«Women need to get off the sidelines and start investing now»
We sat down for an exclusive interview with the Swiss «Finfluencer» Aysha van de Paer to talk about her financial advice for women and why she’s a big fan of robo advisors like True Wealth.
Do you remember your first touchpoint with investing?
I was very young *laughs*. I was 16 and was willing to invest in whatever that meant at the time.
Like most people who didn’t know better – I went to the bank and was talked into an investment fund which was promised to be really good. So, I put my money there and – as you can imagine – it didn’t go so well! It wasn’t a complete disaster, but the money did not grow, and I didn’t understand why. When my investment turned negative, I ended up selling it.
What tips would you give a complete beginner?
There are many. One is: start as soon as possible. Second, don’t go the traditional route. No products from banks and – even less – no insurance products.
Look for modern, low-cost ways of investing. And go for the long-term, don’t chase a quick win. And be consistent with your investment strategy over time.
Do you have any special advice for women who are just starting their careers?
Sure, there are plenty.
I was also starting off my career once and thought that all those gender-specific disadvantages would not affect me as I’m ambitious and well-educated. Then, life happened, and I realised that even when doing everything kind of right, the system puts women at a strong financial disadvantage throughout their lives, especially when having children.
Solely relying on the pension or AHV/AVS system isn’t sufficient anymore, especially for women. Most of the retirement gap is caused by career interruptions or reduced working capacities.
This is why as women, we really have to take matters into our own hands and invest more by ourselves to plan for the future.
You offer courses for women who want to learn more about the world of finance and investment. Please tell us more about it.
Basically, I only offer one thing: a 4-week online programme encompassing video lessons as well as live teachings and Q&As. Participants have access to all materials for one year to make sure they have time to implement everything they’ve learned.
It’s about learning how and where to invest while we examine different platforms across Europe. A particular focus are investment strategies backed by research and portfolios aligned with personal values.
As I’m Swiss and based around Zurich, approx. 70% are Swiss residents while the remainder is based in other European countries. Among our approx. 500 members, many are business professionals with expat experience, similar to my own background.
Most financial services and pension systems are designed for people who live their entire life in their own country. Hence, there is a clear need for additional guidance for professionals with international mobility.
Since the program is designed for busy women, we work hard to make it as time efficient as possible. I may add that the programme language is English.
What advantages do you see with Robo Advisors?
There are many – I am a big fan of them. I specifically like their lower cost structure and higher transparency. Moreover, the fact that you can see the evolution of your portfolio, the general user friendliness, the automation behind and also the ability to let it run even if you get very busy. This allows people to invest consistently, even when life gets in the way – and that’s very important. I also appreciate that you can open an account very fast. All this reduces barriers to investing.
I remember when I wanted to open an account with a trading platform when I was younger. I would go halfway through the process and then I needed to have some documents notarised and two months later it still was not done.
It’s worth mentioning that the robo advisor doesn’t own your money. Instead, the money is going to a bank account in your name, the robo advisor only serves as a cost-efficient and automated way to invest on the stock market.
How and when did you hear about True Wealth? What do you like about us?
A very long time ago *laughs*. Quite at the beginning when True Wealth launched in 2014. I really liked the idea from the start. I was looking for a solution like this.
A lot of robo advisors are very new and True Wealth have been around longer, has more assets under management, yielding it extra credibility. When I recommend True Wealth in my programme, I know I’m not sending people to something that isn’t certain to be around next year.
And I really like that you can adjust and customise the asset allocations by region and asset class. With other robo advisors, you may choose between 5-6 profiles when selecting a sustainable or regular investment universe. With True Wealth, the level of customisation is simply bigger if, let’s say, you want more exposure to Asia.
Back to women and investing: why are they still underrepresented?
So many reasons. Let’s start with a few of them.
Firstly, it’s a cultural issue. Growing up, women are encouraged to be more cautious and rather save money. Boys and young men are encouraged to seek risk for greater rewards.
Then there is the disconnect many women have with the financial sector, which is still men-dominated, such as bank advisors, who look at investing from a man’s point of view, and struggle to understand women’s preferences and long-term objectives.
Additionally, there is the aspect that many women stop or pause working at one point in life and rely on their partner for making money and investment decisions.
How do you motivate women to go the last mile and finally start investing?
There are two aspects. The first one is to make them understand: investing isn’t optional or even something nice to have. It’s a must to grow your savings and put them to work so that you have enough money when you retire to guarantee your lifestyle. This ultimately is about financial security and freedom. And it’s really explaining why women are at a financial disadvantage, and why it’s necessary to grow our savings.
Also, women are so risk-averse, and to overcome that they often need to learn more about investing.
This is why I’ve developed a programme to educate them how to invest in alignment with their values, grow their savings to achieve financial security and prepare for retirement, without spending hours managing their portfolio (or worrying about it).
More specifically, they learn which are the good platforms, what are the strategies, what is an ETF and how they work. As soon as they’re better educated, they’re less afraid. It’s like everything in life. Once you’re much more familiar with it, it’s much easier to take that step and make progress with it.
What general investment trends do you have on your radar?
I’m a long-term person, I only look for the long term and I only teach long-term topics. I have zero interest in day trading or so.
Strategically, I look at the big trends. Long-term trends have always had more impact than short-term disruptions, things like an ageing population, climate change, the changing role of the financial industry, new forms of commerce or blockchain.
Which products or services are still missing on the Swiss market?
Cost-effective kids’ investment accounts, low-cost savings and investment plans, free foreign exchange conversions, transparency on fees, especially on currency conversions. Most robo advisors say everything is included in their fee, but currency exchange fees often come with a high markup! (editor's note: True Wealth’s currency exchange markup is approx. 0.1% or 10 pips on the interbank rate)
Plus, something like thematic investing such as buying groups of similar stocks in one investment transaction at a low cost would be interesting.
Is there anything else you’d like to add before we conclude the interview?
I have a book club about investing for professional women with more than 2,000 members – for free. Reach out to us any time if interested!
Thank you very much for your time and the interview!
Aysha grew up in the French-speaking part of Switzerland and has over a decade of professional experience in international real estate private equity investments. She offers a free blog, a book club, and a paid program «Invest at REST».