VinaCapital acquires operations of Singaporean robo-advisor Smartly

Smartly allows people to invest with full transparency and low fees with the use of smart algorithms; transaction terms were not disclosed

VinaCapital, one of Vietnam’s largest investment companies with US$1.8 billion in assets under management, has acquired the business operations of Smartly Pte Ltd, one of the first robo-advisory investment platforms to launch in Singapore. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Smartly was founded in 2015 by entrepreneurs Keir Veskivali, Artur Luhaaar and Kentwell Kwok, two Singapore-based Estonians and one Singaporean who had worked in finance and were frustrated by hidden fees and confusing financial advisory solutions. Smartly aims to offer people with basic financial literacy the opportunity to invest with full transparency and low fees.

In 2016, Smartly began discussions with VCG Partners, the Singapore subsidiary of VinaCapital and a fully licensed fund manager regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, about joining together to launch the platform.

With the partnership formed, Smartly successfully launched in September 2017. It uses smart algorithms to make investing accessible to more people. Investors complete a simple questionnaire that assesses their risk tolerance, financial situation and goals. The robo-advisor then recommends a portfolio made up of a basket of exchange-traded funds (ETFs). The algorithms then rebalance portfolios on a periodic basis, accounting for changes in the global economy.

Robo-advisory services currently manage more than US$980 billion in assets around the world, with forecasted compounded annual growth of around 27 percent between 2019 and 2023, according to Statista. Markets like Singapore and other countries in Southeast Asia, with large digitally native populations, high smartphone penetration, and increasing wealth are ripe for robo-advisory investment platforms.

“By partnering with VinaCapital, we took a different approach to launching a robo-advisory platform than the rest of the pack. We were able to allocate valuable capital to places where it was most needed, stay focused on execution, and maintain strong financials and unit metrics. VCG Partners clearly saw the potential of the market and the platform. This acquisition of Smartly’s operations and the additional capital injections will enable Smartly to scale up, expand to new markets, and realize its full potential to become the leading digital wealth management platform in the region,” says Veskivali.

“Smartly has been a trailblazer in robo-advisory services in Singapore, and we look forward to building on the momentum and expanding to other Southeast Asian markets as their regulatory environments allow. For example, in Vietnam, current laws do not address robo-advisory services, creating significant risks for investors who elect to invest with some of the start-ups in the market that claim to offer such services,” says Jason Ng, VCG Partners’ CEO.

Veskivali will continue to support the company as a consultant and will work with VinaCapital on other tech ventures, while co-founders Luhaaar and Kwok have decided to pursue other projects.

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