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FounderMetrics: Felicia Hjertman

FounderMetrics: Felicia Hjertman

Joining Ifty Nasir for FounderMetrics episode six is Felicia Hjertman, the founder of TILLIT, a pioneering platform that makes it easier for ordinary people to find and invest in funds.

In this episode, Felicia chats with Ifty about investing, business metrics, mortgages and what kind of things investors look for in a startup (aside from the obvious).

Keep reading for our key takeaways or jump right to the episode now.

The origin of TILLIT

Before I started TILLIT with my co-founder Paul O’Neill, I worked in finance. So, I guess you could say I come from the dark side of asset management! I started working at an asset manager called Baillie Gifford - a very well-respected, renowned, fantastic, firm - straight after uni.

Because I’d always wanted to start my own business at some point, I always figured that job would just be something I did for a couple of years. Just something to get my feet wet in the finance industry and then I’ll strike out on my own and start something new.

But actually, I really enjoyed it, and I ended up staying there for eight years. I started out as an Investment Analyst, then became a fund manager, and worked on different regions - European equities, corporate bonds, before I really settled on working in Japanese equities, and managed a small cap fund together with my co-manager.

In that role, I was looking at really, really tiny companies in Japan, which was super exciting. I think Japan as a country as well, is amazing. And I thoroughly enjoyed that.

But even while I was working on all that, I knew I wanted to start my own thing at some point. I just didn’t have an idea I believed in yet. For the longest time, I didn’t have anything I believed in enough to start until a really funny conversation actually lit a spark for me.

So, (I kind of hate to say this!) I complain a lot, and the more I worked in finance, the more I was complaining like, “I can’t believe we can’t do this thing,” or “I hate that people don’t have access to this!” and I would talk about those frustrations with everybody in my life.

Eventually, my best friend said, “Why don't you just stop complaining and do something about it?”

And that sounds like such a small thing but I think that conversation was the first time I really considered that I actually might know how to solve these problems that frustrate me. I might have the ability to build a platform that helps people meet their goals or do a better job at things they’re struggling with.

So, that frustration kind of went hand-in-hand with my desire to build my own thing as I realised that I had the power to do something about the issues that upset me! And the name TILLIT came about because I’m Swedish and “tillit” means “trust” in Swedish.

It actually wasn’t my plan to try and evoke Swedish culture with the name or anything like that. My co-founder and I were just trying to think of some name for the company that wasn’t already trademarked or overused and then Paul’s wife had the idea to just translate our list of ideas into Swedish.

That’s how we stumbled on “tillit” and once we found it, it just struck me as being so perfect. Because, for me, trust is the holy grail of finance, of money management, of success in that entire industry.

And that’s what we’re really trying to build with TILLIT: a platform you can trust, run by people you can trust. 

Rethinking investing

So getting a mortgage feels like a natural thing, right? But when you think about it, locking up a big amount of money in one fixed asset is a huge financial risk. Investing is a very different thing but people feel like it's so alien.

The industry likes to make investing seem really difficult but it's not something you need to have a PhD in finance to understand.

TILLIT is all about demystifying investment and the finance industry as a whole. An explaining the potential and risks in Layman's terms. The funds clients can invest in on TILLIT are handpicked by experts with real experience of managing money, managing funds and clients' money.

Wealth generation

Our parent's generation have seen fantastic wealth creation through their homes in a way that I don't personally believe our generation will. Home ownership isn't something our generation can really rely on.

For me, investing means for a minimum of five years - decades ideally - then over time you should be able to do better with your money than if it was just sat in a savings account. It's about taking a long-term view.

Eliminating choice paralysis

We do not give personalised financial advice, instead, we give them the tools they need to make decisions for themselves.

Other platforms throw a ton of information at you, but they don’t help you sort through it. They don’t give you the tools to work out what you don’t know and what you need to know in order to filter through all that information and make appropriately informed decisions.

So, we’re trying to say, “Here’s how you can focus on the info you need, here’s how you can invest in this particular asset class, or go deeper in learning about these funds.”

And that’s how we work to give you the information that you would otherwise really struggle to get a hold of unless you have a fund manager in the room or, if it’s a passive fund, with that provider in the room.

North Star metrics

We tried OKRs but it wasn't right for us!

Our North Star metric is net cumulative flows.

What that means for us is that we look at all of the inflows - all of the money that people have added to the platform, either through deposits or transfers - and then we look at all of the outflows - all the ways that people are removing money from the platform.

That’s the guiding metric we believe in, because it helps us to get answers to questions like: “Are people valuing our service? Are they willing to pay for it?” And that helps us to set our platform fees and to determine those fees based on the amounts of money that people are placing in TILLIT and leaving there.

That's the North Star metric, but we also use other means to understand how our clients come to decisions that they feel confident with.

That includes customer interviews, finding out how many TILLIT reviews they read, how many videos they watch, and what they do on the platform when they're looking for something specific but get no search results.

Work/life balance

I really believe that the service we provide is necessary because unless each person is equipped with the knowledge to make sound financial decisions and invest wisely, none of us are going to have enough money to retire!

So knowing that I’m helping people to invest in their futures and their personal development really spurs me on and motivates me to keep going every day.

But, with that said, I think it’s also really important to take breaks and take time to clear your head so you can come back recharged and refreshed. So, when I go on holiday, I go properly on holiday.

I don’t take my laptop and that means that when I’m on, I’m on, and when I’m off, I’m truly off. I think that’s so important because, to me, it’s a way of reconceptualising the idea of work/life balance.

When I’m on, I’m on, and when I’m off, I’m off.

In my view, it’s not so much about cultivating a specific balance as it is about elevating your level of stress tolerance until you’re able to operate on a higher plane that feels normal.

That may sound unhealthy but I think it’s also more realistic because the experience of being a founder, of building something from scratch is very different from working a 9 to 5.
I think you have to elevate the level of stress and responsibility that you’re working with each day until you condition yourself to perform well under pressure and commit to creating and sustaining something new.

But if those are the conditions you’re working under every day, then you also have to disconnect in the same way. You have to be able to be all in when you’re working and fully removed when you’re on holiday and disconnecting for your own peace of mind. 

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