Wealthsimple’s connection to Huron University College

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Wealthsimple Dave Nugent Mike Katchen Huron University College London Ontario
Wealthsimple leadership team Dave Nugent (left) Chief Investment Officer and Michael Katchen CEO
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Imagine leaving a lucrative job for a company that didn’t even have a name yet. That’s exactly what Wealthsimple’s Chief Investment Operator, Dave Nugent, did when the company’s founder and Huron University College associate, Mike Katchen, approached him with the idea to build a business that solved a problem.

After graduating from Huron in 2008, Nugent became a very successful investment advisor who worked with established clients’ wealth portfolios. Katchen wanted Dave’s hands-on investing experience to get his brainchild off the ground.Thanks to their mutual networks, he knew where to find him. “The Huron connection is what brought us together,” says Dave. “[When Mike talked about his idea for Wealthsimple] I thought it was awesome. I wondered, ‘Why hadn’t someone done this before?’”

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When Dave decided to make the leap from the Royal Bank of Canada to this unknown entity, he admits people were probably shocked he was willing to give up his position to build a business from the ground up. But, that’s exactly what the soon-to-be Wealthsimple’s three- person powerhouse did: from February to August 2014, they worked days, nights and weekends to hire employees and raise millions of dollars in capital investments.

Huron thought leaders catalyze Wealthsimple’s success

When Wealthsimple finally launched, there was no denying it was different. Not only did it aim to revolutionize investing altogether, but in stark contrast to traditional firms that target wealthy older clients, Wealthsimple appealed directly to Millennials. However, even this previously under-served demographic was hesitant to trust their hard-earned dollars with a newcomer.

Once again, the powerful connections Dave and Mike established at Huron came into play. While, at first, the masses may have shied away from opening their pocket books in the name of entrepreneurship, Huron alumni jumped at the chance to support Wealthsimple’s inspired vision for an unparalleled investment experience. These investments were paramount to the start- up’s initial success.

Before long, the age old saying,“If you build it, they will come,” became a reality for this financial technology underdog. Wealthsimple began to grow by 20 per cent each month: the original client list boasted just 10 individuals, but by 2017, this number had soared to over 30,000 and the firm was managing $1 billion in assets. This booming success may have changed the firm’s bottom line, but Wealthsimple never wavers in its commitment to innovation, transparency and customer service.

“We’ve built trust with our target markets by championing a brand that is human and relatable,” Dave says. “Wealthsimple has changed the conversation from what’s happening in this or that company to, how do we have a relationship with our money?”

Technical skills are no match for outside-the-box thinking

What type of education empowers young leaders to not just contribute to the conversation, but to fundamentally transform what people are saying? Dave suggests his Huron Liberal Arts background has a lot to do with his success. He admits it may seem unlikely that a Political Science degree would prepare you to lead a billion-dollar venture, but, “The Liberal Arts teaches you how to think and problem solve. So, wherever you go in life, it prepares you well for different avenues.”

At its core, that’s exactly what Wealthsimple does – it solves the problems North Americans previously faced when trying to enter the investment market.The business model prevents Millennials from feeling intimidated by the constraints of traditional banking models. They don’t need to be worth millions to invest; they can get quality customer service at the click of their keyboards; and they are freed from high investment fees that make financial growth nearly impossible.

Don’t settle for the status quo – reinvent it

Do you want to become a problem solver who sees the bigger picture and knows how to revolutionize it? Visit huronuc.ca to learn about Huron University College where imagination is fostered, entrepreneurship is celebrated and great ideas become exceptional results.

Read the full Perspective London 2018 Globe & Mail feature here.