This month will mark the end of one chapter in Wilder Rumpf’s life and the start of another. He is receiving his Bachelor of Science degree from Sacred Heart University with a double major in finance and economics, and he is focusing on running his startup FinTron Invest on a full-time basis.
There has been more than a little overlap between the two chapters. Rumpf set the groundwork for FinTron Invest, a fractional share brokerage and banking platform, while still an undergraduate and has been building it with significant input from the university’s student and faculty bodies.
In this edition of Suite Talk, Business Journal Senior Enterprise Editor Phil Hall spoke with Rumpf on the genesis of his new business.
What was the inspiration for creating FinTron Invest?
“I was managing money for friends and family and also running the New York operations of a property management company based out of New Jersey. Between getting hounded by the property managers and my investor clients, I ran out of time in the day for myself. So, I decided to start automating my trade strategies using algorithms and bots. Once I realized I could develop almost any of my ideas via coding, I came up with the idea to bring investing to the 99% by reducing overhead through technology and, thus, dramatically reducing the cost of trading. This enabled the creation of a planned subscription model of just $2 per month.
“I then imagined all of the barriers that people face when trying to start investing, so I again used technology to make the untraditional feasible by offering fractional shares, premade investment products, education and all sorts of data buildouts. Once launched, we will make trading/investing/banking and all things personal finance not only accessible but feasible for the 99%.
“I brought my code and ideas to Sacred Heart University. They gave me a space, interns and offered much talent. I sourced my entire staff, board, interns and network of investors from Sacred Heart University.”
When did the company launch?
“FinTron Invest LLC, the broker dealer, was started in September 2019, but the holding company, AKO Capital Management LLC, launched in September 2017. We did not begin work on the brokerage technology until July 2018. We have been under development for a mere 14 months at the Sacred Heart West Campus incubation center, but now have an Android, iOS and web app as well as a simulated trading game. We are pending licensing with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).”
What makes FinTron Invest different from other companies in this space?
“We will offer fractional interest in over 675 stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). For just $10 you can buy big names like Apple and Amazon and not have to pay $1,000-plus per share. We offer premade sector baskets for diversifying, and we offer a build-and-backtest for your own portfolio tool. We also offer automated, repeat investments and a savings tool.
“We plan to donate 5% of net profits to charity and 1% of gross revenue to a student loan forgiveness plan program. We will charge $2 per month flat, with no hidden fees and no selling of data.
“We are a young team of developers — the oldest being 25 — so we offer the youngest app on the market tailored to young people just like us. It is by millennials and for millennials. Yet we have a board with over 30 years of experience in each of their respective fields, so we have both wisdom and youth.”
You mentioned a simulated trading game — what is that?
“We offer a very social, very graphical game where people of all ages can trade simulated stocks and learn to invest with $100,000 fake cash. We hold a quarterly contest where users can compete for cash prizes. The best investors with the greatest account value at the end win the cash. You can upload profile pictures, check out other people’s portfolios and select from over 650 stocks and ETFs. This is a way to ‘try it before they buy it.’ We are currently offering the game in a few schools, including Stratford High School and Sacred Heart University.”
Why does it seem that so many younger people are either unaware or uncomfortable about the value of personal finance education?
“Personal financial education is overlooked and has faded from the core curriculum. People are so distant from the principles of financial management because everything is fiat these days. Credit cards, debit cards and easy access to loans have created a debt culture wherein people push off their financial responsibilities until tomorrow and burn cash for instant gratification.
“We simply aren’t taught the lessons in finance that we need to make sound decisions and this has shown in a big way. With revolving credit, debt is the highest it has ever been.”
How many people are working with you on this endeavor?
“A team of six full-time staff plus 20 interns from Sacred Heart University. There are also five major advisers/directors who are professors at Sacred Heart University and advisers from CTNext and the Connecticut Small Business Development Center.”
What have been the challenges of starting and running a business while pursuing full-time undergraduate studies?
“It has been so incredibly difficult starting a brokerage and attending university. The industry in which we are entering is one of the most highly regulated in the world and I am often scoffed at for the length of my ambitions and my youthful inexperience. However, I will change this.
“Guys like me have turned finance upside down, leveraging financial technology and forcing major brokerages to merge or cut their prices to zero. Millennials comprise the largest living U.S. population segment — and when the transfer of over $1 trillion of wealth moves from boomer hands to Gen Z, the big bankers that scoffed at us will be calling on us to replenish their client base.
“It is important to note FinTron would not exist without Sacred Heart University. They blessed me with a space to work in and I sourced all of my staff from the university.”
What are your goals for the company in 2020?
“We plan to open our doors to the public, offering digital banking and brokerage services via web and app. To get there, however, we must raise upwards of $1 million.
“My greatest ambition is to make my university proud as the first-ever Sacred Heart incubated startup.”