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Female Invest: Meet the women taking on the gender finance gap

Female Invest co-founder Anna-Sophie Hartvigsen spoke to AltFi about closing the financial gap and the educational platform’s future as a fintech.

a group of women posing for a picture

Camilla Falkenberg, Emma Due Bitz & Anna-Sophie Hartvigsen/Female Invest.

The world of fintech is no stranger to a celebrity, but it’s not often that a startup can count both a former US presidential candidate and an award-winning actress among its fans. 

Female Invest, a Y-combinator backed edtech platform and community empowering women to learn about their finances, has so far helped more than 270,000 women — Hillary Clinton and Emma Watson included.

Anna-Sophie Hartvigsen, one of the platform’s co-founders, spoke to AltFi all about the company’s mission to close the gender investment gap, the shocking lack of fintechs designed with women in mind and its future as a fintech.

When Hartvigsen started Female Invest in Copenhagen in 2017, alongside her co-founders Emma Due Bitz and Camilla Falkenberg, the goal was simply to create a space where a few women could get together, have a drink and talk about stocks.

They wanted to make investing a bit less lonely for themselves, but quickly realised that this was actually a global issue for a huge group of women wanting to learn about finances and investing.

Now, the three founders are on a mission to create a ‘one-stop shop’ for finance with women at the forefront, because, as Hartvigsen sees it, it is a completely open market.

“To be completely honest I can't think of a single impactful big fintech company with women at the top and I can't think of a single one that, to my knowledge, has something even remotely close to equal representation at the top,” Hartvigsen said.

“And for that reason not a single one of them has come even remotely close to succeeding in communicating or building for the target group, unfortunately. And I think it's wild that it's 2023 and that's the case. They can't even come up with one.”

Of course, there is Starling Bank — notably the first and only British bank to be founded by a woman — and Hartvigsen praised the neobank, but said firmly “it’s not enough”.

Being smarter about money

Female Invest now has more than 35,000 paying members from across 97 countries ranging from eight to 80 and it is growing constantly — it even gained a new country the day Hartvigsen spoke to AltFi.

With its roots as an educational platform, Hartvigsen explained that the mission of the company is to make the world a better place, not only by teaching women how to manage their money, but also how they can in turn use their money to make the world a better place.

Alongside the platform, Hartvigsen, Due Bitz and Falkenberg wrote a book with a title that would make Cyndi proud — ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Funds’ — which came out earlier this year and firmly positions itself as a book by women, for women.

Subtitled ‘a feminist guide to investing’ the book acts as a guide on how to invest and make the most of your money, whether that’s through the importance of making an emergency ‘F*** You Fund’ or how to make your first investment.

It’s not your average finance book, and could quite happily sit on your coffee table. 

There’s another one on the way in November all about the next step after learning the basics of finance: how to make an impact with your money.

“I think when it comes to money most people have this scarcity mindset where everyone is afraid to not have enough from themselves, and I think many people have the idea that there's not enough for everyone and that's why we see so much poverty around the world, because we're holding on to it,” Hartvigsen said.

“In fact, if we were smarter about money and how we distributed wealth, and not just through simple donations like we do now but also through investing to make an impact, then there's more than enough for everyone.”

Money equals power

Thinking about how money can be used to make a difference, Female Invest has partnered with the UN to help fund scholarships for refugee women.

All proceeds from their book sales during March, Women’s History Month, were donated to the Aiming Higher for Women initiative, empowering women through higher education.

“For us it's really important to make it clear that money equals power, it equals opportunity and the way that we spend money and the way we invest money also has a huge influence on the world around us,” Hartvigsen said.

“So we really want to take a stance on that as a company. This is not something that companies in our space have traditionally done, which I think has also been part of creating this whole narrative around money as something most people associate with greed and with evil, when in fact it can be used to create so much good.”

The partnership coincided with Female Invest’s campaign “What does it cost to be a woman?”, highlighting the additional costs women face, financially, emotionally and mentally across both its website and social media pages.

While there are obvious monetary costs, like the pay gap or the pink tax, there are many other hidden 'costs' that are more difficult to track.

“The cost of being a woman is unfortunately very high in every single country around the world and as we try to highlight with that campaign it's not just the direct monetary cost which is easier to measure, it's basically every single aspect of life,” Hartvigsen said.

Following a rebrand in February, with some new, bright colours, the company is starting to find its voice a bit more, speaking out on topics like female empowerment and feminism alongside the educational content.

The two are intrinsically linked, but Hartvigsen explained that now the company has reached a bigger size, it feels more comfortable taking an activist stance.

“The rebrand symbolises a new era for our company that now we're ready to have an opinion and we don't need everyone to like us and we're ready to use the voice that we've built to create change,” Hartvigsen said.

Female Invest’s next steps

“We know that women are underserved in every single aspect of the financial industry, and even though we talk a lot about it it's not really changing because it's still the same people in power and it's still the same people getting funded, so there's also not any type of prospect for this to change in a wider scale,” Hartvigsen said.

“So what we're doing now is step one with educating this large group of women and giving them tools to make decisions. And then we'll start building verticals on top.”

The first vertical? A trading platform.

Last November, Female Invest acquired Gaia Investments, a sustainability-focused investment platform, as its first step to expanding from edtech to fintech.

With a gender investment gap of £1.65 trillion, it makes sense that this is where the company would go first.

While at the moment the focus is growing the user base, Hartvigsen said the platform will hopefully launch in about a year’s time, provided the macroeconomic market is right.

Whenever the platform does launch, it will once again be by women, for women.

Women have different values with how they want to invest, Hartvigsen explained — it’s not enough to filter for low CO2 or see a Morningstar rating, she said, women often want to see things on a more granular level, whether that’s diversity in leadership or dignified working conditions.

“I think fintech has definitely helped democratise investing and access to money by making it easier and cheaper for normal people to get access,” Hartvigsen said.

“So I think in that sense it's great, and then I think the part that's not great is that the people who have right now succeeded in building big fintech companies are men, pretty much exclusively white men, and that's also very much reflected in the products and the communication.

“So that means that it's awesome being a white man and having access to all of these other products built exactly for you by someone who looks exactly like you and grew up just like you with the same values as you, and then for everyone else it kind of sucks.”

Hopefully it won’t suck for too much longer though. 

With companies like Female Invest clearly finding huge success creating financial products for women, who are historically under-served in this area, there is clearly a market for products that appeal to a wider demographic.

If women were investing at the same rate as men, there would be an extra $3.22 trillion of assets under management — the barriers to investing for women just have to be removed, and more products need to be designed with a bigger audience in mind.

Female Invest has shown that it’s worth doing, and hopefully others will follow suit soon — whether that’s big fintechs expanding their product offerings to be more inclusive, or more than just 6 per cent of funding going to women so they actually have the opportunity to create the businesses that other women are waiting to use.

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