Foto: David Meulenbeld

'Financial advice should be accessible to everyone'

Marjolein de Jong27 November 2023

„It's not right that personal financial advice is only available to the wealthy,” argues Ehsan Ramezanifar. „Especially when you consider that over sixty percent of Dutch people admit to being in an unhealthy financial situation.”

Besides being a university lecturer in Finance at VU Amsterdam, you're also the founder of Green WealthTech. Can you explain what this company is all about?

„Green WealthTech aims to make personal financial advice accessible to everyone, not just the super-rich. Through our app, you can set personal financial goals, monitor your financial situation before and after retirement, and evaluate the impact of your finances on the climate. Overall, you gain more control over your finances and can make conscious decisions about your individual CO2 emissions."

What exactly do you mean by the impact of finances on the climate?

„Our money in financial institutions has a significant ecological footprint. Institutions like banks and pension funds invest in your name. These investments might go towards oil and gas companies, and you have almost no control over them. Research in the UK shows that shifting your money from a non-green to a greener institution can cut your personal CO2 emissions by 5,000 kilograms annually. That's equivalent to almost a hundred flights from Amsterdam to London. We want our app to raise awareness about individual CO2 amounts and help people make climate-conscious financial choices."

What's your opinion on the current transparency of Dutch financial institutions, for example?

„I find there's little transparency regarding their financial products. Imagine buying a vacuum cleaner online. Many websites list all pros and cons. At a typical Dutch institution, when investing, you're limited to a few options: high risk, environmentally conscious, or low risk. The real consequences of these options for the future are not clear, despite the availability of such information."

„A recent study shows that over sixty percent of Dutch people report being in an unhealthy financial situation."

How did you come up with the idea?

„In 2020, I was researching with a team at Utrecht University into people's financial behaviour across Europe. I discovered a lot of financial distress partly due to a lack of control over finances. A recent study shows that over sixty percent of Dutch people report being in an unhealthy financial situation. My current co-founder was part of my research team, and we thought: can we devise something to alleviate this pain?"

How do you differentiate yourselves from competitors?

„We don't offer one-dimensional advice for a single goal; we provide a holistic personal overview of what financial choices mean for your overall finances, both before and after retirement. For example, if you plan to buy a house next year, you can immediately see the impact this will have on other financial goals, your retirement, or – depending on whether you get a mortgage – the environment."

I can imagine it might be daunting for people to hand over all their financial data.

„We're considering various layers of control, both in terms of security and through licenses. We plan to work closely with Dutch regulatory authorities to obtain the necessary permits."

„But I must say: it's also part of Dutch culture to find it daunting to transfer financial information. I find that in the US, it's much easier; people take more control of their money. I believe this will change in the Netherlands."

„A lot will change in 2027 regarding pensions. People will then have to actively decide what to do with their pension money. Whether they want pension funds to invest their money sustainably or not. This change underscores the need for greater insight. Currently, people often receive an envelope with pension information every year and don't even open it. They just don't feel in control. But with the new legislation, it becomes their own responsibility."

You chose to join the VU StartHub, a start-up community at VU. What does that bring you?

„What really benefited us was being linked with various mentors. We connected with Ernst & Young and Roland Berger, for instance, who helped refine our business plan and develop our marketing strategy. We also collaborate with law students in their final year. They scan all the legal pitfalls of our company and advise on improvements. They gain practical experience from this, creating a win-win situation."