Women-focused Verve Super launches ethical investing platform after $3m raise

Women-focused Verve Super launches ethical investing platform after $3m raise

Verve founders (L-R) Zoe Lamont (head financial coach), Alex Andrews (COO) and Christina Hobbs (CEO).

Within the space of five years the 'for women, by women' superannuation fund Verve Super has accumulated $270 million in funds under management (FUM), but now the group is broadening its horizons with the launch of an ethical investing app Verve Money following an oversubscribed pre-Series A round.

Verve closed the $3 million round early, with the funds going towards a new goals-focused ethical investing platform 'designed around the needs and desires of women investors'.

But that does not mean only women can join.

The co-founders Alex Andrews, Christina Hobbs and Zoe Lamont emphasise the Verve Money app is "open and inclusive for anyone", although they give a special welcome to anyone who is a woman, non-binary, a migrant, First Nations person or identifying within any other underrepresented group in investing.

They plan to invest 20 per cent of the Verve Money portfolio into climate solutions, while other sectors that are 'in' will be around efficient transport, recycling, education, healthcare, healthy food production, renewable energy, technology, social wellbeing and gender diversity.

In contrast, Verve claims it seeks to avoid or minimise investing in companies that exclude women from senior leadership positions, engage in labour rights abuses, environmental destruction, the offshore detention of people, tobacco, gambling, pornography, live animal exports, fossil fuels, or weapons, armaments, and 'nuclear and uranium'.

Verve Money's approved investment list includes the Artesian Green + Sustainable Bond Fund, Plenti renewable energy loans, the Australian Unity Specialist Disability Accommodation Fund, and globally listed companies such as Vestas Wind Systems, Beyond Meat, and recycling group Umicore.

"Two years ago, we were asking investors to believe that there is a problem in financial services, that women feel poorly served," says Verve co-founder and CEO Christina Hobbs.

"This capital raise, we were simply able to demonstrate that we have thousands of Verve members who love us.

"We have an outstanding NPS (net promoter score), and we could show that most of our new super members come through word of mouth and positive reviews — something that’s virtually unheard of in financial services."

Hobbs says the team was told it was going to be tough raising capital this year, but Verve was able to sell the impact it was having on women's lives.

"We were finding most of the investors we spoke to were investing because they felt passionately about seeing us succeed," she says.

As a financial services company, Verve has always been unconventional in how it supports members. The super fund provides its 6,500-plus members with the tools to have a discussion with their employers about maintaining superannuation payments while on parental leave and also offers access to an external divorce and separation coach and career coach for no additional fee.

It’s this dedication to supporting women to build wealth that attracted a number of impact focused investors in this raise - including the impact focused family office Alberts, which led the raise.

"We're longstanding supporters of impact focused businesses and female founder-led businesses. We were so impressed by Verve’s ethos of being founded by women, led by women, and tailored for women, and most importantly by how much existing Verve members love Verve," says Alberts’ director, Kirsty Albert.

"The Verve team has developed a commercial business that helps tackle the economic inequity that so many women face – both at the individual and systemic levels. We're excited to join this journey as an investor and as an advocate for lifting women’s economic equality."

With women retiring with a significant overall wealth gap, and with a sizable investment gap between men and women, Hobbs believes that there is a strong opportunity to support women throughout their wealth building journey.

The capital raised will largely go towards launching a new investing app that will support women to build wealth outside of superannuation.

"Launching an investment app is a logical next step for us, we’ve had members asking us for this since the day we launched Verve Super," she says.

"It’s exciting to be thinking about how we can partner with women across their wealth building journey."

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