Peaks: investing your change


Do you feel demotivated seeing your interest fall to 0.05%? Would you like to invest your money but do you not know where to start? This is where Peaks comes in. Peaks believes that investing should be for everyone, not only for the happy few!

How does it work?
Peaks digitally collects your change by rounding up all your purchases to whole euros. Let’s assume you bought a coffee for €2,40, Peaks will then automatically transfer €0,60 to your investment account. If you don’t want to provide Peaks access to your account, you can also choose to transfer let’s say €1, – a day to your investment account. The Peaks App provides an easy overview of the amount saved and the current value of your investments. All you have to do is determine the amount of risk you would like to take choosing from four risk levels, where a higher risk corresponds to a higher expected return. The video below outlines the idea behind Peaks, although it’s in Dutch, I’m sure you’ll be able to follow.

Business model
The Peaks business model is based on joint profitability of both the investors and the company itself. The investors benefit since they are able to invest small amounts of money, which they would otherwise not have been able to invest due to the high one-off investment costs charged by funds (Peaks, 2017). Since many investors invest small amounts of money, Peaks can share investment costs among this large group.  Peaks itself on the other side, benefits from profits the investor makes in two ways. First, higher profit motivates investors to invest more money, resulting in an increase in fees being paid to Peaks. Secondly, higher profit motivates new customers to join the platform. With regard to switching costs, there are alternative investment platforms which accept small investments, such as ‘Semmie’. However, since Peaks is a startup financed by Rabobank, its integration with the Rabobank banking system differentiates it from competitors. According to Peaks, integration with other banks will follow soon. Hence, switching costs in terms of convenience are quite high for Rabobank customers yet slightly lower for customers of other banks.

In terms of institutional arrangements, power given to investors is limited. An interesting comparison is Dell computer. Research looked at the degree of user design customization that was optimal when selling a computer. Turns out that the majority of people actually had no idea about the technical specifications of a computer. Letting customers customize their computer using technical design parameters hence resulted in a ‘design defect’: a choice of design parameters that does not maximize user satisfaction (Randall T., 2005). Such design defects can be mitigated by using ‘needs based interfaces’: instead of asking would you like “512MB,DDR,333MHz 2 Dimms or a “512MB,DDR,333MHz 1 Dimm” memory they would ask “do you find the performance of program X important”. In a way, the same can be applied to investing in the stock market. Since the target group of Peaks is unfamiliar with investing money and has little knowledge about the financial market, they are given only a limited degree of freedom. The only question investors are asked is, ‘how much risk would you like to take’?  Based on this level of risk, four different funds are possible: mild, spicy, very spicy and hot. According to your risk preference, the ratio of stocks versus bonds is set automatically. Using this ‘needs based’ approach rather than a ‘parameter based’ approach limits the chance of a design defect occurring and hence increases user satisfaction (Randall T., 2005).

Looking at the institutional environment, the social norms dimension is particularly applicable. Peaks plays into the current movement of Corporate Social Responsibility by banning funds that invest in controversial businesses such as weapons, alcohol/tobacco production and pornography. In terms of polity and judiciary dimensions, Peaks has a permit and is being supervised by the Dutch Authority for Financial Markets. (Peaks, 2017)

Peaks 2

Sounds great! Why not invest?
Empowering everyone rather than just the happy few to get a return on their savings sounds like a great cause. Moreover, expected returns in terms of percentages sound decent. However, after deducting the yearly costs, returns of some of the portfolios become negative. Considering that people investing at Peaks usually have little affinity with investing money, having such low transparency is appalling. For example, if you would like to invest for a period of 1 year with an investment of €30 a month your returns would be as follows (Drabbe, 2018):

  • Mild portfolio: – €3,79
  • Spicy portfolio: – €2,02
  • Very Spicy portfolio: – €0,10
  • Hot portfolio: €1,82

In conclusion, if you want to make money using Peaks you’re going to have to invest more than €30,- a month, which contradicts the whole idea of investing your change. It’s a shame since I believe the idea has a lot of potential! What are your thoughts on the topic? Would you invest your money using Peaks?

Sources:

Carson S. J., D. T. (1999). Understanding Institutional Designs Within Marketing Value Systems. Journal of Marketing Vol 63, 115-130.

Drabbe, M. (2018). Peaks: beleggen met je wisselgeld. Retrieved from Consumentenbond: https://www.consumentenbond.nl/sparen-en-beleggen/peaks-beleggen-met-je-wisselgeld

Peaks. (2017). De app. Retrieved from Peaks: https://www.peaks.nl/de-app/

Randall T., T. C. (2005). Principles for User Design of Customized Products. California Management Review.

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