Women financial education platform Startalers co-founders Thierry Smets and Gaelle Haag pictured with two interns
A recent IMF study found including women as users and providers of financial services will boost benefits beyond just addressing gender inequality. This Luxembourg startup is already one step ahead.
“Frustration” is a word entrepreneur and financial expert Gaelle Haag uses a lot when we describing her journey to creating Startalers.
After acquiring a masters in finance, she established a successful international career in Luxembourg working in wealth and asset management for American consultancy firm McKinsey and then KBL. Perhaps her story would have ended there had she not moved into a sales and management role in wealth and asset management.
“That drove the observation or frustration as I saw how the current model of wealth management was ill-fitted to the next generation. That frustration grew,” she explained.
The problem was accessibility. Up until then, wealth management tools and services were geared towards high net worth individuals. Yet Haag knew that investing, in the right hands, can benefit everyone. Haag also realised financial services and products were neglecting women, to their detriment.
“More and more women are economically independent. But, when it comes to taking care of the long-term financial future, they are less prepared because they don’t see they need to do that,” Haag explained. It triggered a reflection on her own behaviour and she realised even she had not taken steps to invest, even though she had “all the cards in hand to be able to do it.”
Lack of trust and time
For Haag the issue was a matter of time but also trust in the industry. What is more, she realised that talking about money for women was still taboo. “This is something I could really do something about thanks to my background and experience,” she said.
Haag quit her job in January 2018 to create Startalers, a business that would tackle the lack of financial education, trust in the industry and time, to encourage more women to invest. She began giving workshops to deliver financial education and then, on 8 March 2019, International Women’s Day, she launched the face of Startalers: Donna.
Donna is a live chatbot that provides financial education free of charge. Currently, she can respond to questions in French but soon she’ll be speaking English too. Haag and her team will answer the more technical questions directly. “We use it as a test platform to understand what customers really want and what their level is to start,” the entrepreneur explained.
Women-led business bias
Later in 2019 and pending CSSF approval, Startalers will launch an investor platform for women to start their first investments with any sustainable products “assessed not only for their financial return but also their impact on society and the environment in which they operation. We also have a bias in our portfolio towards women-led businesses,” she explained.
The initial audience will be Belgium, Luxembourg and France but ultimately, Haag wants to expand to all of Europe, where English will come in handy as a language of communication. “We’ve had a lot of requests in English already,” she said. While Startalers is the only firm in the region offering such a tailored service for women, similar schemes have sprung up around the world. In the US, female-focused investor service Ellevest secured $33m in a second round of funding, reassuring the entrepreneur that it’s a model with traction.
The next Startalers investing for women workshop takes place in English on 25 April at The Office, from 6:30pm. Click here to find out more.