different customers, including consumer FinTech companies, credit unions, traditional banks, and wealth management firms. The startup’s end-to-end platform can be embedded in consumer-facing products via APIs. Fellow Calgary-based FinTech startup Neo Financial recently became the first company to launch an investment service, Neo Invest, using OneVest’s platform.
OneVest’s all-equity, all-primary seed financing closed earlier this month, and was led by Toronto-based Luge. The round saw participation from NAventures, National Bank of Canada’s corporate VC arm, Toronto’s OMERS Ventures, Montréal-based Panache Ventures, Washington’s AAF Management, New York-based FJ Labs, Canaccord Genuity Chairman David Kassie, Shutterstock founder Jon Oringer’s Pareto Holdings, and Vancouver’s Conconi Growth Partners.
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The seed raise brings OneVest’s total funding to $7.1 million CAD. This amount includes a $2.1 million, previously unannounced Harvest Venture Partners-led pre-seed financing that closed in mid-2021.
“The oligopoly that exists in Canada has limited innovation in the wealth management sector over the last few decades and there’s no doubt the core infrastructure is ripe for disruption,” OMERS Ventures Partner Laura Lenz told BetaKit.
As part of the startup’s seed round, Karim Gillani, former PayPal executive and current general partner of Luge Capital, is joining OneVest’s board of directors. OneVest has also announced that former Vanguard Canada CEO Atul Tiwari will become a strategic advisor to the company.
“In less than a year, the OneVest founders assembled an exceptional team, built the entire technology stack, became licensed under several regulatory regimes, and delivered great early traction,” Gillani told BetaKit. “You don’t see that level of performance often.”
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Ahluwalia founded OneVest in early 2021 alongside COO Jakob Pizzera—a Shopify, Element AI, and Ritual alum—and CTO Nathan Di Lucca, who previously spent time at Kudos and Donesafe, where he served as country manager for Canada. Combined, the trio has spent over 30 years building and working in the financial services and tech sectors.
“We see that there’s a vast opportunity [to offer] better investment experiences for all Canadians,” said Ahluwalia, who highlighted that COVID-19 has “accelerated” demand for digital investing.
“Wealth management is a $4.5 trillion industry in Canada alone, and the retail portion is about $1.5 trillion,” said Gillani. “COVID has been a big accelerant of digital wealth management, as more people discovered retail investing for the first time. We believe that digital wealth is the future, because more consumers are demanding better user experiences.”
Amid an increasingly competitive Canadian wealth management and investing tech sector, which features big banks as well as startup players like Wealthsimple, Questrade, Mogo, and Neo Financial, Ahluwalia thinks of OneVest as an “enabler to the system.” Rather than compete against them, OneVest has built its platform to serve incumbents and challengers alike.
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According to Ahluwalia, a key part of OneVest’s appeal is the speed to market it offers. Part of this is due to OneVest’s API-based approach, while part is due to the fact that OneVest is “the licensed and regulated entity in these types of relationships.”
OneVest is a registered portfolio manager in each province and territory of Canada, and a registered investment fund manager in Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, and Québec. Assets in OneVest accounts are held with CI Investment Services, a registered investment dealer in each Canadian province.
OneVest is part of a growing list of FinTech firms looking to make it easier for other financial services and FinTech firms to launch financial products. This group includes Synctera and Cybrid. In Canada, D1g1t also sells wealth management software to enterprise clients, while Mako Fintech aims to help wealth management professionals digitize their workflows. However, neither offer an embedded wealth management platform like OneVest.
“There’s no doubt the core infrastructure is ripe for disruption.”
Lenz said “there is little direct competition” for OneVest in the country, adding that competition “mainly comes from robo platforms where the incumbent wealth tech stack has lagged other industries in the adoption of cloud software.”
“Many of these platforms have had to rebuild the stack from the ground up while investing heavily in direct-to-consumer customer acquisition, diverting cash away from new product development in financial planning or alternative assets,” said Lenz. “So we feel Onevest has a sizeable head start in this market.”
Ahluwalia acknowledged that there are more competitors in the wealth-as-a-service sector in other geographic markets, but claimed that OneVest is “one of the more advanced players in this space.”
Going forward, OneVest plans to use the seed capital to double its headcount, grow its sales, and support its product development plans. The startup currently has about 25 full-time employees, and intends to reach 50 over the next year by adding developer, engineering, finance, investment, business development, and marketing staff.
Feature image courtesy OneVest.