THE FINNIES: 200,000 Australians signed up in one year for small change investment app Acorns

Business Insider Australia is the proud media partner for the 2017 Finnies, the annual Fintech Australia awards recognising leadership and innovation in the nation’s financial technology sector. Get your nominations in by April 21 as we count down to the gala awards night on May 24.

With property prices at a record high and traditional share trading taking up either time or money, Acorns thought of a way to make investing accessible to millennials. And it’s worked, with the company revealing 200,000 customers have signed up in just one year.

“We’ve seen a huge demand from Australians of all ages who want an easier way to improve and understand their finances,” said Acorns Australia chief executive George Lucas.

The Acorns app rounds up the user’s purchases and invests the change into one of five diversified exchange-traded funds. The app itself is free but, for balances under $5,000, participation requires a fee of $15 a year, which the company says is less than the cost of one transaction for many stockbrokers.

Business Insider tried the app last year, and found it an effective and gentle way for newcomers to become interested in the share market without the red tape and cost of traditional trading.

The startup has confirmed that it has entered FinTech Australia’s inaugural industry awards. Nominations for “the Finnies” close this Friday with the 2017 winners revealed at a gala ceremony on May 24.

As well as growing its customer base, the past year has seen Acorns launch a couple of new sub-products. App users can now funnel their change into their superannuation account, and a partnership program with retail loyalty schemes has started.

Acorns Australia’s George Lucas. (Source: supplied)

Lucas said that the Found Money program rewards customers for their “existing purchase behaviour and incentivising new ones”.

“The program sets a new standard for customer reward programs and is why we’ve been able to partner with well-loved brands such as David Jones, The Iconic, Foodora and Dan Murphy’s,” he said.

The company also said that it’s working on a machine-learning feature to provide personal finance recommendations tailored to the user. This personalisation capability is expected to launch this year.

Acorns Australia is a joint venture between the original US Acorns and Instreet Acorns. The startup did attract some controversy in November after it offered its novice investor customer base indirect shares in itself, aiming to raise $6 million.

The company did warn at the time that the investment was “highly illiquid”, “highly speculative” and that holders would not have any voting rights or a guarantee that any future dividends would be passed on.