Plaguing unbankable communities — in addition to not having access to banking services — is not having access to professional financial advice. South Africa’s Riovic, a virtual financial advice service, wants to change this.
Based in Johannesburg, Riovic wants to bring virtual financial advice to every single person in South Africa, by putting a financial advisor in your pocket 24/7.
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“It puts your bank branch in your pocket,” quips twenty-three year old Naledi Mokoena (pictured above), the founder of Riovic. Having studied BCom Financial Management at the University of Pretoria, Mokoena is focusing on a field that she understands all too well. But above all, she believes that technology should be leveraged to change ecosystems for good.
“Mobile devices are the most used devices now and can be used as a tool for any kind of service. The information side of the financial industry hasn’t really moved towards this new platform, which leaves the unbanked in a situation where they have to choose between bad advice or no advice at all,” Mokoena explains.
The idea for Riovic came to Mokoena when she was forced to make repeated trips to the bank in order to speak to her own financial adviser. She began to think about the majority of South Africans who cannot afford the time and money to make such trips.
Though Riovic is barely a month old, it appears it was born running. The startup has so far boarded 339 registered users and is part of AlphaCode, a Rand Merchant Insurance Holdings powered club, which aims to transform the financial industry through connecting, sharing knowledge and developing unique insights.
The core service for Riovic is that it offers users assistance from qualified agents. Users simply go to the website or the Android app and type in their queries. The Riovic webpage currently has two main pages — users can search within it or fill in their queries and get answers. The platform then assigns the requests to the relevant financial service providers in Riovic’s network. The agents also facilitate virtual consultations between the parties.
“The powers of screen sharing, video conferencing, instant messaging and other technologies are utilised to make remote financial advice and monitoring a reality,” she adds. “The company’s target is mainly consumers interested in investments and insurance and businesses exploring financing options.”
Startups are businesses. And at the core of every business is making a profit. Mokoena plans for Riovic to be profitable by February next year by introducing three subscription offerings: Free, Gold and Platinum.
Riovic’s other interesting features include RiovicPay, its escrow payment method; and Crowdsurance, its peer-to-peer insurance service which enables customers to form insurance networks, share policies and thereby lower their premiums by up to 75% to 80%.
The financial space has stringent regulations, and Riovic had to comply and find creative ways to set up its business model. It is for this reason that Riovic does not identify itself as a financial service provider, but a “financial enabler”.
“Our indirect competitors are banks and other financial institutions but we see ourselves as a complementary service. We help where they can’t. Our direct competitor are players like Virtual Advisor in the UK,” she tells Ventureburn.
“It is difficult and expensive for startups, especially in tech to get all the registrations in place. This is why we settled to be a network, and not a financial services provider. We are an enabler and not a provider,” Mokoena continues.
The market for Riovic is huge, according to the World Bank, over 2.5 billion people remain unbankable. In correlation with the service Riovic provides is the boom of mobile banking. These two can work together — mobile banking allows the unbankable population to access an easy and convenient way of sending and receiving money. Riovic compliments this by giving them advice on how to spend and save their money.
“Personal wealth relies on good financial decisions. If more people can receive assistance in making those decisions financial crisis can be reduced,” says Mokoena.