Becoming an investor is easier than it’s ever been, and yet the vast majority of people today aren’t making individual investments. To help get more people investing, Loyal3 has built a platform enabling consumers to invest in companies without paying transaction or management fees. And to meet that goal, the company has raised more money in an effort to democratize stock ownership.
Loyal3 brought on another $18 million in Series C financing, which was led by DNS-L3, an entity controlled by the business interests of Michael Pucker and Gigi Pritzker Pucker. Additional investors include former Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly and Loyal3 Chairman and CEO Barry Schneider, both existing investors in the company. Altogether, it’s now raised $45 million to make investing easy and accessible for regular investors.
Despite falling transaction and management fees, as well as wider availability of online tools for investing in stocks, only about 18 percent of people in the U.S. have made individual investments, according to Schneider. Part of the reason for that is the costs involved with making stock purchases, but part of it is also connected to the ease of use — or lack thereof — on most online trading platforms.
Loyal3 seeks to change that, by enabling its users to easily invest in brands that they know and recognize. It allows investors to purchase as little as $10 in stock for the top 50 brands on Facebook, as well as some other brands that the company works with.
Rather than having its users sort through various tickers or search for public companies themselves, Loyal3 provides visitors to its platform with the logos of brands they can invest in. Once they choose a brand they have an affinity for, it takes about three clicks to actually put money into those companies.
Being the curious dude I am, I tested out the platform for myself, putting $10 into a company I have an affinity for — AB InBev.* Sure enough, the process was drop-dead simple, even for someone like me, who tends to think he’s too dumb and poor to make individual investments.
And that is the point: Loyal3 makes it easy enough and cheap enough for basically anyone to buy stock. With a ridiculously low minimum purchase price and a simple purchasing interface, the company makes stock ownership accessible to pretty much anyone. In addition to individual purchases, individuals can choose to schedule monthly transactions to be automatically deducted from their bank accounts. There’s a minimum of $10 per investment, but a maximum of $2,500 per stock per month.
How can it provide this fee-free service? Loyal3 does it by getting brands to pay whatever transaction fees are associated with the trades. For them, giving common investors ownership is another form of brand marketing, and it creates greater affinity between the purchaser and the company itself. According to Schneider, people spend more, refer their friends more, and shop more often with companies they have direct ownership in.
From a capital markets perspective, the program also brings incremental demand for participating companies’ stock. While it won’t necessarily move markets, in the long term this type of program could help stabilize the price of certain stocks. Loyal3 doesn’t allow stock shorting, and it doesn’t lend shares to speculative investors who wish to short certain stocks. Schneider says it also provides a lower cost way for companies to manage retail shareholders.
* I would have invested my $10 in a tech company like Yahoo, Facebook, Apple, or Google, but that would have been a HUGE CONFLICT OF INTEREST.