Today’s Millennials face challenges unique to their generation. With the cost of education on the rise, setting money aside for the future can be challenging.
That’s where Unifimoney can help. Combining banking and investing, you’ll get the all-in-one platform you need to save, as well as spend and invest with a unique combination of automation and easy access to alternative assets including cryptocurrencies and precious metals.
Ben Soppitt founded Unifimoney to make it easier for Millennials to manage their money and protect their long-term wealth.
Based in San Francisco, Unifimoney serves the banking needs of young professionals in the United States. From high-yield checking, a robust multi-asset investment, a range of partner services including insurance and loans, and a credit card (launching in August!) – you can really manage most, if not all of your money in one app.
Unifmoney also has auto-transfer rules that you can set up to automatically move money from your old bank to your Unifimoney account on a schedule you determine.
But where Unifimoney really shines through is in its investment platform and automation features. The app includes both passive (robo) investing and active commission-free trading, 37 cryptocurrencies with more being added regularly, and even precious metals; gold, silver, or platinum can be delivered. The robo product builds a portfolio that fits your own goals and risk tolerance level.
Meet Unifimoney CEO – Ben Soppitt
Ben Soppitt has a long history in fintech leadership, including roles with Samsung Pay, Fitbit Pay, and Visa. He founded Unifimoney in 2019 and continues to serve as its CEO.
In addition to his work with Unifimoney, Ben is a member of the Forbes Business Council, an invitation-only organization for small and midsized business owners. He also performed a fellowship at On Deck, an accelerator that helps top talent accelerate their careers.
Recently, we spoke with Ben about his vision for Unifimoney and where he sees the field of finance going in the coming years. He also had a few great insights about personal finance for the Millennial generation.
Money Under 30’s interview with Ben Soppitt
What drove you to start Unifimoney? Do share any backstory about naming your company Unifimoney.
I had been in the financial services business for over two decades and witnessed the rapid increase in consumer Fintech companies launching bringing innovation, choice, and value to consumers. But I noticed a few things that the industry was not solving for and the wasted value to consumers was massive – over $20 trillion, money that could be going back to consumers and the wider economy.
These included ignoring the needs of mass affluent consumers including young professionals. These customers are in a very challenging position – they are high-earning but also high-debt from an extended period in education. They often live in high-tax and high-price areas like major cities. They have busy, stressful, and demanding jobs, and they have a lot going on in their lives. Managing money well is rarely high on their list of things to do, and it’s decisions that are made or more often not made at that time that can have an impact many years later – the opportunity cost of not managing your money is paid in the future and not today.
The other thing I noticed was that most Fintechs were solving for very specific and discrete parts of the financial ecosystem – active investing, Robo investing, cryptocurrencies trading, mortgages, loans, banking, etc., ironically with so many apps it actually makes it harder to manage your money than easier and that work falls on the consumer. Humans are not, on the whole, prepared to do hard, manual, repetitive work on a sustained basis, especially when the payoff may be decades in the future, so we put it off and that’s what managing your money can require. The result is that almost all mass affluent consumers suffer from three sins in managing their money:
- Having too much money held in cash at a Big Brand Bank that pays little or no interest.
- Having a credit card that does not maximize your return on spend.
- Not dollar-cost averaging (in fact, less than 30% of Millennials are investing in the stock market at all).
If these were solved for the entire Millennial generation, it would create through their working lives and the power of compound interest over $20 trillion dollars of value by the time they retire. Solving for this is what we want to do at Unifimoney, and we do it through automation and product design so that our customers are automatically and by default solving for the three sins of personal finance and ensuring their money is working as hard for them as they do to earn it in the first place.
What sets Unifimoney apart from other investing apps?
We are an all-in-one app where you can manage most if not all of your investing and money management needs. We use automation to remove the manual work involved in managing money on a day-to-day basis. We have a comprehensive investment platform including Robo investing, Self Managed Commission Free trading, over 30 cryptocurrencies, and precious metals. We support fractional investing in equities and ETFs, crypto, and precious metals so any customer can get going with just a few dollars. We intend to progressively add more alternative investment assets over time like collectibles.
We have a full banking service – a hybrid high-interest checking account and are launching a credit card soon. This will be the only credit card in the world that pays rewards as Bitcoin, gold, or equities.
More important than the features and product functions, though, is that we enable our customers to truly automate their money. You can set rules to transfers funds automatically from your old banking institution into Unifimoney – move your money not your bank, we recognize that is a hassle. You can auto-invest any amount (the minimum is $25) each month into your Robo and trade in crypto, metals, and equities to the maximum in your account.
Deposit interest and credit card cash back are automatically rolled up and deposited into your Robo fund – unless gold or Bitcoin is selected for the credit card (this can be changed each billing cycle). We want to make saving and investing as easy and effortless as paying for an Uber.
You’ve shared that Unifimoney’s San Francisco-based team speaks 7 languages; tell us more!
We are a fully distributed team with both U.S. and international team members. At the last count, we can collectively speak seven languages. The Founders Ben and Ed are British and British/Australian respectively but both living in San Francisco. Whilst the U.S. is in many respects the leading Fintech market in the world, there are learnings and experiences from other markets that help inform our product design. Credit Cards, for example, is a very commoditized business in the U.S. – with almost no innovation in 30 years. Other markets in Asia and Europe are doing far more interesting things with Credit Card proposition design.
What advice do you have for a Gen Z and/or Millennial who hasn’t started investing at all yet but is interested in learning?
A few innovations have made the path to investing very easy, low cost and low risk. Fractional investing means you can buy into company stocks (or crypto or gold) for just a few dollars, you are buying a fraction of a share not the whole share. This reduces the barriers to entry considerably. Commission-free trading likewise makes it low cost to trade. Robo platforms can help create a portfolio based on your own risk profile, and auto invest means that you can set a schedule to invest even a very small amount of money regularly.
The average age to start saving for retirement is 32 in the U.S. – meaning for most, they have lost a decade of compound growth. Most people understand conceptually how compound growth but it’s hard to really imagine its power. We all almost all forget or ignore that compounding increases both our good decisions and our bad. Losing the first 10 years of your 30-40 year investing potential is a very hard blow indeed – these are the most important years – the early ones with the most compounding to benefit from.
When looking for a bank, what advice do you give Gen Z and Millennials? What features should they prioritize?
Well, we are a little biased to be fair.
Some things to consider we would suggest:
- Whose interests are the banks really being run for? Customers vs Shareholders
- The values of the institution should be considered.
- How the institution is going to actually help you increase your wealth.
- Try and actively think beyond the marketing – the top 10 Big Brand Banks spend over $15 billion a year on marketing – they are influencing your judgment, whether you realize it or not.
- Be aggressively rational – e.g., metals credit cards are irrational and deflect focus from what you should really be looking at and assessing.
Unifimoney offers an all-in-one financial management solution. Do you find many of your members use it for all their banking needs, including checking and savings?
We are a complex answer to a complex problem – how to manage your money better without effort so it takes time for customers to really understand what we do plus we are still building and developing the platform.
We don’t expect our customers to give up their old bank and move to us immediately. It’s why we have created ways to automate funds flow from your old bank to Unifimoney. You don’t have to move bank, just the money.
We see two categories of customers so far – those who create an account, fund a few thousand dollars and then spend time learning about the services and increasing their funding over time. The second category is moving over larger portfolios of $100-500K either into the Robo or Self Managed platform. We hope our customers will develop and evolve alongside us, and we actively seek their feedback and incorporate that into our design roadmap.
Everyone is talking about cryptocurrency. How do you see digital currencies changing the financial landscape over the next decade?
It is clear we believe that blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies have vast future potential in many dimensions of life. Without any doubt, cryptocurrencies are a highly volatile investment choice, and we recommend that they are treated as such.
There are a few philosophies we believe largely hold true in investing for most people most of the time:
- Spend less than you make.
- Invest what you can.
- Maintain a cash cushion appropriate to your needs.
- The 85:15 ratio – 85% of your investments should be in a highly diversified portfolio matching your individual risk profile. 5-15% can be used for more high risk/high reward investments if you feel compelled to actively trade.
- Dollar-cost average to manage market timing risk.
Cryptocurrencies and precious metals and indeed all forms of alternative asset we think have a role in diversification and the high risk 5-15% part of your active investing if that is of interest to you.
Equally important alternative assets – be they wine, sports memorabilia, collectibles, cryptocurrencies, gold coins, etc., tend to be much more interesting and engaging than ETFs for example.
They are a great way to get people interested in engaging in their wealth journey, and that is an important component we think to consider as well.
You did a fellowship with an accelerator called On Deck. What was that experience like? How has it helped you as you lead your company?
I did – it was early on in our journey, and it’s a community of Founders from all industries and levels of experience and career change. Coming out of a 20+ year corporate career, it was incredibly powerful and energizing to be around such a diverse group of people, all embarking on similar journeys to start new projects and companies that they believe so strongly in. I am still an active member of the online community and try and participate and support the community by giving back whatever I can. I have gravitated to more Fintech founders, which is natural, but I recently worked with a Founder from On Deck working on an education startup – teaching kids mechanical engineering skills starting with 3D Printing tech. My kids and I were part of his pilot.
As a business leader in a competitive market, what advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I think there is a lot more randomness and luck involved that is generally talked about. Accepting that is very helpful. The most powerful force, though, I believe is serendipity “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way”.
As the old saying goes, the harder I work, the luckier I am. I work hard at having as many interactions with as wide a group of people as I can, and I find that the most powerful relationships often come from the most unlikely places and people, and they compound over time. Like money – smaller positive changes and actions done frequently compound to be very powerful. Same with relationships and people.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career, and what did you learn from it?
I have been incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel and work in many countries during my career, including the UK, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Singapore, and now the U.S. Very diverse environments and cultures, but I have often found the biggest challenge is always when people’s values and goals are not aligned. It’s hard to achieve that in a big corporate environment at the best of times, and some companies do it better than others. But when people are aligned, there is almost nothing that cannot be achieved.
Who in your life has been the most instrumental in teaching you about money management?
My Father who was very good with money, very disciplined, and thought long term – and my Mother who was truly awful with it. My parents divorced at an early age, so I saw the two paths evolve over time and in parallel to their natural conclusions. A hard and long lesson to be sure.
I have seen the long-term effects on physical and mental health and quality of life that money stress causes, and I will do anything I can to help as many people as possible avoid that fate.
What’s the best advice you’ve received (not necessarily money-related) that has shaped how you lead your life?
I am still learning – when I have reached a conclusion I will most assuredly let you know.
What’s your top personal finance tip?
Spend less than you earn, and invest the rest.
What is the financial book/website/podcast that has most influenced you?
I am really diverse in my personal finance media in part because so few of them can agree on really core things, so I try and read/watch as much as I can, and it’s a never-ending quest of learning, e.g. active vs passive, growth vs value, crypto vs gold, etc., but I take it all with a pinch of salt – I am personally very much following the boring but systematic approach in my investing whilst dipping into new things to learn and for fun – I recently invested in gold for the first time (via Unifimoney) and also sports collectibles via a third-party app just to learn.
The problem with a lot of financial media is that it’s interesting/informative, sometimes amusing, but ultimately fails because most people don’t act on it. The fact that less than 30% of Millennials are invested in the stock market is a shocking statistic to me, even lower below aged 30.
We as an industry collectively need to solve for the wasted trillions that are caused by poor financial management, and we are not there yet.
What piece of wisdom would you give your 20-year-old self about managing money?
Spend less than you earn, and invest the rest. I made my first equity investment at age 14 during Maggie Thatcher’s privatization of the UK’s government-owned utilities. I think it was in British Gas. I doubled my money.
I also placed my first bet around the same time, I think it was on the Grand National Horse race – held once a year in the UK. I lost all my money. That was a great lesson.
Unifimoney is a full-service financial platform offering all the tools necessary to efficiently manage your money. You’ll not only have the support you need to build a strong portfolio, but you’ll also learn positive financial habits that will carry you through the rest of your life.