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June 28, 2022
How investment and savings platform PiggyVest is changing Nigeria’s youth culture
While many banks across sub-Saharan Africa have expanded their offerings and customer base, a huge portion of the population remains underserved. But savvy entrepreneurs like Odun Eweniyi, COO and co-founder of PiggyVest, are trying to address this issue by taking advantage of the complacency of big banks, and availability of advanced digital technologies and mobile solutions.

With around 3.7 million users, PiggyVest is a platform that makes it easier for the average Nigerian to save and invest. According to COO and co-founder Odun Eweniyi, PiggyVest allows people to automate their savings so they can achieve big ambitions like buying a car, funding a goal to continue studying or starting a business. Here, she talks about why she and her co-founders wanted to create a platform that democratises saving and investing to better equip Nigeria’s younger generations for the future.

CIO Africa: What are some of the growth trends around investment and savings culture in Nigeria, and understanding of it, particularly among young people?

Odun Eweniyi: Quite a bit of progress has been made in this space since we started PiggyVest six years ago. Nigeria and much of Africa has a savings rate of around 15%. This is really low. But given the proliferation of fintech companies that are opening up access to this space, we can see that the savings rate has actually increased, specifically among young people. Before now, Nigerians would need to have about US$2,000 to take advantage of the most basic investment opportunities. But technology has largely democratised this by allowing people to invest with as little as 20 cents. This means that more people can have access and participate.

Who is your target market?

I don’t think digital innovations should only be developed as solutions to the problems faced by the unbanked. There are groups of people who are considered to be ‘included’ but who aren’t really included because their level of digital literacy and their levels of access aren’t where they should be. This is why I think it’s important to solve this for people who might appear to be included but who don’t know as much or have as much as others. Right now we’re targeting young people with smartphones. For us, this mobile population was the low hanging fruit because they already have bank accounts and they have some financial literacy. We could easily adapt and tailor our products to complement what they’re already using. And as smartphones get cheaper, the market expands, which means that more young people will have access to a device they can use to save for their future.

Tell us about PiggyVest. How does it differ from other fintechs out there?

When we started, there were 22 banks in Nigeria. So there was quite a lot of option and yet, young people were storing their savings in wooden boxes under their beds. This showed us that people might have access to financial services but they weren’t developed to serve their needs. There were different habits, behaviours and income bands that many of the existing banking products didn’t cater to, so we created a product to fill this gap. PiggyVest is an automated micro-savings and micro-investment platform that allows users to automate savings towards a specified target. We also have an investment marketplace that makes investing simple so anyone can do it. With PiggyVest, users can save as much as they want as frequently or infrequently as they want, be it every day, every week or every month. We just encourage them to start where they are and start with what they can. We offer quarterly free withdrawal days when users can take money out if they need to without any cost. Should a user want to withdraw their money early or outside of these days, they will be charged a fee to discourage them from doing so.

Can you give us a bit of a breakdown around how the tech works?

All of the tech was built in-house. We use payment processers like Flutterwave and Paystack to enable bank account connections and payouts but the rest of the systems were created by us. The backend includes a treasury management system. Layered on top of this is a recurring payments engine that allows us to issue an instruction to charge a user’s card a specified amount on a specified date. This is actually relatively new technology from Paystack that allows us to conduct recurring payments on a card. We issue users with virtual account numbers that allow them to interact with their PiggyVest wallets much like they would interact with a normal bank account. In terms of other technologies, we use Metabase business intelligence and data visualisation tools and Mixpanel’s analytics to better understand user behaviour. And from a cloud solution perspective, we use AWS and Google Cloud.

Odun Eweniyi, COO and co-founder, PiggyVest

Let’s talk about the inclusion aspect of this tech. Why was it important to democratise financial services for younger generations?

I feel like I can relate to our users because they are my generation. We are trying to solve a problem faced by my peers and me. For me, this isn’t a hypothetical problem. It’s a problem I’ve experienced first-hand. Economies are better off when everyone can participate and do so sustainably. This is an overarching goal of ours—to get people to a place where they have the freedom to make the right financial decisions so they can get what they want.

As a female running a tech start-up, what motivated you to start this business?

I think I’ve had an easier journey than most because I’ve known my two male co-founders for a long time and we’ve always moved as a unit. Very early on, we found an investor who has backed us for many years. That said, there’s so much evidence which shows that the journey you have to take to raise funds is really tough for female founders. Every day, we’re faced with depressing stats on how little money is being given to businesses started by women. And we also get asked more negative leading questions when we’re in a room with investors. I’ve learned to take this in my stride, move on and just keep working towards my goal.

What stands out as some key learnings you’ve had over the course of your career?

The journey to starting PiggyVest wasn’t smooth. We had a bunch of projects and businesses that failed before we started this one. But we continued working and moving forward. We’ve put a lot of hard work into what we’re doing. We’re not a non-profit or an impact company, but we’re running a sustainable business that seeks to change lives. It’s about finding a balance between working to grow the company and having a positive impact on your users’ lives. Our goal is to become a one-stop shop for digital financial well-being and wealth management. This is where we’re headed.

Do you have advice for aspirant entrepreneurs? Just start. Often, people spend a lot of time preparing, wondering if they’re ready and questioning if they can do better. But I don’t think you’re growing or your product will ever be good if you don’t dive in. If you’re not ashamed of the first version that you create, you’re not taking big enough chances.

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