Engage, don’t divest: Meet the fintech reinventing activist investing

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

Fintech Tulipshare hopes to reinvent activist investing to allow retail investors to engage more with the companies they own, according to Jenna Luvin, CMO.

Jenna has worked at several more traditional financial companies, including Fidelity. With Tulipshare, she wished to work in a role that made financial services feel more accessible and fair.

“[In traditional firms] it was made to seem out of reach and complex; no-one wants to dumb down and answer the majority’s questions.”

She says that corporate governance has never been “sexy” previously, but ESG and impact investing has now achieved mainstream interest.

Tulipshare aims to turn positive outcomes into a reality but through engagement at the grassroots level. Despite the surge in individual investors in recent years, Jenna says that most people don’t understand core concepts like AGMs.

She notes that shareholders “don’t feel like owners of the business, and that’s a big problem.”

Tulipshare is billed as “change.org meets retail investing”. Rather than signing a petition, activists place their money at the service of a campaign. Typical examples are the proposal that Amazon should conduct an independent audit of working conditions, or one demanding Apple adopts fairer repair policies.

With the world facing big challenges such as climate change or racial discrimination, Tulipshare makes the case for engaging with big companies. A company such as Apple has a total market value larger than the GDP of most countries, Jenna notes.

“Even if you say you’ll only invest in green companies, the big companies aren’t going anywhere.”

Previously, Jenna says, the activist investing space has been dominated by large players such as hedge funds, and focused on increasing profitability at companies rather than progressive change. Efforts by active investors to reach out to retail investors have been limited.

The company launched in July and has already attracted attention through engagement with media and its production of content.

In terms of marketing activities, the initial focus has been on content, with education a key part of this. Tulipshare’s blog contains a mix of insights, whether about specific activities it is undertaking (‘What happened with the Salesforce AGM?’) and basic introductions to key topics (‘What is system level investing?’).

This aims to address the disempowerment that many investors feel; Jenna highlights a poll finding that the majority of people who own shares don’t feel they are the acting governing body of that company.

“[People are] owning things but not feeling like the owner and empowered to speak. Nothing has made it easy for retail investors to participate.”

Another part of the strategy is media engagement. An advantage is that the subjects of the campaigns make them inherently publicity-generating due to the big names involved, such as Apple and Amazon. It has also partnered with NGOs such as Make My Money Matter to further awareness.

The customer growth numbers show that there is interest, Jenna says.

“People want to get involved and feel like they’re part of something bigger. When people start to see this is actually real, and you can drive change with a dollar, it’s much easier to convert users than you’d think.”

The company talks about change, rather than about returns and wealth.

“Where some brands make mistakes is not disrupting conversations.”

“If you’re going to launch a company that’s disruptive, you have to disrupt some of the conversations that are currently happening. It is quite reflective to our approach to marketing.”

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