Melbourne fintech startup The Empire Club is an invitation-only fund management and lifestyle company

- May 5, 2016 5 MIN READ
The Empire Club

Wealth grants the sophisticated investor access to quality products that have high minimum entry levels. The choice of what to invest in is made easier through access to advisors and fund management professionals.

For those of us who don’t have millions of dollars to throw into the next big startup, there are a number of alternative investment opportunities to offer low cost and high volume funding choices. Companies like US startup Acorns and more recently Melbourne startup Wealth Fury are targeting millennials, a generation that could soon be the biggest spending demographic in Australia.

These new apps and fund managers are looking to immerse themselves into the social lives of ordinary people to predict trends and discover the goals and aspirations of the everyday millennial. They want to gather as many young investors as they can to experience micro investing and wealth management.

While these apps open investment to the masses there are also emerging apps that look to target a more exclusive market. Investment exclusivity has long been available to the high rollers of society and not the average guy, but now there is a market for younger investors who want to invest ‘smaller’ amounts of cash while simultaneously experiencing the finer things of life.

To create an experience and culture that lies beyond the average investment is Melbourne startup The Empire Club. The new fintech startup is an invitation only-fund management and lifestyle company that provides members with privilege offerings tailored to their interests.

The startup creates a network of people who share similar interests including wealth accumulation goals, social events, unique opportunities and boutique experiences. Think of it like an exclusive boat club where you pay for membership and are offered special offers on products and access to social events. However in this case the boat club is an investment fund manager and the exclusive offers are access to social events like the launch of the new BMW car model.

To be a part of the exclusive club an invitation must be sent to you by a friend, where you can then sign up via an email link. Once your ID has been digitally verified you can deposit investment funds into your account electronically and connect membership fees to your credit card where the Empire Club will then start investing for you.

“The Empire Club brings together people wanting to create value for their future, and who recognise that value is not just found in money, but in experiences, opportunities and the networks we share with the people we meet in life,” said Kane Jackson, CEO of The Empire Club.

For the first six months members are on a trial basis, which gives them access to investments only. After the six month mark members can choose to continue with the service or withdraw and take a full refund on membership fees.

Membership is charged on a monthly basis and starts from $50 per month for a trial for an investment range from $500 to $5,000; full membership costs $99 per month with an investment range of $5,000 to $25,000. The next range of membership is tiered depending on the user’s investment balance with Bronze, Silver or Gold privileges.

The Empire Club isn’t targeting the same demographic as Acorns with their spare change, they are targeting say, the middle ground between high rolling VCs and young first time investors. It’s a platform where their target audience, people between 18 and 40, can feel special and privileged, much like you would sitting in a private box at a sports game.

The exclusivity of The Empire Club and the monthly membership grants users with opportunities that wouldn’t necessarily be available to them. The events and opportunities are open for potential members and invitees to check out before they sign up.

Jackson explained the words ‘quality’ and ‘premium’ are synonymous with a limitation on numbers, which is why the startup has chosen an invitation-only mode.

“That means we have a limitation on our ability to provide benefits we consider significant to people if we have too many members. We simply can’t host an event for all of Melbourne or Sydney, nor can we run enough events that are unique to cater for such a number.”

“We only extend a few invitations to our members. Unfortunately they don’t get to invite everyone they know. We may very well have to cap our membership numbers and operate a waiting list, if our current interest levels continue,” he added.

The Empire Club also has performance fees on its investment funds and shares in any benefits it receive with its members, giving the startup the incentive to perform well and share around rewards and experiences. These performance fees don’t kick in until The Empire Club receives a 10 percent annual return.

“We want to succeed and be profitable, but we don’t do that unless our members do too,” said Jackson.

Looking at other exclusive clubs like the Melbourne Cricket Club and the Victoria Racing Club, members come in all ages, young to old, signing up for the experiences and the rewards they offer. Kane noticed that these clubs are increasingly focused on bringing in new members to balance their ageing population, however these clubs are still offering an older product and an older model of sale and trying to target that towards younger audiences.

The Empire Club aims to suit the needs of younger people aspiring to affluence but who are previously not affluent. Kane explained they are people who like tech and like to organise their lives around networks and events.

“It makes sense that they’d want to look at the Empire app for events coming up and check their phone calendars to see if they can make it. It also means we can fit into their lives when it’s convenient,” he explained.

The Empire Club members are connected to investments and events through their smartphone where they can read commentary on an investment performance and also plan their next event. The app gives them the ability to invite their friends, to offer greater connection that other clubs just don’t provide.

By combining two services, investment and lifestyle, The Empire Club is working as both an event planner and fund manager, a market that in Australia has little competition. For this reason the team said they raised $200,000 from friends and family and then a following $1.5 million from unnamed high network individuals.

In the next week The Empire Club will be launching its managed fund to almost 2,000 people who have already been invited and have signed up to the service. Three months down the track the app will be launched onto the iOS and Android app stores.

At the beginning of next year The Empire Club will welcome the first trial to members on full membership and will launch a privileges program with a major event for the first 500 full membership sign ups.

The team have just come back from a trip to the UK and the US, a trip that was part of a development and expansion strategy to establish an international footprint.

The Empire Club is also looking to add a new suite of investment products including a superannuation product.

Jackson explained, “Instead of having one Managed Fund, we’d like to have several, so that people can choose what suits their specific needs. We’re also hoping to develop a superannuation product that helps our members actively engage with their investments and makes superannuation more relevant to them than it often is given its long term nature.”

Image: Kane Jackson, Andrew Sum and Pete Hoadley. Source: Supplied.

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