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InvestSuite's CEO Bart Vanhaeren discusses the vision and strategy behind his new company

InvestSuite's CEO Bart Vanhaeren discusses the vision and strategy behind his new company

Bart Vanhaeren is no stranger to entrepreneurial projects. In his former role as Board Member at KBC Securities, he helped launch several award-winning fintech businesses. He is also a published author of Get Up, Start Up, a rallying cry for the Belgian startup community that encourages startups to be more ambitious.

We spoke to Bart about his latest project, which sees him move away from more than 20 years in senior leadership positions in the banking industry to start his own robo-advisor business, Investsuite.

How did you come to launch Investsuite?

Investsuite was born out of a personal need when I was a board member at KBC. I wanted to launch a robo-advisor service, but we realised we could not do it on our own. We looked on the market for a solution but didn’t find one.

It was at that time I met my future co-founder Laurent Sorber, an engineer who had already set up his own robo-advisor service. We realised that there is a real need out there for helping launch these types of products and services and decided to launch InvestSuite together as a Robo-as-a-service for other banks in Europe and beyond.

You left a safe board-level position to strike out into the unknown with your own business. Was this a natural progression in your career?

I was never a traditional board member, but more like an intrapreneur within the organization. I had the opportunity to set up initiatives within the bank and work closely with people in the startup community, so I already had that taste of entrepreneurship.

I’ve given up the benefits of my previous role for the extreme pleasure of doing cooler stuff with a great team. I don’t want to be negative about my previous job – it was a lot of fun, and I was able to do a lot of rewarding work – but having your own company is even better.

Unlike other robo-advisor services, you adopted a b2b business model from the start. Why did you make that decision?

Robo-advisor is a great product for the end customers, so the main question is how to bring it to market. Our approach is to do so via existing financial institutions instead of marketing our services directly to customers as most robo-advisors tried.

Proof that the B2C model hasn’t worked is that robo-advisors in Europe have an estimated €3 billion assets under management versus a total of €20-30 trillion investable assets – which is peanuts. We believe the robo-advisor market can grow to €3 trillion assets under management, but only by distributing the product via banks and other distribution channels. Many B2C robo-advisors are currently trying to pivot to offer B2B solutions.

How else is InvestSuite different from the competition?

We have a very experienced team with people who have worked in banking for 10-20 years. Our motto is “We speak Bank”, meaning we have a deep understanding the needs and challenges of financial institutions. We are deliberately building our products, technologies and team members to deliver the best B2B robo-advisor value proposition in Europe. We believe we have a first-mover advantage since we have followed this strategy from the very start and B2B is in our DNA.

InvestSuite experienced team

We have a unique algorithm that is one of the first to make truly personalized recommendations. Every algorithm is an engine that takes in fuel – sets of index trackers, mutual funds, or individual stocks – and most would look at, at most, 50 instruments to make their recommendations. Our algorithm can take up to 10,000 instruments into consideration, and by our knowledge, we are one of the only ones who can do that.

You’ve worked closely with and advised startups, and even written a book on the topic (get up, start up). how is it different sitting on the other side of the table?

I consciously and unconsciously try to follow my own advice – find a good team, start early with fundraising, and have a clear vision. I admit I get caught up in the flow because it goes so fast. Last week I was in Zurich and Amsterdam, next week in Harrogate, Dublin, Warsaw, and Luxembourg to pitch. I sometimes still have to take a step back and ask myself if I am doing the things I would recommend to somebody else’s startup? I wouldn’t have done it differently so far, but the proof is in the pudding.

What’s your vision for InvestSuite?

In my book I make a big point that EU startups, and Belgian ones in particular, don’t have enough ambition. Even if you’re humble, you need a big ambition. A startup is there to scale and grow, which means needing to add more people and attain higher revenue. We intend to set our ambitions high to ensure we push ourselves and expand abroad.

We want to be a reference for innovative investment solutions software, the Intel Inside of our industry – Investsuite Inside, if you will. In terms of geographies, we want to be in Europe, Asia, Latin American, and Canada, as well as in the US which would be a more difficult one. At some point in time, I want €500 billion to €1 trillion assets managed through our systems.

What is the most exciting thing about working on InvestSuite?

The most exciting thing is that I am absolutely passionate about building something with positive people – that’s the best thing. We have positive energy, a positive team, and a great product – and we look forward to working with great clients.

Bart Vanhaeren
Bart Vanhaeren
CEO and co-founder