Finhay wants to herald a new era of micro-investment in Vietnam: Startup Stories

Start by saving just two dollars. Founder Nghiem Xuan Huy wants to transform how the country’s millennials manage their money.

While working as a financial advisor in Australia, Nghiem Xuan Huy spotted the growing trend of people using robo-advisors as tools to invest and achieve financial goals. Unlike traditional banks and mutual funds, robo-advisor platforms are particularly relevant to younger people because they are accessible and available to people of any wealth brackets.

Huy saw a gap to fill in Vietnam, as many young Vietnamese often don’t care about saving spare change, let alone saving up for investment. The conventional way of investing is to put money in real estate, stocks, gold, or the bonds. For the risk-adverse, the most viable option is to simply deposit cash into a bank.

“The Vietnamese financial market is quite fragmented, costly, and generally boring,” Huy said in an interview with KrASIA in Hanoi. “There’s absolutely a strong demand, especially from a growing middle class, for more interesting and diversified financial services.”

Finhay founder Nghiem Xuan Huy spoke at an event hosted by Australia’s H2 Accelerator, which focuses on investments in fintech, data, and AI startups. Photo courtesy of Huy.

Start investing with just USD 2.30 

In March 2017, Huy quit his finance job in Australia and returned to Vietnam to found Finhay, a wealth management platform that helps millennials micro-invest in mutual funds in Vietnam starting from VND 50,000, or just USD 2.30.

Registered users can receive suggestions for building an investment portfolio based on their risk profiles and interactions on the platform. As with similar platforms, users can monitor their investment in real time, see market fluctuations, and withdraw money whenever they want. There are also personalized, user-friendly content that covers personal finance and investments on the app, aiming to attract Vietnamese millennials who have beginning to establish financial independence and security.

Huy said the number of active users jumped from around 13,000 in 2017 to six digits this year, growing at 20–30% monthly. He won’t disclose how much has been invested through the platform sao far, but Finhay has raised a total of USD 1.1 million in funding, chiefly from Australia’s H2 Ventures and Singapore’s Insignia Ventures Partners. That places the company among the most well-funded fintech startups in Vietnam.

Photo courtesy of Finhay.

Finhay has put much effort into educating users about its functions, as well as investment risks, as Huy acknowledged that “money is always a sensitive issue” in Vietnam and people can be skeptical about platforms that handle their cash. “The money that you put into the Finhay platform will be automatically transferred to mutual funds in Vietnam and will be managed by these mutual funds. We just act as a platform to connect users with our partners,” he said.

In order to facilitate transactions, Finhay has about 40 to 50 partners, including mutual funds, banks, and e-wallet providers operating in Vietnam. Huy also stressed that Finhay’s flow of money is strictly within Vietnam’s borders as it only partners with domestic funds. Currently, Huy said Finhay’s business model relies on sharing transaction fees with partners and cross-selling financial products.

According to Huy, the platform uses machine learning to detect issues, like when an user provides false information that does not match their indicative behavior.To ensure security, Finhay also does not accept cash, which means users must have a bank account domestically to transfer their investment money.

Steering millennials away from over-spending 

Similar platforms that automate and personalize investments have found success in many countries around the world. They encourage people to save and invest—and disrupting the wealth management industry along the way.

In the US, fintech startup Acorns is now valued at USD 860 million. One example of what Acorns does is round up payment for a USD 3.50 coffee to invest 50 cents of spare change. Australia’s spare change startup Raiz Invest is plotting an expansion to Southeast Asia. Singapore has StashAway, which recently raised a USD 12 million in Series B funding, and Smartly, which was acquired by Vietnam’s VinaCapital Ventures in July. Wealth management platforms have also found welcome reception in China.

It is going to take years to see whether micro-investment will take off in Vietnam like in other countries. The State Bank of Vietnam is working on drafting and approving sandbox regulation within this year.

Huy does not claim that Finhay is a first mover in Vietname, and instead calls it an “explorer” in personal micro-investments. Finhay now has a 20-person team and its funding is primarily spent on human resources and technology development, according to Huy.

Finhay primarily targets millennials, who are more tech-savvy and less “financially conservative.” Huy is passionate about instilling the mentality of “saving and investment” for Vietnam’s young consumers—about 23 million people—who often opt to shop and pay for experiences to follow the mantra of YOLO, or “you only live once.”

This article is part of KrASIA’s “Startup Stories” series, where the writers of KrASIA speak with founders of tech companies in South and Southeast Asia.