In the 27 years he worked for KPMG, Georges Bock stood out from his peers: he ran marathons, played blues guitar in the company rock band and once, as managing partner, made a dramatic entrance on a hover board.
He continues to push boundaries. When a former colleague asked Bock what was next on the cards, he replied: “I’m trying to figure out who is Georges Bock”. After quitting the rigid milieu of meetings and deadlines, Bock took time to reflect. He returned to school, enrolling at MIT Sloan School of Management to study blockchain, new technologies and business models, topics which he said fascinated him.
“Then came this idea of how blockchain could also change the life of the financial services. That was the starting idea that led to Investre”, he explains.
Neo stock exchange
At Investre, Bock and 13 other shareholders are building a neo stock exchange for UCITS investment funds with blockchain as a proof of ownership of securities.
This model, he says will be more accessible for the average person to access investment funds and harnesses the growing appetite for activist investment as seen in the GameStop case.
“If you see what these people, the crowd, has achieved in putting Wall Street bankers against the wall, that was Wow! At the beginning it was like these guys have so much money, don’t even try. Now you see the crowd effect and things are changing,” Bock says.
Savings eaten up by inflation
It has not escaped Bock’s attention that interest rates in classical savings accounts are critically low.
“Right now, there is €9 trillion in private European households’ accounts. It’s not remunerated. The money just sits there. It’s 34% of the financial assets people have,” Bock points out. “You cannot tell me that people happily allow their money to be eaten up by inflation.”
But, for people to make their money work through self-led investment, access needs to be eased.
Today it’s too difficult and too expensive to invest and participate in capital markets, and this is also true for investment funds
“Today it’s too difficult and too expensive to invest and participate in capital markets, and this is also true for investment funds,” the entrepreneur reckons, saying that returns are eaten up by handling fees. “Access to capital markets needs to become more affordable,” and blockchain can do that.
The first phase of the neo stock exchange is expected to launch in spring 2022, with the second planned for the following autumn. Bock summarises the app as a mix of LinkedIn, Amazon and eBay for investment funds. “LinkedIn is where professionals meet. Amazon is a place where you can buy new stuff, where we put you in contact with the ManCo [management company] to buy your fund. Ebay is where you sell used stuff,” the entrepreneur explains.
He claims that in addition to being cheaper than traditional investing, the entire process will be quicker and more transparent thanks to the peer-to-peer factor. “On our platform you’re a member of a private exchange around professional investors. By design we wanted it without market makers. It’s a place where private people meet,” he says.
The main way to find investments is through filters that focus on Environmental, Social and Governance criteria. “One lets you exclude negative areas like palm oil or animal testing. Another lets you find investments aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, like clean water or zero poverty,” says Bock, adding: “Within these, anyone can invest in line with their values.”
Another feature is the social media element or as Bock calls it “ crowd education […] like Reddit, but hopefully good quality,” he smiles.
He adds that the platform will not be free but will offer different packages for investors. Meanwhile, asset managers can pay for the listing or digitisation of their asset.
Hear more about the app at the Alfi distribution conference in September.