While doing some research a few months ago, I came across a new fintech venture being backed by Point72 Ventures – SAY. The platform wants to help reimagine the concept of the proxy vote – to bring the crowd’s voice to the table when it comes to investment decisions.
The timing is certainly ripe for such an initiative. ETF houses like BlackRock are feeling pressure from far more mainstream ‘activist’ groups than ever before. Thanks to social media, shareholder activism is getting out of AGMs, and into the world’s new town-hall; newsfeeds.
SAY is an interesting case study in a new kind of business, happy to quasi-wade into politicised waters. While it maintains in its FAQs it is ‘explicitly neutral when it comes to the merits of any poll or proposal’, its existence speaks to a growing trend for individuals to have their voices heard. SAY is merely catering towards this trend, as have a multitude of social platforms before them.
There is something about SAY that speaks to a slow but serious trend in socially powered money. Crowd equity funding, ICOs, companies like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are other tangible proof points. As we see fractionalisation take hold in the property and asset market, hallmarks of crowd thinking are very much prevalent here too. This movement also plays into a much bigger trend, where brave brands are getting more comfortable getting political. In a leadership vacuum, everyone has to share the load.
The paternalistic attitude that has kept smaller investors voices at arms-length could be on its last legs. After all, experts can only know so much. Bringing together experts, the crowd and data insights is surely where all of this is heading. Who knows, perhaps that is the evolution of the next generation of ETFs?
A few ideas around this space already exist. BUZ ETF identifies the 75 most-discussed stocks via online news articles, blogs, and social media sources. WIZE ETF was another, however unfortunately it bit the dust, just 5 months after going live. Despite this, the concept was interesting – it picked stocks based on votes of users on the CrowdInvest mobile app. It would be interesting to consider how a WIZE launched today would fare, in the current Trump and activist heightened environment.
It goes unsaid that timing is everything in politics, life and startup land. Perhaps these ideas are due for another run at public office.
Daily Fintech Advisers provides strategic consulting to organizations with business and investment interests in Fintech. Jessica Ellerm is a thought leader specializing in Small Business and the Gig Economy and is the CEO and Co-Founder of Zuper, a new superannuation startup in Australia.