A Wealthsimple Trade app icon is shown on a smartphone on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jesse Johnston

A Wealthsimple Trade app icon is shown on a smartphone on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jesse Johnston

Drake, Ryan Reynolds among latest Wealthsimple backers in $750 million funding round

Wealthsimple began as an online investment manager in 2014

A new financing deal involving plenty of star power and venture capital investors has pushed Wealthsimple’s valuation to $5 billion and has its CEO anxious to build the brand even further.

The Toronto-based financial services business announced Monday that it has raised $750 million from six celebrities and more than 15 venture capital investment firms including Meritech, Greylock, Dragoneer and iNovia.

The star-studded list of investors includes rapper Drake, actors Ryan Reynolds and Michael J. Fox, NBA players Kelly Olynyk and Dwight Powell and NHL all-star Patrick Marleau.

“It’s incredibly exciting and feels great, but I am notoriously a bad person at celebrating things, so I’m already thinking about what’s next and where we have got to go,” Wealthsimple co-founder and CEO Mike Katchen said hours after announcing the financing.

He plans to use the new cash to expand Wealthsimple’s market position, build out its offering of products and grow its team.

Wealthsimple, which began as an online investment manager in 2014, has grown to add Wealthsimple Trade, a commission-free stock trading platform, and Wealthsimple Crypto, which allows users to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrency assets.

It also launched Wealthsimple Cash, a peer-to-peer money transfer app, earlier this year and offers automated investing, saving and tax filing products.

“We are really trying to become the full-service financial partner, the primary financial relationship in our clients lives,” Katchen said.

“We’ve come a long way and we’re offering a pretty big breadth of services to get there, but we have still got a long way to go to the services we offer.”

Part of that long way to go, he said, will include broadening Wealthsimple’s suite of services again and exploring how its current offerings can provide even more value to customers.

Katchen admitted that he has his eye on an initial public offering, too.

He feels it’s the best way to build a lasting brand, but said “it’s just a question of timing.”

“We want to focus on executing our plan and many of those short-term questions that get introduced when you’re going public can be a distraction,” he said.

“We’re just not going to deal with that for the time being, but it is for sure in the plan still.”

For now, Katchen has big decisions to make around deploying his new war chest and a pandemic still to navigate.

While many businesses have struggled during the crisis and had to turn to layoffs, closures and even bankruptcies, the pandemic boosted Wealthsimple.

Katchen noticed people increasing the attention they paid to their finances and many were able to save larger-than-expected amounts of cash they wanted to invest or collect compounded interest on.

He said it sparked “unprecedented” levels of activity in Wealthsimple’s trading and cryptocurrency businesses.

“I never would have guessed that COVID would have this remarkable tailwind for the investment industry,” Katchen said.

To address those demands, the company scaled as much as it could, while also trying to educate consumers about financial tools.

Education has long been a cornerstone for Wealthsimple, which has marketed itself as an easy-to-understand investment company operating a website peppered with explainers for investing newcomers.

Katchen believes that ethos and branding helped Wealthsimple hook celebrity investors.

“When we were introduced to them to talk about this investment opportunity, they already had some affinity for the company,” he said.

“I think they love seeing a Canadian company be successful, all of them are Canadian, and so there was just an easy conversation to bring them on board.”

It wasn’t Wealthsimple’s first time raising big bucks. The company snagged $114 million from TCV, Greylock and Meritech at a $1.5 billion post-money valuation last October.

The last time Meritech and Greylock co-led a funding round was the Facebook Series B in 2006, Wealthsimple said.

“We invest in companies with the potential to revolutionize industries and become enduring market leaders,” said Meritech’s general partner Max Motschwiller, in a release.

Wealthsimple has been able to capture a generation of financial consumers in Canada with financial products that are markedly different than anything offered by the incumbents — simpler, more human, and built with the kind of technology that delivers an experience consumers want.”

Meritech has also invested in Salesforce, Nextdoor, Zulily and Lime, while Greylock has backed Airbnb, LinkedIn, Coinbase and Discord.

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press


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