Change Agent

How Wealthsimple founder Michael Katchen is shaking up financial advice

A financial advisory model for the digital age is attracting a new generation of investors, at a much lower cost

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Wealthsimple founder and CEO Michael Katchen.

Wealthsimple founder and CEO Michael Katchen. (Portrait by Raina + Wilson)

Michael Katchen, 27, launched Wealthsimple in February 2014. Wealthsimple’s software automatically constructs and rebalances portfolios for clients; the company aims to shake up the advisory industry with its low-fee model. Katchen explains why he started the company and how he’s taking on the traditional advisory business.

“I’ve been investing since I was 12 years old. As I got older, my friends would come to me for investment advice. I eventually set up a very simple Excel spreadsheet that showed, step by step, how to put together a robust portfolio on your own. The feedback I got was, “I love this, but can’t you just manage my money for me?” That was the genesis of Wealthsimple. Young professionals making a good living want to be saving and investing; they want a solution that’s simple and low cost, and don’t have time to do it themselves.

“One reason I hate the term “robo adviser” is that with our model, every client gets a dedicated advisor, a flesh-and-blood human being. Transparency is at the core of what we do, too. When you sign in to our site or app, you see how much money you put in, how much you’ve made, what you’ve paid in fees and the total value of your portfolio. We’re trying to make it intuitive. Then there’s pricing. We charge a fifth of what the industry charges right now, because we can keep our costs low. The industry has to adapt. This is the way things are moving, and it’s moving very, very quickly.”