The stokvel has long been South Africa’s favourite way for a group of people to save and invest. Today the traditional stokvel has gone digital for the first time with Franc, a new app which makes investing simple and affordable for anyone with a smartphone. Franc gives stokvel members access to the money market and an exchange traded fund via their mobile phones.
Franc has no minimum investment amount. You can withdraw or transfer your money anytime without penalty and there are no hidden or complicated fees. Access to Franc is free for the first six months; thereafter the membership fee is R5 per month. But members can get another six months free for every friend they invite who becomes a member in the first free six months. Besides the membership fee, there are no other fees or deductions.
“We are excited about bringing Franc to SA consumers for the first time during Savings Month,” says Dr Thomas Brennan, founder of Franc, and ex-head of digital innovation of Discovery Health. “South Africa has one of the lowest savings rates in the world: for the vast majority of South Africans, accessing investment opportunities is expensive and difficult. This is something that we want to change with Franc, which is now the most affordable way to access the money market and exchange traded funds.”
“Financial services usually offer complex products with high fees, which reduces the value for the consumer, especially over the long run”, says Brennan. “We have removed all the barriers and only kept what really works. No more dealing with brokers, no more paperwork, and no more complicated fine print - everything is done through the mobile app. Franc brings increased value and wealth creation via passive investments to everyone, whilst encouraging them to save more.”
Franc’s two investment options were selected because of their credibility and low cost. These include the Allan Gray Money Market Fund, which has returned an average of 7.87% interest* over the past year, and Satrix 40, an exchange traded fund (ETF) recently voted SA’s favourite ETF, that tracks the performance of the JSE Top 40 largest companies and grew 66.46% over the last five years, an average compound annual growth rate of 10.67%. By way of comparison, according to MyTreasury, an online investment optimiser which finds the best interest rates for consumers, the next best rate that matches Franc’s terms is only 5% interest with a minimum of a R1 000 deposit.
Says Brennan, “Stokvel members simply choose how much they would like to invest, how often and how they would like to split their investment. They can choose between the lower-risk Allan Gray Money Market Fund or the higher risk Satrix 40 ETF, or a combination of the two.”
With Franc, FICA is painless. All you need to do is provide your ID number, upload proof of ID and proof of your address, take a selfie and you’re done. Because Franc is a stokvel, you need to be invited to join. Sign up by going to franc.app on your phone and Franc will match you with someone you know.
Franc is a member of AlphaCode, the fintech investment arm of Rand Merchant Investment Holdings. Dominique Collett, head of AlphaCode comments, “What we find most interesting about Franc is how Brennan has adapted a large global fintech business model like Robinhood for the local nuances of the South African market. Combining technology, user experience, low cost and traditional savings methods like a stokvel is smart and we believe that Franc will impact the market.”
The Franc team comprises eight professionals who have backgrounds in machine learning, software development, smart contracts, compliance, legal, investment and actuarial science.
Franc is available in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store or go to franc.app on your phone.