THE HANGAR by NUS Enterprise Entrepreneurs Feature — AutoWealth

In this week’s Entrepreneurs Feature, we speak to Noel Lee, co-founder of AutoWealth, a digital financial advisory platform that uses robo-advisory services to automate clients’ financial planning & investment needs. Noel, an NUS Business School alumnus, engineered AutoWealth’s investment platform & business processes. Prior to cofounding AutoWealth, he was a management consultant where he managed consulting projects and advised clients on critical management issues, such as productivity, performance management, and corporate governance.

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We are a Singapore-based, MAS licensed robo-advisor that helps anyone achieve their financial dreams through low cost, hassle-free financial planning and investing, which reaps high returns. We do so by

  • Using a market-returns investment strategy as our core strategy (we generated 14.5% in net returns in the last 20 months, outperforming all global balanced unit trusts available in Singapore)
  • Leveraging technology to automate 80% of the financial advisory & investment management process, thus eliminating the costly financial middlemen and passing these cost savings to investors through low fees (approximately ¼ that of traditional financial services)
  • Digitalising everything to cut down financial planning from 2–3 hrs to 5 min anytime, anywhere

Combining higher returns with a lower fee structure, our clients are able to take home way higher net returns compared to mutual funds or financial planners. With more wealth, our clients are able achieve their financial dreams more easily.

For many years, we saw the struggles faced by our parents’ generation and our peers from not accumulating sufficient wealth for their financial commitments such as weddings, housing or even their children’s education. This is largely because they are earning very low net returns from fixed deposits, mutual funds or when they invest through financial planners.

After seeing all these pains, we resolved to create a high returns, low cost product that can finally help any Singaporeans accumulate enough wealth to meet their financial obligations. We were inspired by the robo-revolution that was changing the way people manage their wealth in the US. Thus, AutoWealth, based off a similar idea but with a Singaporean twist, was established in 2015 to address these pain points.

2. Describe your typical day.

The industry is very fast moving and the start-up is experiencing rapid growth. Consequently, we work on very different things every day. As strong believers in growth hacking, we have many small growth experiments up and running at any given time.

I usually spend the first half of the day reviewing the small growth experiments that we have designed over the last few days to see which ones to scale up and which ones to pull the plug on. The rest of the day is spent on coming up with better ideas, based on what new things we have learnt in the morning, while also working on the more operational things such as client onboarding.

3. What was the most fulfilling moment in your entrepreneurial journey?

When clients, especially the ordinary folks, come up to you and say how much your platform has changed their lives! Many shared that after witnessing their net returns over the last few months, they are more confident about meeting their financial goals. Many were relieved that they no longer need to slog their entire life just to have a comfortable retirement (because previously, fixed deposits, unit trusts & financial advisors were just not giving them enough returns especially after charging very high fees).

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The AutoWealth team (L-R): Ow Tai Zhi (Co-founder and CEO), Tan Ming Zhen (Head of Technology), Michael Ngien (Head of Wealth Advisory) and Noel Lee (Co-founder and COO)

4. What are some of the greatest challenges in the course of your entrepreneurial journey and what did you learn from them?

When you give up your comfortable job to build something, there will always be a lot of noise. Some will mock you for your foolishness. Others will dissuade you, citing the risk involved. Many will give you 101 ideas on the “Best Way” to run your business. Some ideas are actually pretty good but unfortunately, many are more of a distraction. Over time, one just has to learn to filter out the noises and not let the negative voices or bad ideas get to you.

The entrepreneurial journey is filled with ups and downs. Even the most optimistic & motivated person cannot stay motivated 100% of the time in this journey. Therefore, I have learnt that one of the key things to having a successful & sustainable start-up is to have a strong team. When one person is having a hard time and feels like giving up, another can step in to say “it’s ok, take some time off, I will handle things” and vice versa. That dynamic, I feel, is one of the most important things to have in a start-up.

5. How do you balance work and personal time?

When your work is your passion, there is no need to balance right? Haha. Having said that, when it comes to office hours, I have a secret technique. I always have dinner at home. So I am forced to leave the office by 8+ every night lest I faint.

6. What advice would you give to your younger self, who was just starting out in the entrepreneurial journey?

It is better to fail than not try. Be bold when it comes to ideation. Be thick skinned when it comes to testing the ideas on your friends! Good friends won’t let you burn.

7. Why did your start-up choose to join THE HANGAR by NUS Enterprise?

The support, the community & the familiarity.

Support — everything from ideas refinement, pitching, networking to fund raise & to expand, regular care & concern from the management (credit goes to Sang Wuoh).

Community — most of us are from similar backgrounds working to make the world a better place. It’s a lot more motivating to be working in the same space with very like-minded people.

The familiarity — The entrepreneurial journey is full of uncertainties so it’s comforting to at least work on it from a place that you are rather familiar with. You know where to get the support when needed.

Are you an entrepreneur working on a cool product and looking for more than just a co-working space ? Do apply for a hotdesk here and become part of the exciting community that we offer at BLOCK71 Singapore.

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NUS Enterprise nurtures entrepreneurial talents with global mindsets, while advancing innovation and entrepreneurship at Asia’s leading university.

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