Therese Faessler talks about her idea passionately over a cup of coffee: “I want people to own it! People shouldn’t only buy their favorite telephones or download their favorite movies, they should own the companies making them available.” In order to spread this message, she started building the invested.ch website in 2017. It has been online since 2018: “The US elections in 2015 were the turning point for me. I suddenly realized how grave the issue of wealth inequality had become, not only between countries, but also within countries like the US. At the time Bernie Sanders was shouting out about raising the minimum wage. But that isn’t the solution and it isn’t the problem! The question is why do some have so much and others so little. The reason is that the wealthiest own companies by means of stocks, and they benefit from a growing economy” The same thing applies to Switzerland. “A very small percentage of the population owns a very large piece of the economy. A higher minimum wage doesn’t help in Switzerland, because wages just sit in bank accounts with negative interest rates and banking fees. The only solution I see is everyone, even people with less savings, must be able invest in stocks.”
However there its not an easy idea to sell. The target group Faessler is focusing on is primarily younger people with about CHF 6,000 in their savings account, but also those with CHF 1,000. “Currently, however, members are generally over 50 years old and invest on average about CHF 200,000 – often using the capital in their third pillar accounts”. For those with less income, the annual fee of CHF 134 may be an obstacle. invested.ch’s partner bank charges a minimum trading fee of CHF 18 on a transaction of up to CHF 15,000. In comparison, Swissquote charges a custody account fee of CHF 60, but may be as high as CHF 200 for inactive investors. Depending on the size of the transaction, Swissquote charges between CHF 9 and 55 per transaction on SIX. “I negotiated with seventeen banks for lower fees. When I asked them what their custody fees had to cover, one banker told me that they are just CHF 10 cheaper than the competition. Financial institutions are looking for new ways to generate revenue due to negative interest rates, like for example higher fees for ATM transactions, says Faessler. invested.ch uses the CHF 134 annual subscription fee to pay for data, hosting fees and programmers.
The 59-year-old is married and has a son. She has talked to many people about her idea. Warren Buffett wrote back, saying it was a good idea. Michael Bloomberg from the financial data portal Bloomberg said the same thing. Faessler’s original idea was to make a “Bloomberg Terminal Light” for her website, but the New Yorker was not prepared to make such a deal.
Faessler has a connection with both Bloomberg and New York, where she grew up in New Jersey as the fourth of five children. Her mother, a St.Gallerin, moved to the USA in 1938, where she met her husband. At the age of 22, daughter Therese wanted to explore her Swiss roots and as destiny would have it, fell in love with a man from St.Gallen, and stayed. Having graduated with bachelors in mathematics, statistics and economics, she took on a job as a programmer for 26 years. “This happened in the 1980s because, as an American, I could read the IT manual in English.” Turning forty, she asked herself if that was all there was – a career as a programmer? So she went back to school to the University of St. Gallen and subsequently did research and worked as a management consultant. “However, my desire to make a real difference in the world grew.” And this is exactly where the concept and implementation of the platform evolved.
Faessler explained this all matter-of-factly over a cup of coffee just before the lockdown in March. The elbow salute was already the norm, but the Corona virus was still yet a Chinese problem by optimists. Even Faessler didn’t think that the virus could possibly develop into a worldwide pandemic. Now, three months later, on the phone she says: “The V-shaped recovery is totally irrational. I understand that Zoom and Amazon are highly valued because they are satisfying a new customer demand, however many other companies are in for a shock.” She is currently advising members to exercise restrain and learn about investing seriously. Some of those who earn less are happy not to have their money in stocks – so that they can at least buy their favorite companies’ products.