After selling his share in a web application studio, Calvin Williams was looking to invest his earnings to build his wealth for the future.
He had heard about wealth managers but found the required amount to invest with most managers to be too much for his modest exit.
So Williams did what he says any young, proactive person would do and started researching and posting about his investing journey on social media. As he studied and learned to buy and sell currencies, friends began asking him to manage their own investment portfolios.
“I said no,” Williams laughed, simply because he wasn’t licensed.
Enough people inquired about investing that it showed Williams there was plenty of demand for his envisioned business — what would become Freeman Capital.
The traditional wealth management market typically charges client minimums ranging from $250,000 to over $1 million to invest in stocks, bonds and ETF portfolios. Freeman Capital, on the other hand, is an active wealth management firm that seeks to make investing in currency and forex (foreign exchange) accessible for millennials and the middle class. To do that, the company reduces the barrier to entry and lowers investing costs through artificial intelligence (supplemented by human expertise), which in turn allows everyday people to invest as little as $1,000 to jumpstart their portfolio.
It wasn’t long before Williams found himself spending the majority of each day investing. To make his trading platform operate around-the-clock, Williams developed automated programs to trade currencies while he slept. This automation is now the backbone of Freeman Capital’s offering.
Williams officially formed the company in May 2015. Since then, he has conducted extensive market research — including hundreds of focus groups, surveys and one-on-one interviews. Through this, he learned that traditional wealth management was missing the middle class.
“Our customers are people who have done all the right things and are ready to move forward in their lives,” Williams said. “They are realizing now that inflation is rising faster than their [savings account] interest, and their goal is moving farther away every day.”
The online enrollment process for Freeman Capital includes an opportunity to learn the consumer’s risk level, identify investing goals and select an automated trading program that aims to meet those goals.
“The market research [also] revealed that people want a more sophisticated understanding, themselves, of investment principles,” Williams said.
Now, he is focusing on perfecting business operations, including onboarding for new customers, customer service and implementing an education component on the platform.
While wealth management firms typically make profit by charging on transactions and a percentage of asset growth, Freeman Capital only charges clients if they make a profit.
“If we risk their capital, we risk our fees,” he said. “We are intrinsically motivated to invest their capital well.”
The biggest hurdle Williams has faced thus far has been understanding the complex regulations related to wealth management.
“I wanted to understand the rules — which are in place to protect the consumer — and make sure we can service our customers within those rules,” he said. “You have to spend either the time or investment to really understand that regulation.”
To further validate and accelerate his business, Williams took advantage of Charlotte startup resources by participating in City Startup Labs, as part of the class of 2017. The program helped him validate his concept, access mentors and advisors, and get introduced to the Charlotte startup ecosystem.
Recently, Freeman Capital was also awarded a $50,000 NC IDEA grant, which will go toward paid marketing to reach its ideal customers.
“We have grown our social media reach 11 percent month-over-month for the past 12 months, organically,” he explained. “This grant will allow us to build on that growth and increase our organic reach.”
Freeman Capital is currently accepting sign-ups for its next beta round.
When it comes to the Charlotte startup scene, Williams sees its position expanding within the national landscape. And he looks forward to being part of that growth.
“It’s not hard math. It’s a diverse town. There’s support for fintech endeavors, and it’s growing exponentially,” he said.
This story was co-authored by David Stunja and Lexie Banks.
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