Interview with Wealthica CEO and JMSB Student Intern
Name: Simon Boulet Degrees: Network and System Administration,
Applied Computing and Information Technology
Organization: Wealthica Role: Co-Founder & CEO
Name: Marc Lemieux Degree: Finance
Organization: Wealthica Role: Intern
Wealthica is a Montreal start-up led by Simon Boulet, Martin Leclair, and Eric Lemieux. This computer and mobile platform creates simple consolidated investment reports. It uses a secure API (application programming interface) to automatically import user data from over 100 Canadian financial institutions and investment portals, such as Questrade, Wealthsimple, and WealthBar. Every day, after the market closes, Wealthica connects to each user’s financial institutions and syncs their balances, holdings, and transactions in order to track their assets easily and securely.
Can you please introduce yourselves? Simon: My name is Simon Boulet and I’m a Co-Founder and the CEO of Wealthica. I'm a software developer and I wrote the first lines of code in Wealthica five years ago.
Marc: My name is Marc Lemieux and I’m a second-year JMSB student majoring in finance and minoring in real estate. I’m also a member of the Concordia Real Estate Club. I’ve always been very inspired by the worlds of finance and real estate. My dad, Eric Lemieux, is a partner at Wealthica and I’ve recently been assisting him with his job there.
Tell us a little more about Wealthica
Simon: Wealthica is an online application and a mobile app that allows you to track all of your assets by connecting to your financial institutions and pulling your account balances, holdings, and transactions. It’s common for Canadians to have different types of accounts, like high-interest saving accounts, retirement plans, and mortgages, at multiple financial institutions. Wealthica makes it easy for users to stay on top of their finances by aggregating everything into a single platform. We’re the largest financial aggregator in Canada by number of supported institutions—we connect to over 100 institutions, including the big six Canadian banks, brokerage platforms, advisor platforms, and robo-advisors. In Quebec, we also support labour funds like the CSN and FTQ, which are quite popular here. Users can also integrate other assets, like their real-estate, mortgages and cars into their Wealthica accounts to get a complete picture of their net worth. When we founded the company, we looked at alternatives and who would potentially be our competitors. There’s MINT, which does a good job of tracking credit card spending and budgeting but isn’t the best at tracking investments, especially in Canada because of the specificities of the market. So, at Wealthica, we focus on providing Canadians with a comprehensive view of their finances by supporting all different types of Canadian financial accounts as well as both Canadian and international stocks.
What motivated you to found Wealthica five years ago?
Simon: My two co-founders and I sold our previous business and invested the proceedings into the market. The three of us ended up with investments across more than 10 different institutions and we realized there was no easy way of seeing all our information at once. We had to log onto each portal separately and we couldn’t track all our fees or compare the performance of our various investments. Filing taxes was also a nightmare. That was when we decided to create Wealthica.
You mentioned taxes being a nightmare— Wealthica has a feature that allows users to export their financial documents onto Excel, which helps with filing taxes, right?
Simon: Wealthica is free to use but we have some paid add-ons. One of them automatically exports users’ transactions and holdings to Google Sheets. Users can then export those documents to Excel if they’d like.
Wealthica isn’t only free to use—your company also doesn’t sell information to third parties. What drove this decision?
Simon: In my experience with Fintechs, selling data isn’t as common as some people might think. There’s a big difference between selling data and analyzing it. We recently started looking at doing product recommendations based on our user's data. We will only send your name and email to the third party or financial institution in question once you accept the recommendation. We have absolutely no plans to sell user data. When you use Wealthica, you give us the consent to connect to your financial institutions on your behalf so that we can provide you with our service. But you don’t give us control over your data—it remains yours. We’re big believers in data ownership, so we don’t do any trading and we don’t sell your data. If you close your Wealthica account, your information is deleted from our servers.
How were you able to form so many partnerships with financial institutions so quickly? Simon: In Canada, there’s no formal way to connect to financial institutions, so we don’t necessarily have partnerships with the institutions we support. Some institutions like Questrade and Wealthsimple have their own open APIs where users can access their data and use Wealthica. The banks, mutual funds and retirement platforms don’t have APIs, so we ask users for their credentials and we connect to these institutions on their behalf. We really enjoy pulling data from these institutions and making sense of it so that users can easily understand what’s going on with their finances. Almost 85% of our team is made up of software developers and they work really hard on this.
There’s a section of your website titled “Journey to 10 Billion Dollars”. Can you please tell us about it? Did you have this goal in mind in 2015 when Wealthica was founded?
Simon: We thought it was important to have a target when we started. Financial firms often report on the total amount of assets they manage, so we thought: “why not report on the total amount of assets we aggregate?” We felt that 10 billion dollars were an impressive goal, but it was also achievable, and larger institutions would begin taking us seriously once we hit that target. We started 2020 at 4.5 billion and just passed the 6 billion mark this month. COVID-19 and its economic repercussions negatively affected those numbers—they definitely would’ve been higher if it wasn’t for the current situation. Before the pandemic, we were on track to reach our goal by the end of 2020. Hopefully, the economy will recover and we’ll still be able to achieve 10 billion this year. Either way, we’re really happy with our progress. Our success is practically doubling each year—it almost feels surreal.
Tell us more about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting Wealthica.
Simon: Most of our team was already working remotely so there weren’t many changes on that front. As for the number of users on our platform, we actually saw some huge increases over the last two months, and May is going to be our best month yet. A lot of people have more time on their hands now, so they’re renewing their interest in their financial investments and observing the stock market, which is great for us. In terms of revenue, some clients have delayed their integration with us so we’re seeing some slowdown there. We also don’t qualify for the Federal Government’s wage subsidy, which is unfortunate. But I think our situation is good and we’re remaining cautious regardless.
How beginner-friendly is Wealthica for JMSB students, or any student that wants to start investing? How can students benefit from using the app?
Simon: We often get positive feedback about how easy Wealthica is to use and on the quality of data we pull. You don’t have to be an expert to use our platform. Many users link only one or two accounts to Wealthica and enjoy the app because of its simple user interface. At the same time, we provide savvy investors with a bird’s-eye view of their finances, which complements other sophisticated tools they may use. We also have extra features and paid add-ons that provide users with an in-depth analysis of their portfolios.
Marc: So far, I’ve been using Wealthica for about two years to track my investments in the stock market and in real estate. I love how sophisticated the dashboard is and how easy it is to use. My dad has been a partner and an investor in Wealthica for about a year now and I’ve been assisting him with some tasks. I’ve been really happy to help with marketing, translating text from English to French, or simply by providing general feedback. One day, I’d love to join Wealthica as a partner and an investor.
How do you balance working for Wealthica and taking two summer courses?
Marc: Because of the pandemic, I have more flexibility with my classes than I otherwise would. Everything is online and recorded so I can listen to my lectures when it’s convenient for me. I also save a bunch of time by not having to commute to school every day. I live with my parents so I can reach my dad really easily, which makes me much more efficient in my work for Wealthica.
Have you been able to apply what you’ve been learning at JMSB to your work at Wealthica? Marc: I’m confident to say that once I graduate in Winter 2021, I’ll have good business acumen thanks to all of the knowledge I acquired at JMSB and I’ll be able to apply this knowledge to the real world.
What does the future look like for Wealthica?
Simon: Things are going really well for us. Our user base is growing and we’re adding support for new institutions and new features. In the next few months, we’ll be testing new ways to monetize our users. We’re working on launching a new Wealthica premium plan with advanced features and perhaps new institutions as well. The future is promising. We’re all super passionate about Wealthica—it’s a serious business but at the end of the day it’s a fun job and we all enjoy it. One difficulty we’re facing while working from home is that the line between our work and our personal lives is becoming blurred; my wife would probably say I work too much! But I love what I do.
Do you think you’ll be hiring student interns in the future as the company grows?
Simon: For sure. As entrepreneurs, we’re being very careful with our cash so we’re somewhat selective in terms of who we hire. But we’re always looking for new talent. At the moment, we’re mainly hiring software developers with backgrounds in finance because we’re a tech company. Personally, I see Fintech as a spectrum between finance and technology, and I’d say right now we’re more on the tech side. But as we grow, we hope to also expand the finance component of our team.
Any final advice for someone who is just beginning their investment journey?
Marc: From what I’ve learned from classes, especially FINA 385, it’s really important to calculate your optimal portfolio. You need to find the best balance between all of your assets. That’s the best strategy I’ve learned so far.
Simon: Avoid stock picking. In December 2019 and January 2020, I sold most of my holdings in my TFSA. This was right before the stock market crashed in February so I was quite lucky. But when the market was beginning to go down, I did some stock picking and I picked the wrong stocks—it would’ve been better if I would’ve had a more balanced portfolio. Think twice. Avoid falling in love with only one company. Diversify.
Try Wealthica for free on the App Store!