Gregory Van gets incredibly frustrated when people waste money, talent or intelligence. That’s why he started Endowus in 2017. “When people invest poorly, they are not maximising their money. That irks me,” says the 32-year- old. “I want investing to be effortless and personalised for everyone.”
Van, a utilitarian by nature, experienced the thrill and dismay of investing at a young age. With some bold – some might say foolhardy – moves, he built up his brokerage account but lost almost everything during the global financial crisis of 2008.
That experience taught him to approach investing “in an evidence-based way”. His stints at UBS and Grab, where he planted the seeds for the payment gateway GrabPay, also made him realise how difficult it was to get the right advice and access to goods for retail investors.
“Kickbacks drive the financial industry, which I believe is wrong because they reward finance professionals in a perverse way. Clients do not benefit from this,” says Van. He explains how fund distribution managers pay investment platforms to push their products to customers. Through his wife, he also observed how difficult it was for Singaporeans to invest their CPF money meant to fund a post-retirement lifestyle.
“How do I help people live better and scale this solution upwards? Wealth management is the answer,” explains Van, a father of three.
The man is doing something right. Today, Endowus is the largest fee-only wealth platform in Singapore – and possibly the rest of Asia, according to Van. It does not accept kickbacks, and whatever financial incentives it receives from different funds are returned to their clients.
Over the past two years, it grew 20 times; it has $1.5 billion in assets under management and over 30,000 clients in Singapore. Fund managers are also eager to offer their products on Endowus; the platform offers several exclusive ones. From the start of 2020, the company began promoting its services extensively. After being self-funded for two years, it also raised $67 million this year. SoftBank, Prosus Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners and UBS are investors.
Van plans to use this investment to accelerate growth in Singapore and the region. His goal is to penetrate various wealth hubs, with Hong Kong as the next stop.
Van remains clear-eyed throughout this journey. Every move he makes for Endowus is to improve client outcomes.
“I will not accept the status quo. Instead, I want to push the boundaries and keep improving. I always strive to be more efficient,” he says. This philosophy extends to his personal life as well.
“The only thing that you have as an investor is time. Once it is gone, you can’t get it back. That’s why I want to utilise it to its fullest extent.”
ANNA VANESSA HAOTANTO ON WHY SHE PICKED GREGORY VAN
“To me, the Next Gen has a vision to effect changes and is passionate about improving society. Greg embodies all the traits and more. He’s determined, focused on pushing boundaries and has the heart to improve the way people invest, and in turn, better their financial wellness.”