My big idea: Belong app, changing how young people build wealth

Avion Gray made the move from investment banker to Fintech founder in a bid to empower younger generations to build wealth
Avion Gray
Samantha Rosenberg and Avion Gray, cofounders of a brand new investment platform Belong

It hasn’t been an easy ride for Millennials. Recessions, pandemics, natural disasters, and skyrocketing home prices are just a few of the challenges we’ve faced in our relatively young lives.

We are the first generation in history to be worse off, financially, than our parents and much of this is attributed to our inability to build wealth through property. However, one thing we still have on our side is time, and given the right tools, inspiration and opportunities, we can use it to our advantage to help us build sustainable, long-term wealth.

There is sometimes a perception that younger investors are all into riskier day trading or looking for a ‘quick win’. And while some people are, no doubt, on the hunt for that adrenaline rush, at Belong, we stand for a very different approach to building wealth.

Research shows that most millennials do have some excess, non-emergency, savings to their name. In the UK alone, this is estimated at £300 billion, a figure supported by Belong’s own research, and this cash is often sat in a current account, a low-interest savings account or a Cash ISA. While it is advisable to have a rainy day fund set aside, anything in excess of this can be put to work to help us start building longer-term wealth over say, the next 10+ years.

A meeting of minds

I studied finance at Howard University in the US and then entered the world of investment banking and private equity. This is where I became acutely aware of the relationship between risk and returns (or profits), and how the financial markets use leverage (i.e. borrowed money) to adjust both of these - but typically, to enhance returns.

After completing my MBA at Stanford University, followed by a stint in fintech investment banking, I became Head of Product for EMEA at the leading POS system and merchant services provider, Clover. In this role, I honed my skills in leading new market expansions, spearheading sales transformations and importantly, launching and commercialising new products.

My work at Clover benefitted millions of small business owners globally, and after this, I felt compelled to apply that experience - plus my understanding of finance and my personal journey with investing - to impact this generation of Millennials. This was when a friend connected me with my now co-founder, Samantha Rosenberg, who had been doing some really interesting work in behavioural finance in South Africa, where she’s from.

It was clear that Samantha and I were passionate about the same problem, and were approaching it from slightly different perspectives, which turned out to be highly complementary: Sam had a deep understanding of the behavioural side of financial decision-making and I had a mastery of the numbers, or, the ‘rational’ side. Fast forward a couple of years and, after securing £2.95 million in pre-seed investment in 2022 from the likes of Octopus Ventures and other prominent fintech investors, we have launched the Belong platform. This is how it works…

Boosting long term wealth building

Belong is a simple to use wealth building app offering diversified, long-term investing: no stock picking, no day trading, and no trying to time the market. One of our foundational beliefs is that buying the broad equities market, via indexes like the S&P 500 or the FTSE, and holding it, is a great way to anchor your long-term investing.

It's also the first platform in the world to offer retail investors an optional loan to scale up a long-term investment in equities. Our optional Boost loan product allows people to invest more money from the get-go, so that they can magnify the effect of compounding growth over time. Customers then pay back the low-interest Boost loan separately, in small monthly instalments, while allowing their wealth to continue to grow.

In the past, applying leverage to enhance long-term financial outcomes has been restricted to wealthier investors, but with a £1,000 minimum investment, this is something that millennials may find more accessible.

The positive demand from our beta customers is early evidence that this product is highly appealing to our target audience. To date, 84% of customers have opted for a Boost loan, with 100% retention and on-time repayments after 15 months.

At launch, Belong users are able to choose from five different broadly diversified index tracking funds to invest in. This includes the MSCI World, S&P 500, FTSE as well as climate and ESG focused funds.

For more information on Belong, or to sign up for the waitlist please visit www.be-long.co

Written by
May 9, 2024
Written by
Avion Gray