The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
The CEO of Purple Group – which owns EasyEquities – joined the BizNews Power Hour to discuss their results and how they intend to continue growing. “We won’t get tired until we get 50 million South Africans investing,” said Charles Savage.
Charles Savage on democratising access to investing:
The key was the mission statement and the purpose, which was to democratise access – not the income statement. What we wanted to do was get mass adoption of investing in shares. We realised that if we did that, we could make a decent amount of money. In order to democratise anything, you have to eliminate the friction points for the entire population.
Accessing a share like Naspers, with wherever it is now – R3,000 a stock – and you’ve only got R100 to invest, is a huge friction point. For us, cost was a friction point we needed to address, which we’ve dealt with. But there were lots of other things in the platform capability that we had to stay true to if we wanted to stand behind our mission statement, which was to democratise it.
I have to say – and I know that some of my shareholders are listening – it’s the first business I’ve ever built where I didn’t worry about the income statement up front. I worried about what we were trying to do and why we were trying to do it and then what would enable that. Then I hoped like hell that we’d make some money out of it. We’ve got there finally and I’m very proud of what we achieved.
On the tipping point:
The tipping point came for us in Covid. It’s funny, this unexpected event. I think with all exponential businesses something just intervenes at some point and sets the business on fire. In our case, there was a loss of positive momentum going into Covid, but Covid was certainly the tipping point.
On the back of that, we signed Capitec and the business has grown and got significant momentum. We’re way beyond the tipping point now. Really, it’s about keeping pace with our growth and locking up more and more distribution opportunities in South Africa with other partners. Then importantly, replicating what we’re doing here in other markets. This is not a South African problem statement.
Less people in the world – everywhere in the world – own shares than those that do. We think we’ve got into a set of ingredients that we can take to other markets. We’ve got to get on with that now that the South African business is profitable and we’ve locked down these rails of distribution – like Capitec – and see if we can do it somewhere else.
On managing customer care as the company grows:
It’s a dedication to ensuring that the friction points that are emerging in your customer service… so everything is digitised – you can see where there’s a friction point. If that friction point can be fixed with technology, then apply technology and make sure you deliver the service in a better way. But if you can’t, then you’ve got to throw humans at the problem – in the short-term – while you fix it with technology.
If I give you some numbers, there are 120-odd staff in the group. At this time last year, there were probably 90. We’ve added 30 staff, but the company has grown exponentially. It’s because the technology is looking after the service offering. The good news for us as a digital business is that service delivery – the technology that delivers service – is improving all the time. So things like AI are going to provide fantastic human-like services that can allow businesses like us to scale without putting bums in seats, but rather tech on machines.
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