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How Wealthsimple Uses Star Power To Break Through Money Anxiety

How Wealthsimple Uses Star Power To Break Through Money Anxiety
Anthony Bourdain [Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images]

Famous people are rich, right? They’re on TV, they wear designer clothes–definitely loaded.

Or at least that’s what we assume. The reality is more complicated. Investment services startup Wealthsimple has found that exposing those complications, by asking celebrities like Anthony Bourdain and Bobbi Brown to tell their “Money Diaries,” can open up conversations with potential customers in a remarkably effective way.

“The more we were letting people be really honest about money, they more people were excited to talk about it, weirdly,” Mike Giepert, executive creative director, told attendees of the Fast Company Innovation Festival on Monday. “It’s kind of freeing.”

At the core, Toronto-based Wealthsimple looks similar to robo-advisor options like Betterment and Wealthfront. Open an account with a modest deposit, and Wealthsimple starts investing in index funds on your behalf. Over time, you can expect to see your assets grow in tune with the overall growth in the market. Where a traditional financial advisor would levy a hefty fee for such services, Wealthsimple charges just 0.5%.

But Wealthsimple’s approach to brand and marketing sets the company apart. In June, it installed a billboard across from cult streetwear brand Supreme, inviting shoppers to think about their purchases as investments. With “Money Diaries,” the company fearlessly dives into intensely personal, seemingly taboo topics like debt, privilege, and strip club economics.

“It breaks all the rules,” says Devin Friedman, creative director.

And it seems to be working. So far, Wealthsimple has attracted over $1 billion in assets from 40,000 customers. The company launched in the U.S. in January, and added a U.K. outpost in September.AH