“Having spent my career in financial services, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I believe retail investing in Europe is still very much ‘the ugly’.”
Mihkel Aamer, along with fellow former TransferWise colleague Martin Sokk, decided last year to do something about what they saw as a broken investment model.
Both regular investors themselves, Sokk and Aamer felt first-hand the frustrations of high fees, hidden costs and the complicated nature of investing products.
The duo hired alumni from a collective of FinTech giants, including Wise – the rebranded TransferWise – Robinhood and Revolut to build a commission-free trading app which lowers the barrier to entry.
Lightyear, set to start rolling out in Q3 2021, marries multi-currency accounts with unlimited access to global markets so customers can invest without hidden fees.
The start-up raised £1 million pre-seed funding from Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder of Wise, Sten Tamkivi, co-founder of Teleport, and Jaan Tallinn, co-founder of Skype, along with prominent angel investors Ott Kaukver, the CTO at checkout.com, Wander Rutgers, the former President of Robinhood UK and Kaarel Kotkas, the founder of Veriff.
Its MVP product will be launching with unlimited access to over 1,500 global stocks and ETFs. There are no trading fees, no account fees and no FX fees up to £3,000 per month. After customers exceed that, there will be a 0.35% FX fee.
With competitors across Europe charging retail investors a range of FX fees, custody fees and trading fees, upon launch Lightyear will be one of the most cost-effective ways to invest.
Following his Spaghetti Western analogy, CTO Aamer added: “We’re talking about sneaky fees, less access and complicated products remaining as the status quo.
“We’re building something that will change that by opening up investing up to everyone, whichever global market they want to invest in and however much they want to invest.”
CEO Sokk added: “Investing in Europe is a very long way away from where it needs to be.
“Professional and experienced investors have good options open to them with clear pricing and best-in-class tools, but ordinary investors don’t have that.
“Lightyear is going to be Europe’s first truly commission-free investment platform, and using our experience with transforming how the world approaches currency conversion, our goal is to completely change the name of the game when it comes to investing.”
Lightyear today launches its waiting list, inviting people to sign up and register their interest in getting early access to the app when it launches later this year.
Upon launch, the first 2,000 customers will receive £10 to invest in a stock of their choice, and waitlisters will get the chance to be part of the beta testing community for future product launches.
Hinrikus added: “Most things in our lives are available at the tap of a button or with a good internet connection, yet access to global financial markets is still murky and expensive.
“The potential here to open up investing for everyone, much further than just their local markets, is very exciting.
“Giving everybody access to the best deal when it comes to their money is in my DNA, so I’m excited to support Lightyear on this mission.”