Wealthsimple tells its origin story with eyes on the future

The fintech company focuses on how its CEO is one of "half a million Mikes" ahead of plans to expand its offering.


With its new campaign, Wealthsimple is telling its company origin story to build on its simplicity and inclusivity messaging ahead of plans to launch new financial products.

“Half a Million Mikes” is premised on the claim that there are more than 450,000 “Mikes” in Canada. One of these is Wealthsimple co-founder and CEO Michael Katchen, and his story of going from numbers geek to reluctant Bay Street whiz is told in the spot, which emphasizes that Wealthsimple products are for everyone, not just for “1%-ers.”

“Half a Million Mikes” was developed in-house and directed by the same director who shot Wealthsimple’s 2016 “Mad World” spot.

Mike Giepert, ECD at Wealthsimple, tells strategy that he and the company’s co-founder Rudy Adler worked together at agency Wieden + Kennedy, and saw an opportunity to build a strong in-house creative team. As the company grows, he says, the brand may turn to an external agency for assistance, but for now it’s been able to handle all the creative itself.

“We launched the company with a product that is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to advertise,” Giepert jokes, referring to the company’s low-cost passive investing offerings, which automatically invests money through a digital platform. That can be a nebulous concept to explain, but its important to do when your products require people to literally hand their life savings over to your company.

“Building trust is still a huge part of what we do with all our advertising,” Giepert says.

The tools that Katchen and the Wealthsimple team created were built with a consumer in mind who is not necessarily high net worth. To that end, “Half a Million Mikes,” Giepert says, has a higher production value and is meant to entertain and be fun.

“We intentionally went a bit wider in our range with the target,” he says. The 30- to 35-year-old demo has been Wealthsimple’s sweet spot, and for a long time its average user has been 34. For this campaign offering, it shifted slightly older. This reflects a broader product offering that now includes services like high-interest saving, stock trading and tax services, which work just as well for someone 10 years away from retirement as it does for someone three decades away.

“We don’t want to be pigeonholed as a brand for millennials,” he says.

Giepert says that brand awareness has always been a big part of its strategy, since if clients can better understand its basic ethos, it can eventually grasp more technologically advanced offerings, weather it’s a savings account or tax software. Wealthsimple has hinted plans to expand into new financial services, with Katchen previously saying he wants to make the brand “a full-stack” financial service. The company registered three new business names last year – Wealthsimple Digital Assets, Wealthsimple Payment and Wealthsimple Cash – and even though the company has not said what services it may offer under these names, Katchen has recently told The Globe & Mail that a chequing account was among the company’s plans.