As Wealthsimple expands to US, CEO Mike Katchen remains outspoken against discrimination

Wealthsimple

Three years after launch, Toronto-based FinTech Wealthsimple has expanded its services to the United States. The company’s automated investing platform is available in all 50 states.

Wealthsimple has actually been working on entering the US for the past year, ironing out the kinks in its US product since it got its SEC approval three months ago. “If there’s anything I’d say about us, we move really fast, and it’s a big part of this tech company,” said Mike Katchen, Wealthsimple’s CEO.

“In the same way that we have regulatory obligations and challenges in Canada, we have similar regulatory challenges and obligations in the US and they don’t translate. So we have to start from scratch,” said Katchen. “You have to have a local team of compliance people and financial professionals. So it’s a launch that’s been a long time in the making.”

“We hire the best people no matter where they come from.”

Wealthsimple is one of Canada’s hottest FinTechs since making waves with its $30 million Series A in April 2015. It’s also one of the companies in Power Financial’s Justice League of Canadian FinTech, which includes Borrowell and League.

Katchen credits part of Wealthsimple’s success to its unconventional branding strategy. Wealthsimple made waves with its Canadian Superbowl ad (there’s another for the US launch), and publishes a lifestyle magazine featuring financial conversations with celebrities like Kylie Jenner and the world’s most famous sword swallower.

Wealthsimple

The plan is to gain the trust of the average millennial, who often sees the world of investing as boring or intimidating.

“Financial services brands are overwhelming and complicated,” said Katchen. “They don’t inspire trust. When you go to typical financial services websites, the editorial content is like the outlook on oil prices or what we think Dow Jones will get to the end of the year. And that spooks most people.”

Speaking of spooked, Wealthsimple’s CEO has been outspoken on the recent US executive order barring travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries, which Katchen has called “disgusting” and “very non-Canadian” in interviews.

In light of the EO, BetaKit asked if Wealthsimple was doing any preemptive work to ensure that employees affected by the ban were protected. Katchen said that when the EO announcement came out, he emailed his team to assure them that no one was affected, but if they were, Wealthsimple would take action to support them.

“It wouldn’t affect hiring practices. We hire the best people no matter where they come from,” said Katchen.

Currently, there are only eight people working out of Wealthsimple’s US office, and having recently entered the US, don’t have a tangible policy yet should anyone be affected by the EO. But Katchen, who supported the tech community’s recent open letter, said he is open to suggestions from the team and tech community on how best they should approach the situation. Katchen also suggested that they will stand behind any employee affected.

“Our US team is small, it will grow, and we’re making it clear we will not discriminate based on where someone was born.”

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang is BetaKit's News Editor.