Over the years, investing in treasury bills in Nigeria has proven to be such a herculean task characterized by prolonged waiting time in banking halls, excessive documentation, and the need for a third party amongst others. This led to the development of the i-invest app by Parthian Partners in 2018, to bring investment opportunities closer to Nigerians at no extra cost.

Since 2018, the mobile application has moved from Nigeria’s foremost digital tool for investing in treasury bills to a financial service marketplace with access to a wide variety of financial products from different financial service providers. In essence, the i-invest app has become the one-stop financial management and wealth creation tool for Nigerians.

In this insightful and engaging interview with TechCabal, Olusoga Oluseye, Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director, Parthian Partners and Founder, i-invest app spoke at length about the app and what the company has been up to since it launched in 2018.

What can you tell us about the i-invest app?

“The i-invest app was initially created as a mobile app to access what you can call the treasury bills market. In 2018, retail investors didn’t have access to high-interest yielding products so at i-invest we felt it was an opportunity to allow Nigerians who weren’t institutional investors to gain access to the lucrative space and that was how i-invest was founded. However, since then it has morphed from an app that allows people to invest in treasury bills with about 17% interest rate to an app for everything money for the Nigerian population.

What problem(s) does the i-invest app solve in the Nigerian tech space?

“Basically, it’s solving the problem of convenience and access by providing a wealth management tool for everyday Nigerians. Apart from providing convenient access to treasury bills or fixed deposits, you can access mutual funds, dollar products, and the equity market in real-time without going through your bank or stockbroker.

So, it’s giving people access to different wealth management options/tools and allowing them to do everything financially themselves without the need for a third party.”

What opportunities can people find when they download the i-invest app?

“We have a wide variety of products on the app. There are a variety of high-yielding products, different banks put up their deposit rates whether it’s a microfinance bank or a big bank for customers to place money with them through the app. You can also buy treasury bills, local equities like MTN, Airtel, or even GTBank shares; all in real-time without going through a third party and having to fill out lots of forms. You can also purchase data, airtime, make peer-to-peer transfers, invest in Eurobonds, commercial papers, pay bills and create a savings plan. Basically, what the i-invest app allows you to do is everything that involves your financial wellbeing and welfare.”

Speaking on the return on investment and minimum investment value on the app, Olusoga explained that “different products have different returns on investment. If you go to a bank that was offering you a fixed deposit of 10%, the return is going to be 10%. So, it varies from product to product. On a savings plan, customers can save as low as ₦200 which can be done on a daily, monthly, weekly, or quarterly basis. For equities as well, the minimum investment can be as low as the value of the stock and there are no restrictions on those as they are a function of what you want to do and where the equities are trading. Where you have a difference is on the Treasury side of things where the minimum entry point is about ₦10,000.”

What makes i-invest stand out from the other financial products of the market?

“Everything we do is under the regulatory scope of the SEC. We believe we have strong and experienced professionals at our disposal and most of the other tech products are not as financially sophisticated as ours are in terms of the variants in the product mix we give to the customers, and this is a testament to the quality of people on our team who are experienced financial professionals with a technological background. Most of these people are Engineers who turned into finance experts and work hard to deliver products that serve everyday Nigerians”

How would you describe your progress since inception?

Proud of how far the company has come “I think that we’ve really surprised ourselves and grown with the market. There are a lot more players in the space which is actually a good thing for us because there’s a lot more awareness now and that has been good in terms of our personal growth as it has made us more agile and a lot more efficient,” Olusoga said.

“Secondly in terms of numbers we’ve done pretty well and I believe the future is bright. So far, we’ve had over 250,000 app downloads with over $170 million in transactions go through the app in two and a half years. I think without making much noise, the app is on an upward trajectory and I believe i-invest would be one of the apps that would be a market leader in the future,” he added.

What would you say have been the challenges faced thus far?

“It’s been mainly the limitations of the regulatory framework. In a bid to stay on the right side of the regulators, we are constrained by the kind of products we can offer. If we didn’t have certain regulatory constraints there are certain products that we would have offered to the Nigerian population. However, we choose to avoid any potential regulatory frustrations that could put our customers at risk. That’s why we’ve basically stayed clear of any regulatory issues that most of the players in the space have encountered. 

The other big challenge that we have is human capital flight. We’ve seen a number of people emigrate to other countries for reasons such as security, a better quality of life, etc, and the skills that are required for the business we do are multidimensional and are in high demand globally. So for us, human capital flight, as well as regulatory challenges, are the major issues.”

How has the Nigerian economy affected your products?

“There are positives and negatives to this actually. First, it has pushed us not to stay in our comfort zone and actually go from being a mono-product to being a multi-product App. It has also pushed us to be more vigilant and aggressive in terms of getting stuff done. 

On the negative side, it slows us down a bit in terms of the pace of growth. You would hope as a business to grow a lot faster but when you look at things like the regulated markets space of equities not much is happening compared to the volumes that were available back then like in 2019 because prices have shrunk. Hence people keep flocking towards savings products and for us it makes us build more resilient capabilities within the organization which I think is actually a good thing. Also, when I talk about growth I’m not talking about growth in terms of absolute numbers, but when your country’s FX valuation of the naira isn’t the same as the value of your transactions, that has an impact on your valuation. 

This is because if you’re running a company when the local currency against the dollar is about ₦365, and then all of a sudden, you’re now valuing it around ₦400 or ₦570 (at black market rate) that is like an aberration of almost 30% in value, which is what I mean by the negative impact that the economy has had in terms of valuation for the investors and users of the app. Also, on the cost side, things like server costs and a lot of our operational costs are denominated in dollars. So, from a functional perspective our cost base has grown by that much because of the FX and how do we fill that? Well, we have revenue streams in dollars and so that helps us to fulfill our dollar obligations. But do we have a solution to bring down the cost? NO. There’s not much we can do and we also don’t want to penalize the customers just simply because the government hasn’t been helpful in managing the FX.”

What is i-invest’s target/goal for the immediate future?

“Our goal is to actually get to a million downloads and also double the number of transaction volumes that go through the app by the end of 2022, this is quite an ambitious target but we believe it is possible. We plan to strengthen our core which is not just our product but also to stay on top of new technology, do a lot more marketing, a lot more brand awareness, and get ourselves out there. I think once we start to do a lot more of these things, we will reach our targets.”

How do I go about investing in the i-invest app?

“First, download the app from the App Store or Google Play Store once you have that, all you need is your phone number, email address, name,  and BVN that validates that you are who you say you are. Once all of that is done, you can access the App. However, to be able to do certain things like trade in equities, you’re required to complete enhanced KYC (as required by SEC) so you just take a selfie on your phone, attach your utility bill and official identity document, within 24hours your KYC should be verified then you can start to trade equities on the app.

Withdrawals can be made from the available balance 24 hours a day, provided KYC has been completed. This is to guard against any form of stolen identity and therefore protect customer assets.”

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