“It’s important to maintain the soul of the company”: Interview with BUX’s CEO, Yorick Naeff

A recent study by the Bank of Ireland reveals that many people became ‘accidental’ savers during the COVID-19 crisis and plan to continue saving once COVID is over or subsides. But with people wanting to put their money to work more in the current low interest rate environment and high living costs, how many are considering investing as part of their future financial planning?

BUX is one of Europe’s fastest growing neobrokers and has been making it easy and affordable for Europeans to do more with their money since 2014. By breaking down the barriers to financial markets and disrupting the investing experience, they are helping new generations of investors and traders to discover the world of the financial markets.

BUX’s flagship platform, BUX Zero, is making commission-free investing more accessible and allows users to invest in the companies they believe in. BUX Zero is currently available in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, France, and Belgium and recently launched on the Irish market making it the first exclusively mobile platform to offer investing in Ireland.

We’ve recently caught up with CEO Yorick Naeff to discuss the investment market, the main barriers people are facing, what makes BUX a European leader in the investment market and how they are working to help their customers invest and get knowledgeable.

Hello Yorick, we are very happy to have a chat with you today. Could you please give us a brief overview about your personal journey and how you became a founding member and CEO of BUX?

Sure thing! I originally came from the world of retail and investment banking before I found my way to BUX. I was one of the first hires at BUX and was largely responsible for operations from day one. Since that time, we’ve built a business made to scale. We are actually the first European broker in 10 years to build a full-fledged broker from the ground up, which has allowed us to roll out across Europe as fast as we have.

In 2019, I made the move from COO to CEO of our London office and just earlier this year I took over as CEO of BUX. I’m thrilled to be in this role at a time in the company’s history where we are experiencing explosive growth and where my expertise is perfectly aligned with our current needs. I have always loved decompiling systems to build new, better, and scalable alternatives.

BUX is based in Amsterdam, Netherlands. What is your opinion on the environment for creating tech companies there? 

When the tech industry talks about hubs of innovation, London and Berlin often come up, but Amsterdam, and the Netherlands in general, is punching above its weight. And I say this with no bias as a born and bred Amsterdammer!

Last fall, it was reported that tech companies in Amsterdam are now worth a combined €73 billion. That’s a seven-fold increase over five years. Additionally, a Dealroom report at the time also noted that there were more startups per person than in any other place in Europe, which worked out to 1.1 startups per 1,000 inhabitants.

I believe Amsterdam is the perfect incubator for tech companies because of the abundance of talent. At BUX, even with the pandemic, we have found that we’re still able to attract and retain talent both locally and globally. Amsterdam is an easy sell when attracting global talent – the quality of life is second to none and there is a high-level of English usage so it is an easy landing for expats.

Amsterdam is also well-known for its open-mindedness, so it encourages a free flow of fresh ideas and innovative thinking.

Your team has grown since 2014 to 200+ people. What is important to you as a CEO when leading and managing a fast growing company?

It’s important to maintain the soul of the company; I’ve been here since day 1 and BUX has always been a place where we’ve encouraged a free flow of ideas. We’ve gone to great lengths to maintain this, even with the challenges of work-from-home during the pandemic and onboarding a large influx of new team members over the last few months. To ensure we don’t lose the core values of who we are, we recently brought on a ‘Head of People & Culture’ in order to help us navigate this massive amount of growth we’re seeing, while at the same time ensuring BUX remains an exceptional place to work and learn.

Trust is key, and we are not a company that babysits, but we lean heavily on the rich amount of expertise that we have in-house.

Execution power is everything. We need to move fast, so while we require more structure as we scale rapidly, we still need to leave room for people to have big ideas and be able to execute them in a short window of time.

BUX’s flagship platform, BUX Zero, is making commission-free investing more accessible. Could you tell us a bit more how this App is incentivizing people to invest more?

Accessibility is a key focus of what we’re doing with BUX Zero. We’ve reduced barriers by offering clients the ability to invest without commissions – this has long been a blocker for the average retail investor.

However, more importantly, we believe we also have a duty of care to help educate our users about not only the importance of investing but also the ‘how’.

There is a strong investing culture in the US (40-50% of adults in the States have an investment account vs. roughly 15% of adults in Europe). The economic landscape has long required Americans to find additional income streams to ensure they are able to retire comfortably. This was not really the case in Europe, until recently.

The younger European generation are facing a battery of challenges that will prove to be major barriers to their economic security. For example, purchasing real estate was long seen as a tried and true tactic for parking your money for the future. This is no longer the case. Additionally, the nature of work is evolving rapidly and the rise of the gig economy is changing how much this generation is able to save.

Also, the pension systems in Europe are a ticking time bomb that will not provide sufficient retirement income for this generation. So, what we are doing at BUX is providing a way for a new generation to take control of their financial future.

According to recent research by the Bank of Ireland, only 23% of people claim to have sufficient knowledge of markets and investment options. What is BUX Zero offering in terms of educational content and how do you motivate people to learn about these topics?

This is a huge focus for us now as we strongly believe that our clients can only get the most out of the investing experience if they have the know-how.

We currently offer a number of resources, including Learning Centers where we deep dive into topics like ETFs. We offer jargon-free market news as well as a large library of content that explains the fundamentals of investing. Some of this content is currently accessible via the app, but we are working on some very cool new features that will be exclusive to BUX Zero.

What kind of audience are you targeting with your services and products? Can beginners start in an easy way with BUX Zero?

We are a platform where anyone can easily set up a brokerage account and start investing with confidence right away. We especially want to make the introduction to the world of investing a smooth one for those who may not have otherwise been exposed to it.

The antiquated way of setting up a brokerage account used to involve going down to your bank and filling out paperwork that would then take days to be processed. This is obviously off-putting for both beginners and those who have prior investing experience. We’re a fully paperless onboarding experience, we offer deposit solutions that make it easy to fund your account and our customer support teams are always available to walk you through it.

As we continue to expand on our education offering, we are taking the intimidation out of investing. We don’t want anyone to be frightened of financial jargon, so we’re prioritizing making it easy for new BUX Zero clients to learn about the fundamentals before they start. 

What do you think of the future of investment markets? Any trends we should watch out for in the next few years?

  • Global pandemics: Keeping an eye on industries that are affected by major sociological changes like where we work, if we travel, etc. Thinking about how the new way of working will affect real estate, how the travel industry will shift to accommodate global pandemics, and of course, the healthcare sector
  • Global warming: The rise in meat-alternatives and plant-based foods
  • Nuclear energy: With recent technological developments, the use of nuclear power is a very attractive and sustainable way to provide energy
  • Water: Fresh water is getting more scarce, also driven by global warming, but also a growing population
  • Healthcare sector: An aging population will likely put strain on this sector

What are the main lessons you have learned as an entrepreneur and founder of a broker company and what would be your advice for young entrepreneurs looking to start in this sector?

The right mindset is everything and I live by these four lessons:

  • Have clear goals, but take one step at a time. Be patient and stay focused on those goals.
  • Be resilient and maintain a never-give-up mentality. Perseverance and pushing through the difficult times are what make winners.
  • Get uncomfortable – challenge yourself with new experiences. This is what keeps you healthy, excited, and engaged, and is key for launching and running a successful business.
  • Trust in your team! As mentioned earlier, you can’t do all the heavy lifting, so it’s critical that you have people around you that lift you and the company up collectively.