Passiv, the Fredericton company that helps passive investors rebalance their portfolios, has been growing so strongly that it can now say investors are using its software to manage $1 billion in assets.
The company experienced strong growth in 2020 due to a surge in stock market investing, and because of its relationships with Canadian online brokerage Questrade and other brokerages. And the momentum isn’t slowing down as the company is now on track to double its revenues in 2021.
“The big benefit we had is Passiv operates over a number of brokerages and has a number of asset classes so our rebalancing platform is very advanced,” said Co-Founder and CEO Brendan Lee Young. “It opens up our total addressable market. In the U.S., you have people with accounts with multiple brokerages.”
Passive investing is the practice of investing money in low-cost assets like ETFs and holding them for a long period of time so that transaction fees and other costs don’t eat into the holder's ultimate returns. The problem is that different assets appreciate (or depreciate) at different rates. So, to maintain a portfolio at the proper balance between stocks, bonds and other assets, the owner has to keep monitoring and tinkering with the portfolio. It takes time.
Robo-adviser services do this automatically, but they cost money. What Passiv does is help passive investors rebalance their portfolio cheaply and easily. It notifies users when cash comes into their account and when their portfolio drifts out of alignment with their target.
Although the advent of the pandemic battered the stock market in March, it soon recovered and through it all investors continued to use Passiv to balance their portfolios.
“Our user base are passive investors, so when the market is down, they all rush to keep buying,” said Young. “So our usage just continued to increase. When the markets are down, people want to invest more.”
When Young and his Co-Founder Brendan Wood took the company through the Propel accelerator in late 2017, they had about $16 million of funds under management. That number grew to $250 million by late 2019, when Passiv partnered with Silicon Valley-based Alpaca as a means to expand in the all-important U.S. market.
Now Passiv, with 11 employees, has broken the $1 billion mark.
The company has bootstrapped through most of its existence, tapping government programs from such groups as Opportunities New Brunswick, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the National Research Council’s IRAP program.
The two Brendans raised $250,000 in funding from friends and family and angels late in 2020, and that capital is fueling further growth. Young said the company is considering trying to raise more capital this year, with a target of $1 million.
They also intend to add functions to the software, and are looking at ways that investors can use Passiv to form and participate in communities. Passiv investors want to discuss their strategies with other like-minded investors and Passiv could allow them to form groups to discuss their investments.
Having attended the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas in 2019 as part of the Atlantic Fintech Mission organized by Venn Innovation, Young said he wants to spread the message that there are opportunities in fintech.
“Passiv is a fast-growing company and we’re in the fintech space,” said Young. “Fintech is really hard, but we figured out a way to make it work, even while we were bootstrapping. We want to get the word out there that fintech companies, even those that are bootstrapping, are doing really well.”