Investment platforms: Pillow, Cowrywise, Trove, Bamboo, Piggyvest, Chaka, and Risevest.
Investment is a great way to build your wealth and secure your financial future. A savings account is good, but stopping there as a Nigerian is counterproductive. Why? Because the gains are minimal due to its low-interest rates.
Also, Nigeria’s current inflation rate stands at 21.82% so you should be thinking of investments that will beat the inflation. Democratised access to investments is key to taking control of your finances and battling the dual challenges of inflation and the rising costs of living.
2018 was the year investment platforms became a thing in Nigeria with the launch of I-invest. Prior to 2018, getting access to stock markets meant you’d have to hire a stockbroker to execute orders on request. However, these platforms have democratised investments so that you can invest in US stocks and real estate properties from the comfort of your home.
In 2020, we compared 7 investment platforms - Bamboo, I-invest, InvestNow, Chaka, Trove, Wealth.ng, and Risevest. Three years on, some of these apps have consolidated their efforts, while others are falling off the pecking order.
Trove has raised money to bring its total investments to about $323.3k, while Chaka raised $1.5 million and became the first startup to be licensed by Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Bamboo raised $15 million, while Risevest also raised $120K in funding over 2 rounds.
Meanwhile, the impact of I-invest, InvestNow and Wealth.ng since 2020, has waned as evidenced by their customer acquisitions and reviews from existing customers on Google Playstore.
For our 2023 comparison, we will be dropping I-invest, InvestNow and Wealth.ng for the following reasons. I-invest reviews on Google playstore have dropped to 2.5 while Wealth.ng falls below our download threshold of 100k+. Meanwhile, InvestNow is no longer available to download on Google play and has a 2.9 rating on Apple store.
Rather, we have new players on the scene like Pillow, Piggyvest and Cowrywise, who are offering more varied investment opportunities. So we will compare them with Trove, Bamboo, Chaka and Risevest.
To simplify our analysis, we will compare four categories.
- Market share
- Assets offered to users
- Users experience
- Fees and charges
Meet the startups
Investment is a serious business because it is a money business. Hence, it is essential that the people behind the investment platforms are not only experts but credible. So, let’s meet the people behind these platforms.
Tosin Osibodu leads the team at Chaka. Before his time there, he served as VP, Product, and VP of Engineering and Operations at Citiserve and GUMCO, respectively. Chaka’s partners include Citi Investment Capital and DriveWealth. The company was founded in November 2019 with its headquarters in Louisiana, United States.
Risevest was launched in February 2020 by Eke Urum and Bosun Olanrewaju (ex-Andela fellow). Now, it’s led by Tony Odiba. The startup focuses on making dollar investments easy for Nigerians.
Cowrywise was launched in 2017 by Razaq Ahmed and Edward Popoola. Before Cowrywise, Razaq who is a CFA holder worked at Vetiva Capital Management Limited, Shell and Sart Partners. Edward Popoola worked at Interswitch Group and African Advantage Telecoms West Africa as an Infrastructure Analyst.
Piggyvest was founded by Somto Ifezue, Odunayo Eweniyi and Joshua Chibueze in 2016. Similar to Cowrywise, the platform helps individuals and businesses manage their finances effectively. Piggyvest partners with AIICO Capital.
Pillow fund is a Singaporean-based startup with operations in over 60 countries. The startup was founded in 2021 by Arindam Roy, Rajath KM, and Kartik Mishra. The platform helps you invest your funds in dollars while earning daily passive income.
The founders and CEOs of Trove and Bamboo remain the same, as referenced in our 2020 edition of the financial apps' comparison. So you can take a quick glance if you are keen on the people who lead these startups.
The first metric we will examine is the market share of the investment platforms. We will use the number of downloads on Google Play Store to measure.
Trove, Pillow, Risevest and Chaka have about 100k+ downloads. While Cowrywise has about 500k+ downloads. Bamboo and Piggyvest have amassed the largest market share with 1M downloads each.
Assets offered to users
The financial apps under our consideration offer a rich variety of financial assets to cater to the need of everyone. This means that regardless of your financial risk appetite, there’s something for you.
Typically, when you open an investment platform, a lot of options are introduced to you and you might get confused. But your risk profile or tolerance is the most essential factor when choosing a financial asset.
For this comparison, we will be grouping the applications into three to help you better understand. The three groups will be low risk, medium risk, and high risk.
No risk profile is bad, as your choice of assets will be determined by the amount of money you are willing to let go. Although low-risk investments may keep your money safe, they don’t offer much in terms of returns.
For example, as of January 11, 2023, the Nigerian Central bank issued treasury bills that offered a 7.3% annual yield when the inflation rate is 21.7%. This return will only guarantee a return, but it won’t beat inflation.
On the other hand, high-risk investments offer more money, but you also risk losing all of your money. Cryptocurrency investments can offer about 50% or higher, but they can also suffer a dip and you lose all your investments.
Endeavour to do your due diligence and consult financial advisers before allocating capital to any financial assets.
Assets offered by Investment companies
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Cowrywise prides itself on a platform that helps users plan, save and invest their money. The savings and investment platform equips individuals with the required tools to make personal financial management a lifestyle.
Cowrywise invests in financial instruments like treasury bills, commercial papers, bank deposits, US and Nigerian mutual funds (kindly note that the risk level of your mutual fund is dependent on the underlying assets).
Medium-risk investment platforms combine the properties and offerings that can be characterized as both low risk and high risk.
Also, for the sake of this article, platforms that restrict your control and invest on your behalf will fall into this category. Why? This is a good thing if you are a beginner in investments because the investments are done by professionals who have years of experience. They’ll limit your risk even though they invest in high-risk assets.
Piggyvest: Piggyvest offers a blend of low-risk and high-risk investments. On the platform, you can invest in fixed-income, agriculture, real estate, transportation, and even commercial papers. Depending on your assets, you can get returns as high as 25% per annum.
Chaka: Chaka provides you with the opportunity to trade stocks bonds, ETFs, and over 4000+ assets from the U.S., U.K., Nigeria, China, and over 40 countries. However, the platform has a team of certified wealth management experts who will recommend a portfolio specific to your goals and risk profile.
Risevest: Rise allows you to allocate capital across a portfolio of US stocks, US real estate properties and global fixed-income assets. Similar to Chaka, you have limited control over your choice of assets. You select the plan, but the company chooses where to put the money and pays your interest when due. You can check the status of your portfolio at any given time, though.
This category consists of platforms whose assets offer the potential of high returns but correspondingly high risk. Some of the assets under these investment platforms are stocks trading, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), American Depository Receipts (ADRs), cryptocurrencies, agriculture, transportation, transportation and real estate investment trust (REITS).
Pillow: Pillow helps you invest in seven digital assets — Bitcoin, Ethereum, Solana, Polygon, Axie Infinity and USD-backed stablecoins, USDC and USDT. The platform offers up to 14% annual percentage yield on its USD product.
Trove: Trove is a stock trading and investment platform that gives you access to invest in about 4,000 stocks which includes Nigerian, Chinese and U.S. stocks. You also have access to other financial assets such as U.S. equities, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and American Depository Receipts (ADRs).
Bamboo: Bamboo also gives real-time access to invest in or trade over 3,500 stocks listed on the U.S. stock market or their local exchanges. They provide dollar-denominated investment that gives you annual returns.
Measuring user experience on an app can be subjective. Especially as users’ experiences can be different based on their needs, choices and preferences. We used Playstore ratings on Android and IOS for good measure. Playstore ratings are a good indicator of how users feel about the application when they use them.
Based on the chart, you can see how well all the apps perform. On both Android and iOS devices, Pillow and Cowrywise outperform every other app in terms of ratings. They are closely followed by Piggyvest, which has good ratings on both operating systems.
It’s interesting how Risevest ratings have changed from when we first did this comparison in 2020. Then Risevest rating on IOS was 4.4, while it has declined to 3.7.
The onboarding process of all the financial platforms was easy and could be done within a few minutes. To sign up, most of the apps requested you submit your bio-data, email address and BVN.
Fees and Charges
Comparing the differences in fees and charges proved a bit of a challenge since the companies operate differently. However, for ease of understanding, we split the fees into three categories:
Risevest charges 1.4% to (1.5% + 100) per transaction capped at ₦2,000 and 2.9% to (3.9% + ₦100) per transaction for naira and dollar deposit into your account respectively.
On Bamboo, the deposit charge with a naira card is 1.4% and 2.9% on a dollar card. Meanwhile, Chaka which partners with Interswitch as their payment processor charges 0.75% (capped at ₦200) on all naira card deposits.
Trove charges 1.5% + ₦100 for transactions over ₦2,500 while Cowrywise charges 1.5% (capped at ₦2,000) on deposits with a naira card. Pillow and Piggyvest do not charge you for depositing or funding your account.
Management fees and commissions
It is standard practice for platforms that allow users to invest directly in the stock market to charge a commission on each trade. For investing in Nigerian stocks, Chaka charges $2 or 1% on US stocks, ₦100 or 0.5% on Nigerian stocks and a 1.7% management fee annually.
Trove charges a 1.35% commission on Nigerian stocks and a 0.5% management fee. Risevest does not charge a commission fee on trading stocks but charges a 1% management fee. Bamboo neither charges commission nor management fees. Cowrywise only charges a 1.5% management fee to invest in mutual funds.
Of all the platforms examined, only Bamboo and Rise charge for withdrawals. However, while the others do not have overt withdrawal charges, you may be charged by your bank if you withdraw before the stipulated time.
You will also be required to pay capital gains tax if you make a profit. If you bought US stock, you’ll have to pay taxes there. Chaka helps with paying your taxes by deducting them as withholding tax.
Piggyvest and Bamboo lead the pack in terms of downloads. Since it launched in 2016, Piggyvest’s word-of-mouth marketing strategy and referral bonus have helped the startup gain a lot of traction. Bamboo’s rise can be attributed to being the first online brokerage service that gives Nigerians direct access to US securities.
For the assets offered by the startups, your choice will be dependent on your risk appetite. You can try your hands on stocks if you are an experienced investor, but as a beginner, it’s safer to purchase investment plans with guaranteed returns.
Fees and charges are part of investing. While there may be small differences between what the platforms charge, they’re all significantly cheaper than hiring a stockbroker.