Zero to trading hero: Learn to invest with these online platforms


Words by

CEO of Blip Media Digital Marketing Consultancy

After a sharp decline in 2018, the Philippine Stock Exchange Composite Index (PSEi) rebounded in the first half of 2019, making it the third best performing index in Southeast Asia. In the first six months of the year, many prominent unicorns such as Uber, Lyft, and Slack debuted in the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). And after being valued below USD 3,500 last February, Bitcoin breached the USD 10,000 mark last June. 

All of these are interesting news bites, but they unfortunately fall on deaf ears for a majority of the population. In a national survey on financial inclusion, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) revealed that only three percent of Filipino adults invest their money in stocks, bonds, pooled funds, and other similar vehicles. The BSP added that the top three reasons why Filipinos weren’t investing were the lack of money from unemployment, the high cost needed to invest, and not being aware of the available options.

Fortunately, there are several digital platforms that are addressing these barriers to investing and making it much more accessible to the country’s tech-savvy population. From low minimum investment amounts to virtual trading, these platforms are introducing innovative ways to get the risk-averse Filipino to see the importance in investing their hard-earned money.

Here are four of these platforms helping Filipinos get started with their investing journey:

GCash’s Invest Money

Almost all investment vehicles in the Philippines require a minimum capital of P5,000 to start investing. While that’s already relatively low, especially compared to minimum amounts in traditional platforms, that’s still a hefty amount for most Filipinos.

That’s what mobile wallet app GCash aims to address with its Invest Money feature, which allows users to invest in mutual funds for a minimum of only P50. GCash also makes it easier for investors as they can manage their investments all within the app, such as adding more capital, transferring them to a different mutual fund, or redeeming the investments.

On top of having a very low cost of entry, GCash also allows Filipinos to invest in funds without needing to go to a bank branch and opening an account. Interested investors only need to register for a GCash account and fill up a few documents through thr mobile application. This allows GCash to not only reach Filipinos without investments, but even those without formal financial accounts.

ATRAM’s Seedbox

While GCash’s Invest Money feature makes investing much more accessible, it only offers a handful of mutual funds as options. In reality, there are many mutual funds available that cater to investors with different appetites for risk. Some funds are made for those who are more conservative with their capital, while others appeal to those who are more aggressive with their investments.

Although many investment houses offer a wide variety of funds, one of the very few that offers a comprehensive online facility is ATR Asset Management (ATRAM)’s Seedbox. In partnership with Indonesia’s Indivira Group, ATRAM launched Seedbox to make it easier for individuals to invest in its mutual funds online. By registering with their platform and with a minimum capital of P1,000, users can choose to invest in one of ATRAM’s 10 mutual funds, each with varying degrees of risk. The entire process happens within the Seedbox platform, making it more seamless and more convenient for potential investors.

For those unfamiliar with the compositions of the different types of mutual funds, Seedbox also offers mutual fund packages based on an investor’s personal risk appetite, covering a spectrum between conservative and aggressive. On top of these, the Seedbox website also has a built-in goal planner for those who have a specific end-goal with their investments, allowing them to visualize how they can grow their capital in a specified amount of time.

Investagrams’s vTrade

Though it is not mentioned in the BSP survey, one other factor preventing Filipinos from investing is that many are inexperienced and afraid of losing their money to poor investment choices.

Fintech startup Investagrams offers a simple but effective solution with its Virtual Trading platform called vTrade. By becoming an Investagrams member, vTrade will provide users with virtual money that they can then use to practice investing in one of the most volatile investment instruments: stocks. They can then see their virtual capital increase and decrease in value depending on their chosen trades, allowing them to experience the volatility of stock trading without actually losing money.

When members are ready to move on to the real thing, Investagrams offers digital tools to analyze price movements and indicators of the over 250 stocks in the PSE. The platform also has a social media component encouraging members to interact with each other by sharing strategies, recommending stocks, and giving advice.

eToro’s CopyTrader

While the tools offered by Investagrams allow users to learn the basics of stock trading, forming a solid strategy takes years of experience. Investors with consistent returns on investment today all had to go through long spells of losses before figuring out the strategy that worked for them.

But one way new investors can receive the same benefits as their experienced counterparts is through eToro, an international social investing platform. With its CopyTrader feature, eToro users can go through the platform’s extensive database of experienced investors and choose which ones they’d want to copy. This means that any investments bought or sold by the expert investor will also be executed in the user’s capital, allowing them to receive the same profits (and losses) as the expert investor.

Similar to Investagrams, eToro allows its members to practice using its CopyTrader feature with virtual money. However, unlike the rest of the platforms listed above, eToro enables its users to invest in vehicles all over the world, from stock markets and exchange traded funds based in other countries to foreign exchanges and cryptocurrencies. This gives Filipino investors the chance to diversify their portfolios and find more opportunities beyond what’s available in the local market.

With these digital platforms, investing has become simpler, more accessible, and more inclusive than ever before. By giving investors more control over their capital and by introducing innovative tools that increase awareness and even decrease risk, these digital investment platforms all aim to cultivate investing as a means for profit among Filipinos.