Thriving with EasyEquities

By Carel Nolte

CN&CO has a long and proud history working with the Purple Group, which includes the EasyEquities investment platform. We love helping to grow new brands – such as the Daredevil Run, Etana, InsureTalk and EasyEquities (of which we have been a part since its launch nine years ago) – as well as working with existing brands to deliver maximum marketing value. And much of what we do is centred around the people who make up these brands – the ones who work there and the communities that access their services. Yep, we love people and supporting them to be the best versions of themselves.

From the early days of collaborating with the EasyEquities team, to witnessing it evolve into a household name, our partnership has been filled with growth, innovation, and shared values. As many of you may know, I’m not just a cheerleader; I’m also a part of the Easy executive team. I joined Purple Group because of the passionate team (many of whom I count as close friends and admire deeply) as well as EasyEquities’ underlying purpose, which is to give everyone the opportunity and the access to invest for their futures. Not just the already-rich (who, I feel, also often pay more than they should for financial services and are not always well served by the industry). Not just breadwinners or financial markets experts. Not just students and retirees. Literally everyone.

EasyEquities has become more than just an investment app; it’s a space where diverse opinions converge. We’ve seen it grow from a startup to a platform with a voice that resonates across sectors. To a brand that thousands of people are passionate about. A brand that, often, has people come up to me across the country (I like to wear my EasyEquities merch) to chat to me about Easy and how they love the brand. I am grateful for every engagement and proud of everyone who has been, and continues to be a part of this brand.

While it’s fantastic to have a community with loud opinions, it’s important to acknowledge that not every view represents the majority. Sometimes toxicity seeps into some discussions, discouraging valuable debate. While I don’t always succeed and at times fall short of my own expectations, I aim to foster more communication, with respect for all users and their perspectives.

Let’s dive into the heart of the matter which has recently caused debate – Thrive. The EasyEquities loyalty programme which has essentially been put in place to encourage Easy clients (of which I and most of my network are a part) to be active on the platform and display good investment behaviour. If you do that, you don’t have to pay a small monthly fee. Simple.

Listen to an interview I did at the launch with Bruce Whitfield on The Money Show on Cape Talk and 702 to find out more about the Thrive incentive and why we decided to implement it:

This wasn’t a decision made overnight. Over a year of internal debates and discussions, data, conversations with users, reading about behavioural economics and lots of thinking led us to a consensus: no platform fee. We want investors to continue enjoying excellent services for free, but we also need an engaged user base if we are all going to continue on a sustainable path to financial freedom. Thrive was the solution – offering many easy and varied ways that ensure users get the most from the platform and don’t pay a fee.

Responses to the incentive have been varied. Here are the main ones I encountered:

  • Positive engagement: Many users understand the need for the Thrive incentive, recognising its value and the ability to avoid paying fees through engagement. Interestingly, these are often also users who are most engaged and who take their finances seriously. Some of these users also choose not to Thrive and see the value they get from all of Easy’s offerings – so paying R25 a month is a charge they are comfortable with.
  • Scepticism: Accusations arose from a few people, insinuating a sneaky introduction of a platform fee. I want to clarify that transparency is a priority for EasyEquities – all of us. We communicated the change via email and social media, inviting input, and made adjustments based on feedback, such as exempting TFSA maxed out accounts. And we continue to take feedback, while also communicating updates about Thrive in-app and via email. Nothing sneaky here – but a good lesson that communication can always be better!
  • Anger and lack of facts on fees: Some users expressed anger at the newly introduced cost structure. I understand that change is challenging for us all, but it has been amazing how, when users check out and see how easy it is to avoid any fee, many change their minds. By the way, as with all things Easy, we will remain agile and innovate – so expect further improvements to this page.

    A few social media (well, X really) discussions even suggested exploring other brokers saying I was patronising. I chatted to some of these folks (really grateful they were keen to chat, share views and hear mine) and was able to explain that Easy believed more in the carrot approach of Thrive and driving engagement than leaving people to their own devices. And that recommending more expensive brokers who offer less than the Easy platform, may not be in a client’s best interest.

There is some information available on fees but nothing definitive. And so I got a couple of clever contacts to produce a report comparing EasyEquities’ fees (including Thrive) with other providers. Download the fee comparison table here. (Updated 11 December 2023.)

I’d love to hear if any of the information (which is all factual and taken from public information or by calling the relevant providers) is incorrect and needs updating. And maybe the journalists (the real ones and click-bait ones!) can build on this. To my mind, based on the facts and my own experience, EasyEquities provides the most value, in a transparent way, at the best overall price.

Despite external pressures and challenging economic times, EasyEquities continues to attract new clients and deposits daily, showcasing the resilience of the platform. And with our latest EasyCredit, EasyGovBonds and EasyProtect products, we continue to help users grow and protect their wealth. I am extremely proud of and grateful to all of the EasyEquities investors who want to help grow the community and create a better life for everyone in it.

The Purple Group share price (JSEPPE) may fluctuate, and while, as a shareholder, that is something that affects me, as the EasyEquities CMO, I continue to focus on what I can control – every day, with my team mates, improving our offering and service to our clients.  Results are on the horizon (end of this month), and I encourage everyone to scrutinise our financials for full disclosure and a deeper understanding of our underlying value drivers. More great conversations about this exceptional business will be had, no doubt. Those value drivers remain strong and the reason I remain heavily invested in PPE.

With the end of the year rushing to greet us, I know that many people are super tired and stressed. With a broken world, at war in many places and economies spluttering, it is our ability to communicate, innovate, be agile, laugh (including at ourselves) and expect and display the best of ourselves and others that will ensure we triumph. Wishing you all the very best. Ngiyabonga. Dankie. Khotso!

Carel is an investor in people and businesses, believing that 1+1 = (at least) 22. Working with a few basic concepts – best encapsulated in his believe that unless we are dead, anything is possible – Carel aims to build long-term sustainable value with like-minded individuals and companies, while having (a lot of!) fun.