Octopus Investments - Best Investment Product Provider
Ruth Handcock is the new CEO of Octopus Investments, having arrived from a four-year stint building up a retail challenger bank, Tandem, from scratch. Tandem was the third new retail bank licence in a hundred years, and Octopus founder, Simon Rogerson, was on the board of Tandem in its early days.
“Our thesis at Tandem and at Octopus was that we explored how people make financial decisions and tried to play a part in making sure people get the best financial outcomes,” Handcock says. “One of the things that drives me is that people are a bit scared of numbers and finances so they are not always getting the best result for themselves. A theme running through both Tandem and Octopus is ‘how can we play a part in the market to close the advice gap?’”
Handcock reports that Octopus had a great year through 2018 and into the close of the tax year in 2019.
“From a product perspective we have had our biggest VCT fundraise ever, which is testament to not only the confidence in the product but also the capability of our ventures team in picking great companies to invest in,” Handcock says. Titan remains the biggest VCT in the market by some distance and has helped back more than 100 UK early-stage businesses, to create thousands of new jobs and support the UK economy, she says.
Two new Octopus products continued to grow quickly over the year: Octopus Cash which offers top savings rates but also spreads a larger sum across a number of banks and terms to remain within the FSCS limits.
“Everyone gets the best return on their cash which is important,” Handcock says.
The second product is a peer to peer lending platform called Octopus Choice which allows investors to invest in the property market without actually being landlords, through investing in a portfolio of loans backed by bricks and mortar.
“We continue to look at how closely we can work with financial advisers,” Handcock says. “We are constantly trying to think how can we help them deliver better advice and services so we host events, listen to what they need and explore whether we can come up with ideas with technology that will help them.”
Handcock observes that Brexit has caused less decision paralysis than advisers were expecting, particularly as many of Octopus’s products are based on the long term.
“We find that advisers are worrying about keeping up with compliance and regulation so we give them all the help and support we can. We spend a lot of time in the education role of the product provider. We also always try to stay on top of technology.”
Technological developments can be daunting for financial advisers who often don’t have anyone in their firm for whom technology is their speciality, she says.
“We are, as ever, really proud about how well we work with our customers. Our biggest success this year is getting really good feedback from customers who we have helped to understand things. It has always been something we are proudest of and I am happy that continues.”
She has observed that while retail is the firm’s main focus still, institutional investors are increasingly using the firm’s products, particularly as their track record lengthens.