Axel Thibon is an entrepreneur who has been working in banking for over 6 years and through his experience understood that a great amount of people think that investing is complicated and intimidating. He decided to create Wizest, a platform to make investing accessible, transparent, engaging and easier.
Wizest is a platform that opens access to a community of vetted financial experts and provides investing tools, learning materials and social investing opportunities for anyone who wants to start investing. Users will be able to follow experts, like influencers, and build their own “dream team” to invest on their behalf, making investment easy and approachable.
What you will learn
- How Axel’s frustration as an investor led him to create his business
- Investment Algorithms: How they can work for you (and also against you!)
- How Axel created an investment platform that benefits humanity
- Axel walked us through the Wizest experience and how his platform works
- How to determine your risk tolerance for investments (and why it matters!)
- Discover how Axel chooses his financial experts (and the vetting process)
- Want to get into investing? Axel shares his top tips for getting started
- Plus loads more!
00:00:04 - 00:01:25
Hi everyone and welcome to The Jeff Bullas Show. Today, I have with me Axel Thibon. Now, Axel is an entrepreneur who has been working in banking for over six years and through his experience understood that a great amount of people were scared shitless because they didn't understand it. Okay, that's not the official introduction he told me to do, but that's really what people feel like, don't you? Like we're afraid, okay. And people think that investing is complicated and intimidating and the tagline for his company, Wizest, is basically democratizing the stock market and that's really a great term. He decided to create Wizest as the platform to make investing accessible, transparent, engaging and easier. And Wizest is a platform that opens access to a community of vetted financial experts and provides investing tools, learning materials and social investing opportunities for anyone who wants to start investing. Users will be able to follow experts like influences and build their own “dream team" to invest on their behalf, making investment easy and approachable. And the other thing that's exciting and very, very modern is that it's a platform that anyone uses using an app or a website.
So welcome to the show, Axel. It's an absolute pleasure to have you.
00:01:26 - 00:01:28
Yeah, thank you for hosting me. Hello everyone.
00:01:29 - 00:02:04
So Axel, your accent is not American, it's not Australian. We've had a discussion about this and I've already worked out where you've come from and it's from one of the corners of a beautiful country called France. So what made you leave France to go to the great lakes and be in Cleveland on the edge of Lake Erie? What made you get up and go from your beautiful country of France?
00:02:04 - 00:03:24
That's a good question. I also ask myself the same question every day. No, more seriously it's like they've all been carried in life, I would say that brought me to where I am now. But yes like, I started in France like, being like a mechanical industrial engineer working in the automotive sector. So nothing to do with finance and with what we are going to speak about today. And after a while, I came to the US to do my master's, my MBA. And so I came to do that in Boston at MIT. And after that is when I switched to the finance industry and start working in a few banks, being the head of strategy for them. And even like at the end of my journey there to build from scratch a little digital bank on behalf of a larger institution. And through that day and age, when I realized that now I think I have the tools and the confidence to be able to solve one of the issues I had when I was a chemical engineer which was how to invest money in the stock market and how to build wealth, think about retirement and future. And so that's like what I'm doing now with Wizest is to have a little story of the progress and where I came from and where I am now.
00:03:25 - 00:03:58
So, you mentioned that investing can be intimidating and you go into a website and you sometimes got, you know, tools that are like in a black box and that's very impersonal. On the other hand, you've got websites, got lots of graphs and figures and everyone goes, I've got to get out of here because I'm overwhelmed. So you've created Wizest out of personal frustration and desperation, haven't you?
00:03:59 - 00:06:26
Yes, exactly. And, as I just mentioned before, like being a mechanical engineer, I had no training in finance and training and in investing. And so when I started working in, at the end of my career, I said, hey, you know what, I need to stick to start thinking about my future and my long term future and let's start to invest a little bit of the money that I'm earning, but I went to the tools that were available, like the trading tools like free and affordable. And I didn't know what to do, like, I don't know what to buy. I don't know what to sell. I don't have the time to do like a lot of research because I have a job during the day and so that was not for me. And so I went back to my bank and said hey I can have some help and someone to help me to build a portfolio. And they told me like yeah no problem, Sir. But do you already have like $100,000 to be able to qualify to get an advisor? Not yet. Okay so come back in five years when we have the money. Okay so not a solution either. And so the last thing I tried was like the new tools that were like in the market at the time the robo advising tools where it's all managed through algorithm to produce a portfolio that should be matching your profile as an investor but then like as an engineer, I am curious by nature and I want to understand what is happening and in a robo advising platform it's a black box, there is an algorithm that you cannot know how it works. And so like, the question is like how do I trust these? How do I know how the algorithm is gonna react if there is trouble in the market? How do I know if the algorithm is working in the best interests of the company or for me? So I don't know, so that's something that a lot of people have difficulties to handle and trust and so that's why I decided like you know what, there is no solution for me in the market. And I had this thought in mind, like for a few years and after working in banking, like I decided to try to address it and say like, hey, let's see if I can find a solution. And after like, doing like, going through a mediation phase for a couple of years with colleagues and other people around me, Wizest, the idea of Wizest came and here we are now trying to push it to the public and make sure that anyone can enjoy it.
00:06:27 - 00:07:33
It's fascinating that you mentioned algorithms. And I just want to digress a little bit into algorithms and then we'll get into talking more about Wizest and how it works and how you make it accessible and democratize investing for the average person which I think is fantastic. And for me, you know, there's a lot of platforms that emerged over the years that social media initially offer the ability to democratize marketing. In other words, you could use the platforms, but now the algorithms of social media now dictating what we see, who we connect with. So I'd be fascinated a little bit to digress into discussion about algorithms and what you've discovered with what you've done with Wizest and also what you've learned along the way, and looking at other platforms. Do you think the algorithms in the investment industry, online investing platforms are working, and you said, I don't know whether they're working for me or against me. I'd be interested in your thoughts on that.
00:07:34 - 00:07:55
Yes, so algorithm, my view and again, like having studied finance at MIT, I would say I should love algorithm, but like the thing that I see with algorithm that they work, they were perfected. The only issue with that is like money is an emotional topic for everyone.
00:07:56 - 00:07:57
It is emotional, yup.
00:07:57 - 00:08:56
And so, like when we speak about money or deal with money, like we want to have like always, I would say validation confirmation and also having a human contact to be able to validate everything that is happening. And so that's something that we cannot have with an algorithm. Algorithm is working, perfectly working. But there is like, we miss this human aspect and this human layer that people are looking for when they are dealing with money. So I think that's why I went this contrarian way of like trying to reintroduce human into the industry instead of like removing it because I think that this where people can relate, they can build a relationship, they can learn, they can trust and so that makes the experience much more enjoyable than like just working with the machine.
00:08:56 - 00:09:03
Because algorithms can work for you but they can work against you, algorithms just follow rules.
00:09:03 - 00:09:10
Exactly, they follow rules. There is no intuition, it's very mechanical and methodical.
00:09:11 - 00:10:16
And they can be set up to benefit one party over another party and that's where it gets like, okay, so Facebook for example, you maximizing your revenue or you're maximizing my ability to have meaningful conversations globally with my tribe. And I can tell you right now what that answer is. It's not about connecting and letting you build a network, it's about them selling you. More advertising. That's really what it's about. So we could go down the algorithm trail for a long time. I've just been experimenting with content creation on ChatGPT for example and ChatGPT started in 2015 on the basis of being a non profit organization, developed artificial intelligence that benefits humanity. So what you're doing is you're trying to create an investment platform that benefits humanity and is as human as possible?
00:10:16 - 00:10:47
Yes, you phrase it in a way that seems quite ambitious. But yes, the idea is to demystify, I would say the access to finance because I think that a lot of people do not have access to it today or don't I think they can access to it. And so it's about demystifying the access to investing and making it very approachable and transparent and also with this like human layer that everybody can relate to.
00:10:47 - 00:12:29
Cool. So the democratization comes on many levels. Number one is it's available to anyone who has a smartphone or a computer. I did some research today. Apparently, there's nearly 7, I think 6.9 billion smartphones. In other words, every one of those can get an app. There's about 2.1 billion computers and there's about 5.3 billion people on the internet. So by being online, you guys are actually, you are providing access to everyone from India to China to Africa, South Africa, Australia. And this is what's really always, I've been excited by the internet ever since I discovered it in about 1994 when I downloaded Netscape for the first time and discovered that I can now access the world's intelligence instead of having to go to a library to borrow a book for a week in real time. You're providing intelligence about and human and humanity as well about investing. And this is why I've been excited about the internet ever since I discovered it in 1994 even when it was so slow that I had to make a cup of tea, cup of coffee while I waited for a web page to download. So, maybe revealing my age a little bit here.
But now I digressed, I've raved and ranted. So actually tell me how the platform works. Take me through the experience when someone logs on, take us through that.
00:12:29 - 00:13:05
Perfect. Yeah. And I think that's gonna be the best way to spread like everything that we've said so far. So yes, in terms of like how it works, first there was obviously like an onboarding phase because we need to know a little bit better who is a user and through the onboarding part, there is obviously all the legalese things that everybody has to do, but what is more interesting is like there is a short questionnaire, it's for questions that's very easy to try to help the user to find what is his or her. I would say investing profile from a risk tolerance perspective.
00:13:05 - 00:13:15
For example, I'm not young, I need to take less risk than someone who is 30.
00:13:16 - 00:17:09
Exactly. So through the questions we will access the long term risk tolerance, the short term risk tolerance, so that would take into account the age, for example, that as you just mentioned, and in terms of how you react in function as a person in function of what is happening in the market. So if there is a big jump in the market, what would you do? If there is a deep market, what would you do? So we can access it also look how you function as a person and then from there, you will get a score, which is like your risk tolerance score and you will turn into the platform and then your platform, instead of seeing products like the mutual fund ABC or the ETF, XYZ, which is like totally abstract for a novice investor. You will see people and everybody is used now like with Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn to see profile of people and analyze people this way. And so you will see profile of these financial experts that are working with with us and they have their personal profiles of where they live, where they studied, what is like the their main like approach about investing and then one or several portfolios that they are sharing, like here is like a more conservative portfolio or here is a portfolio is just this type of industries. And there is a lot of diversity there. And so you see this profile and this profile I presented to you and ranked in function of the best match with your risk score that you determine before. So this way, you can see these people and say, okay, I like Jeffrey, I like Kathryn and I like John and I have like, let's say $6000 and what I'm gonna do is like I'm gonna put like $2000 on Jeffrey, on John and on Kathryn and what Wizezt is gonna do, Wizezt is going to replicate their portfolio on your behalf. So you don't have to go through the asshole of like building the portfolio by yourself and doing any research and then the way you will manage your portfolio, again, it's not by managing the products that kind of portfolio, but by managing your team, so you have almost like a team of expert that is working for you and your portfolio is like Jeffrey, Kathryn, and John and if like John is like not satisfying you, you can say okay, I'm gonna reallocate my money from John to the other two, or I'm going to find a replacement for John in the list of experts in the platform to change that. And so that's like very very easy way for people to approach investing which is like through people and managing a team of people that are working for you quote and quote. And then the last aspect that is great in the platform is like, as you're following these experts and you're investing your money, following their models of investment. They are also every week posting and explaining things on the platform. So they are saying like, hey this week, this market, this change this way because of this reason or like I am explaining to you guys like this week, like what is an option or terms about finance or like this week I changed this in my portfolio and this is the reason why. And so you, as a user, and a follower of John, Kathryn and Jeffrey, you will receive from them all these like content and all this learning. So this way you will not only like, be able to access investing but be able to learn about investing and how it works. So I think that there's two components that for me are very important, which is the access but also the educational part and so that's what Wizezt is providing.
00:17:10 - 00:17:16
So one question I have is, how do you choose your vetted financial experts?
00:17:17 - 00:18:23
Yes, a great question. So we chose these people and we met them one by one. So we make sure that they first have their credentials as financial advisors or portfolio managers in their real life, I would say their main activity. And so they have the right credentials and then we do also like all the checks and in terms of background and regimen what they did in the past to make sure that we have the right personal platform and to give you some examples like we have people that have been like leading the, I would say the investment, I would say office for a small bank, another one that is the head of private banking and an institution. So people that have been doing like 10, 15, 20 years of experience in the industry that have a track record. And so far we have like seven experts that are offering 25 different portfolios and strategies of investing, which is already like a very large choice to do for our users.
00:18:23 - 00:19:02
Okay. So one of the things that is I've come across is that there's a lot of experts in the market and a lot of people saying we can make more money by continually trading and changing what we do, some of the research that I've come across says that just doing index funding quite often outperforms many of the experts that have got billions of dollars, lots of people with spreadsheets and so on. So in terms of performance, how do your vetted experts compare to index investing?
00:19:02 - 00:19:39
Yeah, no. And if we take, like I would say the value of the experts is not going to be for us and we're not looking for that, it's not going to be the performance of the additional performance. For us, it's more about because we saw like in the testing we've done so far in the last year, that the performance is like I would say in line with the market or a little bit better. But like it's what we can expect. It's not like we didn't find like the wizard that is much better than the market, we don't doubt that.
00:19:39 - 00:19:44
They're making 50% when everyone else is only making, you know, 5, 10% or something, right.
00:19:44 - 00:19:47
Exactly. That's not like that.
00:19:47 - 00:19:49
You haven't found that wizard quite yet.
00:19:49 - 00:20:11
Exactly. And I think it is a little bit impossible to define. But in any case like the value that we have in these experts more than the performance is about being able to be there with the user and to have like this investing like with them.
00:20:12 - 00:20:15
So much like offering comfort. Is that correct?
00:20:15 - 00:20:30
Comfort. And, but for just an example like when you are like an investor that is like doing that and you're alone on your side and you see the market dropping 20%, most people would overreact and be afraid.
00:20:30 - 00:20:31
00:20:31 - 00:20:38
Sell everything, losing and then they will buy again when the market is high again.
00:20:38 - 00:20:42
They just realize their losses, which is actually stopped right there.
00:20:42 - 00:21:06
Exactly. And so the benefit of working with like these experts is to avoid this overreaction and this emotional reaction and say, hey, don't worry, this is normal. Historically, the market is working this way. So it's basically to be here with the user, to help them through the process, to navigate the interesting markets.
00:21:06 - 00:22:12
Okay, cool. So you've done debating, you've done the minimal viable products, you've found it works, the experts are great, the platform works, it's robust, and you're about to launch into the market, so how can people find you, Axel, in terms of, you know, Wizest? Where can you get access to the app and also to the website for example, and start using Wizest? Because I think that's the best thing to do is like for me, what I love is democratization and comfort and also wisdom expertise, listing a lot of things here, but that's important in terms of your making it easily accessible, democratizing investing for the average user and you're butting them up with experts that they feel comfortable with, they can replicate. In other words, not just do what they do, but just essentially model what they do investing. Is that correct?
00:22:13 - 00:22:15
Yeah, that's correct. Everything is going so far.
00:22:15 - 00:22:47
So I'm trying to take your words and try and interpret them and make sure that it makes sense to me, number one, then to hopefully make sense to our listeners and viewers. So how can people find you, Axel, and download the app and take it for a test run? Can you do a test run? Is that what you can do as well? In other words, a lot of apps go okay, you don't want to actually invest money yet, can you do a test run? Can we see how it goes for a week, two weeks, a month, can you do that?
00:22:47 - 00:24:50
Yes, exactly, yes. You can do that. And so just to answer like the full question, like to get some more information, obviously people can go to our website, so it's wizest.com, so W-I-Z-E-S-T.com, so they can go there and browse a little bit and then like, we are like now going live so they can through the website, sign up to stay tuned and be ready to download the app when they want, or they can directly go to the link to go to the App Store or the Google Play Store to download the app directly. And so that's very easy and like, in terms of like access to Wizest, we are now launching like in a way that anyone can go directly and find Wizest, but we are also like starting to work into, to build partnerships with like any corporations and companies to be able to offer Wizest as an additional benefit from the employers to their employees. So it's a way also to help people to get Wizest without having to look for it. And the last aspect you mentioned, it's like how people can give it a try. And so like obviously what we do is like for anyone that start using Wizest, we have like this like one month free trial period where anyone can play with it, see if they like it or not before deciding to fully subscribe. Because at the end day there is a cost and the cost of using Wizest is like through a small subscription. It's almost like a Netflix subscription. And it's like between $10 or $20 a month. That's our pricing model to be able to access the service without any additional fees. So there are no trading fees, like fees to hold the funds in the portfolios, we want to make it simple for the user. And so that's, to give you a full answer.
00:24:51 - 00:25:49
Well, I'm gonna go and check it out. I'm going to download the app and have a look and, I love the big mission statement, which is basically to make investment accessible to everyone, anywhere, any age. And I think that's and I love the fact that it came out of your own frustration as an investor going, so hang on, you're asking me to have $100,000 before I can start investing and you're going I'm gonna call bullshit on that. I'm gonna go let's make it available to everyone no matter how much money they've got. And I think that's incredible mission. And I look forward to seeing the launch and the growth of Wizest. So any top tips to potential investors and users of Wizezt that you've learned along the way as a human being. Any top tips as an entrepreneur as well. What's some of your top tips?
00:25:49 - 00:26:17
Yeah sure. Just before going to the top tips, just one thing that I want to mention is like we are going live now for the US market. So Wizest is available for the US market. In the next few months we will work to make sure that our application process and onboarding process will be available also in other places. But just at the time of launch is only for the US market for now.
00:26:17 - 00:26:20
So that's gonna be, so in other words, a US citizen or resident?
00:26:20 - 00:27:57
Resident, exactly. And so then for the tips, I would say that's something like through all my trajectory. And even now, even more with one working the Wizest, what I see is like for people that want to start thinking about building wealth for the future. The first thing is not like to do something but to think about first like where, what is your situation, what is your financial situation because everyone has a different financial situation and for me it's a three step process like let's see where I am like what you want to do is buying a home like retire early, whatever the people want to do and what is our situation then like make a plan like say so to be able to achieve that, I need this and this and this, and when they exist and when and then exactly on this plan, but exactly on this plan for me means one very important thing, it means like when you do something then you need to be consistent and in investing everything is, I would say, you gain on the long term like trying to do short term gains is always a big, big risk and a big big bet we see that now is like what is happening with like cryptocurrencies where it could be a nice ride but could be honorable ride and like investing is about long term. So when people are like having a plan to invest then I would say the most important word is like chill out, relax.
00:27:57 - 00:27:58
Chill out, exactly.
00:27:58 - 00:28:06
And be consistent, don't change strategy every two days because you're going to lose everything, consistency.
00:28:06 - 00:28:15
Totally agreed. In other words, you are saying in three words actually, play the long game.
00:28:16 - 00:28:19
Exactly, play the long game. Exactly.
00:28:20 - 00:28:47
Axel, it's been an absolute pleasure buddy to actually have you on the show and thank you very much for what you're doing and to make investment available to everyone no matter where they are. Well, USA initially, but congratulations and look forward to seeing the growth and development evolution of Wizest, thank you very much for your time and for your insights, it's been an absolute pleasure.
00:28:47 - 00:28:55
No, thank you to you and to everyone that listening and yeah, hopefully that we can get a few users through, through, through the audience.
00:28:55 - 00:28:58
Okay, great. Thanks Axel.
00:28:58 - 00:28:59
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