I honestly thought it couldn’t be done. I thought it was too risky and that my money would disappear in a day. But it didn’t. I’ve actually become someone who invests my savings, and it’s all thanks to an app.
Back in 2012, I was probably one of the first people to start using 22seven, at least the first among my friends and family. At the time most major banks didn’t trust the service and prevented 22seven from accessing users’ personal bank accounts. But I trusted the guy who worked for a bank where I nearly lost my money but luckily got it back (remember Saambou?).
Luckily Old Mutual also believed in the service, and a year later acquired the startup. Fast forward to 2015 and 22seven now allows you to invest big lumps of money with Old Mutual. There’s nothing to sign, you don’t have to speak to anyone, and you don’t even have to fill out a thing. I know because I tried it. And it blew my mind.
The minimum amount of money you can invest is R350 either once off or every month, from any bank account that’s linked to your 22seven profile. So even if it’s money is say Absa for example, that money will (with the swipe of a finger) be invested without you having to do a thing. What makes it even more attractive is that it’s completely tax free and you can withdraw the money at anytime without paying a penalty.
Does all this sound too good to be true? Sure it does, but it’s part of government’s new aim to get South Africans saving more meaning there’s new legislation that makes all this very new and very safe.
Aside from saving, 22seven offers an easy way to keep track of all your money, especially if you have more than one bank account and say a few credit cards. It captures the metadata from every transaction you make and either categorises it in “day-to-day” purchases like groceries or fuel, or it goes straight into the “uncategorised” category.
This is however the biggest headache with 22seven for me, since most of my transactions remain “uncategorised”. The metadata tied to your purchases should provide enough information for 22seven to automatically categorise a purchase (food or fuel?) but unfortunately in South Africa most transaction descriptions contain a jumble of stars and numbers with no clear indication what you actually bought. That is because the company that owns the accounts from which their businesses operate from often contain much different information. What also happens is you’d be able to see what company your money went to, but its unclear what the payment was for.
Now compare that to one of America’s most successful apps in this space: Intuit’s Mint. It offers similar features yet its infographics provide a little more to play with. Instead of displaying purchases all on one line like 22seven, you can compare monthly purchases with a bar or pie chart. This just makes more sense for idiots like myself trying to figure out where my money went.
Although purchases often end up in Mint’s uncategorised category, it happens less often than with 22seven. That could be attributed to the massive amount of people using the app teaching Mint where what goes. Businesses in the US are also better at providing customers with the kind of metadata that makes sense.
Mint doesn’t however offer an investing option like 22seven does, which again makes it kinda amazing for a proudly South African app. With a few more tweaks its valuation will certainly skyrocket, benefitting Old Mutual who were clever enough to invest in the Svens.