Nigeria's Cowrywise raises $US3M pre-Series A | FI SENSE

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Cowrywise, a Nigerian fintech startup that offers digital wealth management and financial planning solutions, has raised $3 million in pre-Series A funding. Quona Capital led the round as Tsadik Foundation, Gumroad CEO Sahil Lavingia, and a syndicate of Nigerian angel investors locally and in the diaspora participated. The company previously raised more than $500,000 through a combination of equity financing and grants.

The idea for Cowrywise came when CEO Razaq Ahmed was an investment analyst with Meristem covering equities and making recommendations to retail and wealth management clients. He noticed that existing investment management firms in the country focused on the top 1 percent. They couldn’t scale investment products to millions of Nigerians primarily due to their restricting size.

Banks, though, have been able to make progress on this front when compared to investment firms. They expanded heavily in the mid and late 2000s to accumulate the branch networks they have today where there are about 45 million unique accounts in Nigeria.

But over the years, the quality of bank services in terms of savings and investments has drastically reduced. With interest rates hovering around 3-5% per annum, what Nigerians are now familiar with is to send and receive money via their bank accounts, and use debit cards for withdrawals leaving the market still underserved when it comes to investment products.

For this reason, Ahmed, alongside Edward Popoola as CTO, founded Cowrywise in 2017 to solve this problem. With Cowrywise, they hoped to democratise access to savings and investment products to the growing demography of underserved Nigerian millennials and the middle class.

“Wealth management had been strange to many Nigerians because the existing players were not built for the mass market. That has always been a problem we felt required a solution,” Ahmed told TechCrunch.

When they launched, the founders wanted to leverage the telecom industry’s reach to drive its investment products to millions of subscribers. But it didn’t turn out as planned, as the project became expensive to undertake and also, the telcos requested cutthroat prices and commissions.

The company switched focus, deciding to build upon existing payment infrastructure companies like Flutterwave and Paystack. The first facet of products launched to the market were savings-related products backed by fixed income instruments like treasury bills. Ahmed claims that these products yield better interests at 10%-15%, more substantial than what banks offered.

Following that was the introduction of its mutual funds’ products. Currently, the company has 19 different mutual funds and at least 20% of the total mutual funds in the country are listed on its platform. Ahmed claims this is the largest portfolio of mutual funds a single entity has in the country.

These assets cut across five investment partners, and they allow users to save and invest with as little as ₦100 ($0.25). The partners include United Capital Asset Management, Meristem Wealth Management, Afrinvest Wealth Management, ARM Investment Managers and Lotus Capital. Cowrywise indirectly charges customers for this service and splits the fee with the mutual fund partners but the CEO doesn’t disclose how much.

Also, the four-year-old company takes into account the needs of different demographics and religious background, which Ahmed asserts is as a result of an understanding with the mutual fund partners.

“Our mutual fund partners clearly recognize the value of being part of an inclusive digital platform that allows retail investors to invest regardless of faith or financial status,” he said.

The YC alum and Catalyst Fund company also offers advisory services and recommends different funds to customers based on their risk appetite and spending power.

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