Social Investing, or Why We Invested In eToro

In 1990 I was an academic in Romania, teaching control systems theory. And I was making $50 a month — enough for food and utilities. For a series of political and economic reasons, I left Romania to move to Canada, and things changed dramatically — pretty soon I was earning a lot more than $50/m. I have many early-days-immigrant stories, one of them being that after about one year of living and working in Canada, I was faced with a new problem: “now that we have saved $2000, what do we do with the money?”.

We are all of the product of our experiences, and decisions are never free from the personal and collective history we share. I knew about 1940s family stories of buying bread with a suitcase of cash (the destructive effect of inflation and the extreme reason not to keep money “in the bank” for extended periods of time), I was the first in my family with a bank account (and saw first hand how “net interest income” makes money for banks), I was reading voraciously about how to manage personal investments (I am still at 50 books read out of the 50,000 published…) — and was still confused. Fast forward 20 years and, with a little more money saved, and many mistakes and money lost, now I know a little better what I need to do with my money.

This is not a personal finance blog, however no other investment we made is as personal for me as eToro. We have announced today our investment in eToro, the “social network of investing” — together with our friends at Ping An in China. eToro already has 4 million registered users worldwide that trade a variety of financial instruments, many of them “following” more successful investors in their trades. It is this “social” feature (or “crowdsourcing” investment strategies) that we think will help millions of people, in Russia, China and everywhere else, that  have investable savings, move into the world of diversifying their assets through buying financial instruments in an assisted, secure way — the best we have seen for beginners.  And if you do not spend hours analysing the market every day, you will always be a beginner. You can watch a three minute video about eToro here.

It can be argued that trading is a form of gambling, that the stock market is a huge casino — I think the issue is not trading itself, but how it’s used. Most responsible investors will use the eToro’s platform to diversify their savings portfolio, moving money away from deposit accounts (very profitable for banks, but not for them) and into owning various asset classes. Even more, eToro is a global market place for currencies, commodities, stocks and indices, giving all its customers access to a world of investment options.

In more mature markets, a different group of people are most likely to use eToro — see this long BBC documentary for the UK perspective. In emerging markets though, with more and more people having enough savings to justify a more mature approach to portfolio diversification, the eToro platform is the right tool to trigger massive migration to online investing.

It would have been good to have eToro 20 years ago…