Financial Products made by women for women
FinMarie is the first online investment platform in Germany, made by women for women. The venture offers customized investment portfolios for women, tailored on their unique needs, interests, personal goals and upcoming life decisions.
If you had to describe yourself in 3 adjectives what would you say?
Karolina: Optimistic, creative and ongoing.
Kamila: Innovative, ambitious and creative.
How did you come up with the idea for your company?
Karolina: We started last year. I have a background in the finance in the banking sector. I was a compliance auditor for a long time and before that I was working for a big corporation bank in sales. Interestingly, I was always working mostly with men, and it was mostly men sitting at the table and there were no women to be seen except me. And this was constantly the case. When we launched new products, they were designed for men, not women. And that really got me thinking: What is wrong? Why are there only financial products that are created by men for men? Is there anything that we can do about it? We started organizing „Mind the Gap“ Events, which is a series of events taking place on a monthly basis where we educate women about finance and Wealth Management. And through these events we got (and still get) a lot of feedback what women actually want and what they need. We also did research and we found out there are no financial products especially made by women for women. Nothing that would help women to understand the whole complexity of the finance and banking sector. That’s how the idea for FinMarie was born.
What were the first steps of FinMarie? And when did you start?
Karolina: I started working on the idea of FinMarie last June. And in July I came up with the idea for „Mind the Gap“. It was both very parallel but when I had the idea for FinMarie I wasn‘t really sure in the beginning how the product should look like and what it would include. Which is why I started organizing the events. I wanted to get feedback from women on what they would want in a financial product. Because that was the key on how we would design the product. I then created a landing page and a logo, very basic, and I also created some pitch decks. At the same time, I was looking for someone who would join me in a team and launch this idea with me. I spoke with Kamila about it and we joined forces. That was last August and September.
Was there a tough challenge so far and how did you solve it?
Kamila: There were different challenges, of course. First of all, we had to find a bank. There were many banks interested but we had to pick one. It was kind of a challenge because we had to think about everything and we had to make a smart decision. The biggest challenge though probably is getting the license you need as a financial company operating in Germany. We basically need a license to not only set up the product but also to sell it. We initially spoke to several other companies who already have a license and see if we could cooperate before we get the license ourselves. But in the end, we decided to do everything on our own from the very beginning, so that all core competences are covered by our team from the first day on.
Karolina: Because we are operating in FinTech, which is more than 90% regulated by the government and the banks (the regulating organ is called BaFin), it is very important to be able to scale our business model – otherwise it won’t be profitable – and I think that’s the main challenge from my perspective – to scale our business.
Have you already applied for BaFin?
Karolina: I am currently preparing for the exam for the BaFin License but at the beginning we won’t be able to get the full license, only a small one. And this small license is one step towards getting the full license, which costs more money and you need more people who have the financial knowledge working in your company. It is quite a complex process and we are tackling it step by step.
What was the first highlight in the past months since you started out?
Karolina: I think for me it was when we started organizing „Mind the Gap“, and at one event we had more than 80 women attending. I thought to myself „Wow, this actually has potential and women do want to learn about finance. “ And a second highlight was when we got positive feedback from F-Lane and we realized someone was interested in our idea, someone believes in us. It was a very good and positive day for us!
Kamila: We get a lot of positive feedback every day. I love talking to men and women, different ages and backgrounds, about the idea and the potential of FinMarie. They are really looking forward to it, it is very motivating and rewarding. And please, keep your fingers crossed for us on the 24th of April, where the winner of the Women Startup Challenge by Satellite Office is going to be announced.
You said that you initially thought of FinMarie because you were sitting at the table mostly with men and in the finance business it is actually mostly men working in the industry. Do you think it is more difficult for you as female founders in a majorly male dominated industry?
Karolina: Actually no. I noticed something very important, but it is not about gender but about your experience and the expertise. If you are good at something and if you have experience in financial topics you can be part of this group. Of course, it is hard, and you have to prove that you are ready to be there and to sit on the table with the guys. And yes, I think men don’t have to prove their expertise as much as women. But for me it is mostly related to my age: I am 33 years young and I also look quite young but I have been working in trading for more than 10 years. I got experience and when someone talks with me for the first time they often judge me by my age: „Oh she is so young and she wants to prove something.“ But when the conversation goes on they quickly realize that I know what I am talking about. I have the expertise and knowledge, very good knowledge, and I can prove that my business model works based on my expertise. I think everything is doable if you know your business and industry.
Kamila: I must say, that I am really positively surprised about the support coming not only from female but also male colleagues. The whole industry seems to appreciate the change that is already happening or is about to happen.
What’s the next steps for FinMarie in the next 6 months?
Kamila: The most important steps are getting the BaFin license and developing the product with our partner bank, DAB BNP Paribas, which we then present to the wonderful women out there and to the investors. At the same time, we will keep educating women on financial literacy and work on the change in the financial market in Germany by constituting the statement ”invest like a woman”.
Where do you want to be in 2 years?
Karolina: The leading Wealth Management platform for women in Germany.
What are you going to do if a lot of men are interested in your product? Are you going to change your focus?
Karolina: Actually, men are already interested in our product. I was speaking at an event on March 8th, International Women’s Day, here in Berlin, which was sponsored by Unicorns in Tech, the biggest Gender Association in Germany. Afterwards I had a lot of good feedback from men that were attending. I didn’t realize that they were also interested in this topic. We will definitely cooperate with men on the long-term, but we first want to spread the word that there is a financial product for women. We are not excluding men – we are simply focusing on women in the first place. We want to give women the same opportunity that men have at the moment. Our message also includes: „You don’t have to start investing with 10,000 Euro, you can start with a smaller amount of money. You start doing saving and you start educating yourself.
Kamila: Yes exactly, we do not want to exclude men but to include women. But we do not want to be a platform for women and men, meaning that we will not offer special products for men. If men want to invest like a woman, what actually is a really good thing, then we are looking forward to it.
You worked on the corporate side before starting FinMarie. What did your family and friends say when you told them you were going to quit your job and start your own business?
Karolina: I wouldn’t have started this business before asking many people who are already founders, mentors and investors because I wouldn’t trust myself by doing this all alone. I needed to ask a lot of questions and I did. I also got quite good feedback and once I felt this was going to work, I quit my job, took a deep breath and jumped into cold water.
Kamila: I actually also got very positive feedback from all sides and I am actually positively surprised there are many initiatives in Germany supporting women. It is not only our personal surrounding like family and friends – it is actually a much friendlier environment than I had initially thought.
If you had to give advice or a tip to other women who may have an idea but don’t know how to go on about it, what would you tell them?
Karolina: I would first tell them: Don’t be afraid! If you are convinced that your idea can make a change, ask not only your friends and family but also the people who already working in this business for advice, for feedback. Don’t be afraid to share your idea with people. Because otherwise you can be totally convinced about your idea but at the end of the day there could already be someone who is working on this idea. So, ask for feedback – it’s a very very important in the beginning and don’t be afraid to just start it.
Kamila: Look for support. Be not afraid to talk to different people, cause then you will realize that there are many fantastic people out there who think just the same way as you do. Many of them will even reach out a helpful hand or connect you with even some more amazing people. Furthermore, it is really important to be passionate and determined, since there will be success but also failures and disappointment. And the one last advice: better done than perfect – your time is now.
Who inspires you?
Karolina: My husband. Why? Because he has been in the startup business for more than 10 years. He started with a small startup and now they are not a startup anymore. I know how hard he works and now I understand it: You cannot have a big impact and you cannot run a big and impact company if you don’t work hard. I actually would say he inspires me to do lot of stuff and he is a good mentor for me. Wow, I have a mentor at home. Not everyone can say that.
Kamila: My whole family. My parents, because they taught me how pursue my dreams and goals. My daughters and my husband, they are my support and my inspiration. Thankfully, my little girls are still not aware about gender stereotypes and I hope that phrases such as ”run like a girl” will not be something we have to deal with anymore. Of course, we should acknowledge and celebrate gender differences but in a positive and appreciating way. Last but not least, there are so many amazing women out there, that are my daily inspiration but there are far to many to be listed here.
What book do you think every female founder should have read?
Karolina: Own it: The Power of Women at Work by Sally Krawcheck. She is the previous CFO of CITIGROUP and now she is the founder and CEO of Ellevest in the United States.
Kamila: ‘‘The She Spot” by Lisa Witter and Lisa Chen is a must read for everyone who wants to make a social change. The book puts a ‘spot on’ women as the primary change makers, shows what women want and explains how to reach them. Thanks to the F-Lane program I had the honor to meet Lisa Witter in person, and as a woman and mother I am truly amazed by her efforts to make the world a better place.
Thank you for taking the time and speak with us.