Key takeaways from Wealth HER Way: Empowering Financial Confidence (IWD 2024)
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Key takeaways from Wealth HER Way: Empowering Financial Confidence (IWD 2024)

Mar 2024
Feb 2024
Panel discussion at Wealth HER Way: Empowering Financial Confidence

In conjunction with International Women’s Day, Endowus and Women Venture Asia co-hosted an insightful fireside chat and panel discussion on 21 February 2024.

Aligned with a common goal to address the gender gap in entrepreneurship, both organisations gathered a brilliant group of women entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders — for a night of authentic sharing and encouragement for women to take control of their finances and achieve entrepreneurial success.

(From left) Gregory Van, CEO of Endowus; Harmin Kaur, co-founder and chairperson of Women Venture Asia

The event kicked off with a fireside chat, led by moderator Harmin Kaur, co-founder and chairperson of Women Venture Asia, with Gregory Van, CEO of Endowus. 

Recognising gender disparities in entrepreneurship and investments

Back when she was just starting out as an entrepreneur, Harmin recalled being very passive with her investments: “I was like a cobbler without shoes;  I tend to think about myself (and my personal finances) last.”

At the get go, many aspiring entrepreneurs are forced to bootstrap, and staying disciplined with regard to one’s personal wealth and investments starts to take a backseat — but the consequences of such actions are amplified for women as compared to men. 

“Women tend to go to market later, which means they're bootstrapped for longer and that directly impacts the management of their personal finances. What is the impact on women’s long-term financial goals, if we are not actively investing towards our nest egg?,” says Harmin, echoing the genesis of Women Venture Asia, which believes in targeting women’s entrepreneurial pain points by harnessing the power of networks and community to enable women's financial and economic empowerment.

Anecdotally, Endowus has found its women clients more responsible and cautious with their finances than men. 

Men tend to be more speculative with investments, while women tend to be more conservative and are also better at sticking to a plan. As a result, women have the potential to make better investors than men, as women tend to invest for the long term, redeem less despite market conditions, and are less susceptible to knee-jerk reactions to volatility.

That’s why, Gregory Van, CEO at Endowus, emphasised the importance of involving both partners in financial decision-making. 

“When we invite couples to our office for an advisory consultation, sometimes the wives say ‘Oh, I don't know how to deal with any of this stuff.’ But we try not to let them have that attitude."

"We want to empower more women because if couples are making these decisions together, they can stay on course to investing together instead of having those split attitudes.”

Starting from scratch and disrupting the wealthtech industry

Elaborating on his entrepreneurial journey in the wealth management industry, Greg shared how the firm’s mission of disrupting traditional practices through their work with CPF and low-cost index funds in Singapore came to be. 

In his youth (read: before he knew better), Greg adopted a speculative approach to his investments. 

“I later realised many of our clients in the wealth industry were investing in sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, and I was like, ‘Wait a second. Why is it that these guys invest so differently from me, my friends, my parents, my grandparents?’ It’s two different worlds that should be bridged; that led me to take up a more academic, evidence-based approach to investing.”

Greg then transitioned from investment banking to pioneering Grab’s digital payment system, before co-founding Endowus, a wealth management platform managing over $5 billion in assets today.  

Through his experiences, he was taken aback by how often the mass affluent in Singapore and Hong Kong are underserved by banks. Even if they are, conflict-ridden practices in the current investment landscape impede clients' abilities to reach their wealth goals. With an urge to solve the broken wealth experience in Asia, Greg and co-founder Samuel Rhee started Endowus to give everybody access to institutional-grade opportunities at low cost and empower all regardless of net worth or gender.

(From left) Prof Annie Koh, Professor Emeritus of Finance (Practice) at SMU; Sin Ting So, Chief Client Officer at Endowus; Angela Sim, co-founder of Cloversoft; Ee Ling Lim, Executive Director of Market Launch at 500 Global; Helga Angelina, CEO and co-founder of Green Rebel

The importance of goal-based investing for women

So Sin Ting, Chief Client Officer & Founding Member of Endowus, was joined by fellow speakers in the following fireside chat:

  • Angela Sim, Co-founder of Cloversoft
  • Ee Ling Lim, Executive Director of Market Launch, 500 Global
  • Helga Angelina, CEO, Co-founder of Burgreens and Green Rebel
  • Moderator: Prof Annie Koh, Professor Emeritus of Finance (Practice), Singapore Management University

As Chief Client Officer, the most important question Sin Ting poses to clients is: “What is your true goal?”

Sin Ting believes that at the end of the day, what's important is achieving clients’ wealth and life goals, and not how well they are able to beat the market. While working at a private bank prior to Endowus, Sin Ting was constantly encouraged to meet sales targets and that did not sit right with her because she believes in staying invested in a diversified portfolio that is aligned with your life goals, and personalised to meet all your financial needs. 

She also emphasised the importance of building wealth as an entrepreneur. 

“To be honest, if I hadn't started my investment journey early and could ensure my personal finances were in order, I don't think I would have had the confidence to take this leap of faith to start Endowus with Greg and Sam, and leave my then-very stable job.”

Embracing change: beyond the comfort zone

Leaving their very stable jobs to venture into new fields are also Angela Sim, Co-founder of Cloversoft and Ee Ling Lim, Executive Director of Market Launch, 500 Global.

Upon hearing that the world had lost 43% of its tree population, Angela felt compelled to take action. She left her banking career at HSBC and founded Cloversoft, a business dedicated to building a sustainable world through its eco-friendly unbleached bamboo tissues. 

However, it took a year for Angela and her co-founder, Lynn, to start selling Cloversoft products commercially. Even then, it was a struggle to convince local supermarket buyers. She recalls a buyer questioning her about the relevance of eco-friendly products in Singapore. 

Resistance abounds and Angela and Lynn had to fund the business to their best ability. In the early days, Angela liquidated all her existing investments and started the business bootstrapping. Soon, burn rates were high and its founders were left unsettled. 

Yet, no matter how hard it gets, Angela constantly reminds herself of the mission of Cloversoft in the sustainable earth and keeps a mental note to maintain a comfortable balance in her bank account to ensure responsible decision-making for the company and its longevity.

Before launching her own start-up in education, Ee Ling left her cushy job at Bank of America hoping to create a tangible impact on lives.

“I reached a stage where I wasn't adding value to anyone. Yes, I was working in a large corporation but whose lives was I changing?”

She then founded the Young Founders’ Summit, a startup incubator program which supports and mentors high school to pre-university students to build impact focused startups. 

In addition to building a supportive network and establishing connections to grow opportunities as an entrepreneur, Ee Ling emphasised the need for women entrepreneurs to set an example for future generations, so as to not lose the game to their male counterparts. 

Additionally, the presence of social stigma also hinders women's entrepreneurial journeys, which Ee Ling thinks is epitomised by a lack of suitable founder-investor matches and insufficient demand from venture capital investors for women-led businesses. Women entrepreneurs primarily venture into "soft" sectors such as e-commerce, education, and retail, which tend to appeal to fewer venture capital investors.

“It is a brutal market out there for fundraising, people are beating themselves up, but male founders relentlessly seek to fundraise, while female founders are the ones who say, ‘I want to wait till I can show better results before I come up.’” 

This leads to significant missed opportunities for women entrepreneurs. Fundraising takes time between rounds. Ee Ling believes women entrepreneurs should not doubt their abilities and see poor fundraising outcomes as setbacks. Instead, they should change their mindset to keep going, and hopefully, future generations will learn to adopt the same perseverance and resilient attitude.

Turning passion into impact

When Helga, co-founder of Green Rebel, and her partner were university students, making their home-cooked vegan meals in a dorm with other friends, they observed that one of the biggest deterrents for people to consume more plant-based foods is the lack of flavour.

“It's not that people do not want to eat healthy, but the options in the market weren’t as tasty as the less healthy alternatives.”

Passionate about spreading the good word about plant-based alternatives to the world, Helga found that there were no affordable, accessible options in the market. Helga and her partner thus came up with the business idea for Green Rebel, a food tech startup that makes plant-based beef, chicken, and cheese from plants. 

“For me, I wanted to start the business because I believe I have a mission and nobody else was acting upon the same mission.” 

As the entrepreneur in her social circle, Helga adds that finding a group of like-minded businesspeople and founders has empowered her in her journey. 

“It is a community which excites me and helps me understand that I’m not alone. It is very impactful if you find a real mentor who is very honest in their feedback.”

When asked about how she defines success, Helga said: “If I feel secure, that’s my definition of financial success. If I’m doing something I feel excited waking up to, I call that success.”

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Panel discussion at Wealth HER Way: Empowering Financial Confidence

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