EasyEquities starts the year with a bang!

It’s been a great start to the year at EasyEquities, and we thought it would be good to share what one of our founding clients are excited about. With over 1, 7 million clients, ongoing growth, new product launches and some fascinating insights into the performance of the leading South AFrican investment platform, this article makes for fascinating reading

1. Retail Rand denominated assets on SA’s favourite retail platform, with more than 1,7 million investors, broke above R30 Billion at the end of January; 15% up from the financial year end 31 August 2022.

2. Retail $ – yep, we have loads of investors investing offshore in dollars, pounds, euros and Aussie dollars –  denominated assets on platform are back at all-time highs (having recovered 26% from recent lows recorded in December 2022), totalling R4.2 Billion or roughly $240 Million.

3. Number of funded retail accounts across all platforms (EasyEquities, EasyProperties, EasyCrypto and including our phenomenal partner platforms Discovery, Satrix and Capitec) are now above 1 250 000 accounts. 

4. January retail client registrations were 32 000, with average daily registrations continuing to average at around 1 000 new users.

5. Our strongest driver of registrations remains referrals which are at over 45%. Thank you to the amazing South Africans who continue to trust us; those who invest R10 and those who invest millions. All are valuable members of our community.

6. Deposits across all currencies YTD vs same period last year are down circa 25%. That’s the economy, but we are working on improving this.

7. Withdrawals vs same period last year are up circa 5%. All of us are needing more cash, but what we have to invest, we do on Easy!

Retail investors continue to prove their resilience and commitment to investing despite tough times. As we have always said: Easy investors are SMART, RESILIENT and, frankly, AMAZING.

Retail investors have been rewarded for staying the course with recent strong moves both locally and abroad. Notable examples are Naspers up around 46% in the last three months, EC10 up around 25% in the last month or Microsoft up around 12% in the last month. Of course, this is no guarantee for future returs so, as always, do your research research.easyequities.co.za – but opportunities are to be found! And don’t forget the amazing properties https://platform.easyproperties.co.za/properties/property/35

Inflationary pressure and return to work is significantly impacting retail investors’ ability to invest, reducing asset onboarding for now. Hence EasyEquities launches our EasyProtect innovative insurance product – another world first – next week.

Money on the platform sticks, even in very trying times. Easy investors, rich and less so, are SMART!

In short, our EasyVstrs are legends. Thank you and congratulations to each and every one of you. Your behaviour continues to rewrite the fables and myths, that littered the retail investment industry, forever!

Our company is growing quickly with your passion and support. And although we don’t always get things right, striving to deliver the best investing experience we can to our community is what gets us out of bed in the morning.

On a personal note – happy anniversary to our CEO Charles Savage who has been at the company for 22 years. What a journey it’s been, and we’re just getting started.”

And for those who love the technical stuff – here’s an update from the EasyEquities CTO, Paul Jansen van Vuuren, on the evolution of the Easy platform:

The EasyEquities platform has proven to be both stable and efficient over the past several years, despite triple-digit year-on-year growth across metrics since 2019.

The biggest challenge faced was in March 2020 when Easy experienced a sudden and unprecedented increase in demand from retail customers for access to the platform. This capacity issue was quickly fixed through high availability configurations of data storage, increased caching through a partnership with Synatic, and increased server capacity through the introduction of additional load balancing capabilities on both the front- and back-end servers.

These figures show the average number of transactions per month:

2019: 200 000

2020: 820 000 (>300% growth)

2021-2023: 1 000 000

However, transaction count alone doesn’t reflect the amount of data entries handled by the platform. Consider the average volume of accounting entries the platform handled per month:

Full-year 2020: 5 million

Full-year 2021: 10.8 million

Full-year 2022: 11.7 million

January 2023: 13.2 million

Customer activity has increased significantly as well. In 2019 we averaged 25 logins per minute. In 2020 this increased six-fold to 152 in logins per minute. This put a lot of pressure on systems and the Easy team had to increase capacity very quickly to stabilise platform availability. The number of logins per minute almost doubled in 2021 and has remained steady since then.

Easy recently ran a platform modernisation programme that has set the company up for present requirements and into the future. They have deployed APIs to enable distribution channels through partnerships with Capitec, Discovery Bank and Telkom. They have also modernised the platform components to take full advantage of containerisation and orchestration platforms through the Amazon Elastic Container Services and Kubernetes clusters in their virtual private cloud environments.

One of the challenges of growing the business through partner distribution is that your maintenance windows are reduced considerably. Easy needed to change how they did things when they entered into these partnerships.

The modernisation has assisted Easy by allowing their engineering team to roll out changes without disruption to the platform. These technologies and techniques are common place in businesses that have had the luxury of designing with a cloud-first strategy whereas Easy have needed to pivot from monolithic application architecture to a cloud-first or cloud-native architecture, all while keeping the lights on.

To do this, Easy introduced standards-based authentication and authorization using Open ID Connect to enable Single Sign-On across our products. They also introduced data streaming capabilities to enable an event-driven architecture. More than 25% of our components have been upgraded to take advantage of this technology.

Furthermore, Easy partnered with LSD to further improve platform capabilities in the public cloud.

Switching to a distributed, event-driven architecture means that sometimes things might get out of sync. Easy have had to deal with a number of challenges in this regard, some of which they are still facing. Switching all processes and internal systems to use the same methodology is a lengthy process and Easy’s approach has been to improve the most critical components systematically.

Dealing with exponential growth

As part of planning to grow the business globally Easy have identified further areas of improvement. Focus in 2022 was primarily on:

  • Deploying the technology stack to public cloud infrastructure and taking advantage of, specifically the AWS EKS and RDS to scale our back-end components. Easy coupled this with Confluent Cloud Kafka for event streaming and removed any remaining bottlenecks in our messaging infrastructure.
  • Moving APIs to the AWS API-Gateway and ECS
  • Conducting extensive performance testing to identify any unforeseen bottlenecks with the change to infrastructure. Especially of concern was how our databases would perform within the RDS environment. Some improvements that we made during this testing are highlighted below:
  • Transactions per second (tps) were capped by an older message queueing technology at 17 tps. Switching to the Kafka based event streaming allowed us to increased to over 60 tps, an almost 300% improvement, with a minor change. Easy are confident that their choices will allow them to grow well into the future.
    • Logins per minute were tested up to 1 303 instances. To put that into context, it is 250% more logins per minute than the current peak.
    • The current trades per second in our current deployment is approximately 1 to 1.2 per second at peak. Performance testing within the AWS environment yielded in excess of 31 trades per second.
  • Easy also made advances in the auto-scaling and auto-healing capabilities within this environment.

Uptime stats

EasyEquities has a publicly accessible status board showing platform uptime. This board is available at https://status.easyequities.co.za/.

Here are the uptime statistics for the app and the website:

  • App (Easy splits how tehy host the app from the website version in 2020)
    • Mar 2021 to Feb 2022 – 99.626%
    • Jan 2022 to Feb 2023 – 99.941%
  • Website
    • Mar 2021 to Feb 2022 – 99.677%
    • Jan 2022 to Feb 2023 – 99.940%

Change and improvement cadence

Easy have intentionally slowed down their delivery cadence to focus on improving delivery pipelines. It is important to ensure consistency in deployments. Modern technologies make this process easier, but Easy still require time to increase confidence in the process, and importantly ensure repeatability in the process.

As the EasyEquities manifesto states – we drive fast, but safe. And Pail concludes: “We want to create the environment that is conducive to rapid innovation cycles at much higher cadences than we’ve operated in before.”