Interview with Georgia Stewart, CEO of Tumelo
Tumelo is an award winning, UK based fintech that empowers pension members and investors to speak up on issues that are important to them. The software enables people to see the companies they have invested in and allows them to say how they would like the company to tackle the issues they care about.
We interviewed Georgia Stewart, co-founder and CEO of Tumelo, to find out more about their ambition, the importance of transparency in financial services, and her views on the challenges facing women in financial services.
What is the long-term plan for Tumelo?
Our vision is that by 2030, every investor will be empowered to use their shareholder rights. 275 million investors hold £54 trillion in workplace pensions and investment products across the UK and the US. Most of their money is invested in funds. As a result, fund managers control majority stakes in the world’s most influential companies. These companies feel untouchable and yet we own them. Our shareholder ownership system is broken. So, our mission at Tumelo is to enable platforms to empower investors, and to enable companies to listen to them.
Are you more focused on B2C, B2B or both?
Both. We’re a B2B2C organisation, and we partner with platforms so that they can distribute our solution to their customers. We are committed to and focused on our partners, with whom we have the commercial relationship, and our end-users who engage and interact directly with our product.
What makes Tumelo’s approach unique? How do you compete against fintechs with similar offerings?
Tumelo’s proposition is unique in the sense that no organisation in the world (that we’re aware of) is engaging end investors and fund investors with shareholder resolutions. We have no direct competitors; however, there are of course other organisations working in similar industries and which share our stakeholders. Ultimately our USP is that we are democratising the investment system, and our partners will be pioneers in this space, giving end investors a voice. In short, we continuously innovate to make sure that we stand out and focus on what makes our solution like no other.
Has transparency become a bigger issue in financial services?
Absolutely. Last year at COP26 The World Economic Forum stated, “To secure all the benefits that ESG policies bring to the economy, environment and society, we need greater transparency and enhanced disclosures”. As “ESG” becomes increasingly popular, investors have started to look into how ethical or sustainable their investments are. It’s no longer sufficient to brand an investment fund as an ‘ESG’ or ‘Green’, and it is now expected that funds’ investments are disclosed, so that investors can feel confident about where their money is ending up.
How have attitudes to investment changed over the last five years? How do you expect them to evolve in the next five?
Investors are now increasingly conscious of ESG, and want to know what their money is doing, where it’s going, and how it can better serve the planet. People are generally investing more, investing earlier in life and engaging more with their investments. Investing is no longer just for men in suits; we see more teenagers and more women are investing actively as well, with investor communities diversifying across all groups of people. The spike of interest in ESG has also encouraged investors to become more aware of the proxy votes/shareholder resolutions being addressed at the companies they’re investing in. In 2021, major votes at Exxon Mobil and Chevron saw investors driving change in the boards of both polluting companies, exciting investors everywhere. In the next five years, we predict more of this, and it will be imperative for all investment platforms to disclose the underlying holdings of their funds. Investors will be better qualified to verify how ethical these investments are, and increasingly base their choices on ESG factors. In the next five years, the number of investors and shareholders taking part in proxy votes will double worldwide and we will generally see a lot more involvement and awareness in the industry as a whole.
What generational differences have you noticed?
Younger generations are much more engaged, interested, and educated in financial matters and investing. They are investing earlier in life, as early as their teenage years, and are generally more passionate about all ESG issues, not just climate. Older generations are more passive about their finances with many using financial advisors to manage their investment affairs for them. Older generations generally aren’t as concerned with ESG and are more focused on their investment returns.
What difficulties still exist for women in the financial services – both from the perspective of women working in the industry and female consumers?
For women in the industry, there is still some prejudice. I luckily haven’t experienced much of this personally, but from conversations and my awareness of others’ experiences, it is clear that this is still a big problem in financial services. Representation is extremely important, and we need to see more women in leadership positions to be role models for younger women and give others the confidence to follow them. Financial services need to play their part and focus on better representation. For many female consumers, the investment system appears to be a scary, male-dominated space. Wall Street, for example, has in the past mostly been presented in the media as a men-only zone, full of toxic masculinities and with little room for women. This perception is beginning to change, with more and more women becoming more financially independent and educating themselves more about investing. There have been some brilliant female-focused investment platforms created to support women who are investing.
What are the critical issues you’re facing in 2022?
2022 will be an exciting year for us as a business as we are taking Tumelo to the US following a strong demand and interest for our product. I am currently in New York, networking, learning, and beginning to establish ourselves here, but as with any big move there is always a risk, so we are being realistic and making sure we are assessing everything very carefully. We are also expanding our team rapidly, but hiring the right people and maintaining the culture while the team doubles in size is not going to be easy. But one thing for sure we will face any challenges with positivity and optimism.
To find out more about Tumelo check out their website here.