If you’re watching TV in the coming days (or months), you may see a commercial that tells the story about how something that was exclusively for use by the very few became accessible to everyone. Yep, we’re talking about the story of the founding of a financial company called Wealthsimple — this company, the one with the sans-serif font, the one that makes being a money genius incredibly simple and inexpensive. And in case you don’t really watch TV — because you have cut the cord or hate the Superbowl — the commercial is called Half a Million Mikes, and we invite you to take 90 seconds to check it out:
Wealthsimple has recently turned five years old and there are now one million people using our products. We’re out of the start-up phase and into the phase where we’re using technology to change the financial landscape of North America wholesale. So you might wonder why now is the time to tell a (slightly fairy-tale-ish) version of our origin story. The answer is because you have to get somewhere before anyone cares where you came from. And because our founding principle — to use technology to give powerful financial tools to the many — only means something once the many start using them.
Besides, everyone loves an origin story. Why do you think the first Superman movie was so popular, or the first Matrix movie, or that book A Brief History of Time.
In order to understand how far we’ve come (and where we’re trying to go) we decided to give you a short timeline of the history of Wealthsimple.
700 B.C.: An ancient people begin minting coins and a new era of money is upon us. Coins: much simpler than giving your dentist a sheep every time you need to get a cleaning. Spoiler: money will not remain this simple.
1990: Al Gore invents the internet. (Everyone knows that, before this time, the internet was just a series of tubes.) And even if it wasn’t Al Gore, this is the time when technology begins to pave the way for the democratization of information, music, art, commerce, money, and, of course, mattresses.
2011: A guy no one knows named Mike Katchen accepts a job at a fancy private equity firm. But something about it doesn’t feel right. And that something is: spending the scarce capital of your life making wealthy people even more wealthy. He decides not to work there. It’s not quite as big a moment as the invention of the internet. But it’s related! Trust us.
2013: Mike designs a spreadsheet for his friends so they can start investing money. Did we mention that Mike is sort of a nerd? The kind of guy who loves nothing more than canoeing and visiting his grandma and making financial spreadsheets that reflect the methodology behind the most boring (and also most effective) investment strategies?
Early 2014: Newsflash: his friends hate spreadsheets and have no idea how to use the one Mike made. So he and these friends design a rudimentary tool that will take the principles behind his spreadsheet and invest your money for you. Boom: we’re automating investing.
A million clients now use Wealthsimple products.
And that spawns the actual idea behind the company: you could use technology to allow everyone to invest in the smartest possible way, for fees that are a fraction of what some fancy money guy in a $300 tie would charge.
Late 2014: Wealthsimple officially launches, a few very simple founding principles: 1) Make it accessible to everyone, everyone, everyone. 2) Make it as easy to understand as possible and never sound like a jerk with a $300 tie. 3) Make sure people can talk to a human being whenever they want. 4) Keep fees low. 5) Interview Kim Kardashian. (That last one is a joke. Although it did happen later.)
April 2016: Wealthsimple introduces its Socially Responsible Investing Portfolio. It’s the same idea: use technology to perform complicated and vital financial tasks. In this case the task is to make investing in what you believe in as easy as flipping a switch.
May 2016: Wealthsimple wins the Webby award for best financial services website. Eat your heart out, other financial companies we’re not naming because we’re too classy to troll them by name!
Spring 2017: Wealthsimple reaches a milestone: people have now entrusted us with $1 billion of their hard-earned savings. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits the offices to mark the occasion. We take a lot of pictures.
Spring 2017: After redesigning our website, Wealthsimple wins the best financial services Webby... again.
August 2017: Wealthsimple Halal Investing Portfolio launches, so fewer people will be financially held back because of their beliefs.
April 2018: The world is introduced to Wealthsimple Save, and now people can earn three times the average national interest rate on money that would otherwise be sitting collecting dust in their chequing accounts. (Rich people’s money never sits around collecting dust.)
August 2018: A man named Mohammed, who’d begun investing with Wealthsimple years earlier, used the money he’d saved (plus some nifty returns earned while paying very low fees) with us to buy a house. Not only did he become the first member of his family ever to buy a house, he became one of the stars of our Culture Manual. The Culture Manual codified the core values underpinning the founding of our company, and became a lasting statement to the world about who we are and who we want to be.
March 2019: Wealthsimple launches Trade, the first zero-commission stock-trading app in Canada. So people who want to invest their own way can do it more easily, and with less expense.
April 2019: We launch the Wealthsimple Foundation, a non-profit organization with the explicit goal of helping one million children from low-income families get access to government grants for education. Because the battle for access to financial freedom has many fronts.
September 2019: Wealthsimple acquires SimpleTax, a product with exactly the same mission as Wealthsimple: to make something financially important but incredibly complex and expensive a whole lot easier and cheaper. In this case, your taxes.
And what about now? Wealthsimple has:
- a million clients using our products
- and who have saved $100 million in unnecessary (or unnecessarily high) fees
- and have entrusted us with $6 billion of their very precious dollars.
Of course, our story will be getting a lot more exciting in the next five years. Actually — in the next few months. We won’t spoil any surprises, but we have a lot planned and we think you’re going to like it. Just know that whatever it will be, it’ll go back to that same idea that we had back in
700 B.C. 2014.... Financial Power to the People.