We sat down with Benjamin Corvilain, who recently joined the team as our COO to help us launch the Curvo app and growing the company. We chat with him about his previous work with Credit Suisse, the finance industry and what he’s most excited about in providing a service for Belgian millennials to invest easily in index funds.
Please tell us about yourself and your background
I am a financial markets practitioner and MBA holder with 10+ years of experience in developing trustworthy relationships across various private and institutional client bases. In roles spanning Brussels 🇧🇪, London 🇬🇧 and Geneva 🇨🇭, I’ve worked as a Sales and Relationship Manager, Equity Sales and Regional Business Head. I have a passion for always setting the bar higher, driving a culture of empowerment, inclusion and accountability conducive to maximising results in complex, strictly regulated and constantly evolving environments.
On the private side of things, I am Belgian-British national currently living near Brussels with my wife Anne-Sophie and our three kids, Eleanor (9), Valentine (7) and Edward (5). As a family, we mainly spend our time together cycling or visiting family during the weekends, and enjoy hiking and sailing in Corsica during the summer. On a more personal level, I have the hobby of renovating oldtimers during my spare time and riding my motorbike, a Triumph Thruxton. One day, I’d love to start a car racing team. Last but not least, this year I started to coach the U6 rugby team of our local town, in which my son Edward plays. It enables me to spend some quality time with him and it’s a great feeling to watch him develop.
From the outside, we have a preconceived idea of the world of finance based on films like “The Wolf of Wall Street” and the “Big Short”. Could you describe what the industry is actually like?
Hahaha, I’ve watched both, and I suggest “Margin Call” as another great one for those interested. Joke aside, it would be lying to say that nothing crazy ever happens in the financial industry, as much as it would lying to say that the industry is only filled with Jordan Belfort wannabees. To be honest, most of the people I met during my time in banks were super intelligent professionals trying to do their job in the best way possible. The problem comes from somewhere else… I think the system is broken. Banks, in their quest for growth, profits and shareholder satisfaction have created an environment in which targets and end of year bonuses come before the customer’s interest. It’s a shame because the industry could do so much better if it embraced a cultural shift.
You spent a large part of your career trying to beat the market for your clients with your investments. Why is it so difficult to do so?
Uuuf, this is a tough one. I don’t have a personal answer to this, so allow me to share two quotes and help our readers get my point of view on the subject:
“By periodically investing in an index fund, the great majority of investors can actually outperform most investment professionals.” — Warren Buffet
To me, this quote tells us how a disciplined approach to investing is always a winner. On top of this, Buffet relates to the concept of market efficiency. While he isn’t a proponent of that theory, nor am I, he still accepts the hypothesis that security prices reflect all available information. Still, some have managed to consistently identify lucrative investment opportunities, so perhaps the reality is that while the market is efficient to a certain extent, it isn’t flawless.
However, another very important aspect comes into game when you invest your money in financial markets :
“Investing isn’t about beating others at their game. It’s about controlling yourself at your own game.” — Benjamin Graham
This quote relates to the field of behavioral finance, which proposes that psychological influences and biases affect the financial behaviors of investors (and professionals), leading to irrational market swings. I absolutely agree with that and I think anyone who bought a stock one day can say the same.
There are many other factors that could explain why beating the market is hard. But to conclude, I would simply say that if you’re not an investment professional with access to infinite information (and the time to go through all of it) and if you have a long term horizon, you’ll always be better off by keeping in mind that “time spent in the market” will always beat “timing” the market. Given that, index funds are most probably a safe and sound strategy.
It must be quite the culture shock to come from the traditional finance world and be plunged into Curvo. How has the transition been for you?
A cultural tsunami you mean. Indeed, although taking the leap and reinventing myself is something I always knew I would do one day, I never thought it would be so exciting and difficult at the same time. But I love it, I love the atmosphere that Thomas and Yoran have created, one in which resilience and getting things done is the angular stone during our working hours.
Also, the start-up world offers something diametrically opposed to the traditional corporate world. In all my previous jobs, the only focus was on trying to avoid mistakes at all costs. But at Curvo, we celebrate mistakese because we see them as steps helping us reach our goals.
What are you most excited about what Curvo is working on over the next year?
There are many things I’m excited about with Curvo, but the one aspect that stands out is to see how we are going to add value for the underserved niche we are building the app for and the impact this will have on their savings habits… I feel our product will resonate to many and I’m truly happy to be able to help people start their “saving for the future” journey.
Do you currently invest your savings?
Of course! In the current economic environment, there’s no use in leaving your money in a savings account. Honestly, if you think like this, you better spend it all and at least enjoy it… As far as I’m concerned, I mainly invest with three different objectives in mind:
- My pension: the dream would be to buy a house in Cape Town, South Africa and spend winters there with my wife once we retire, enjoying the sun;
- My kids: save enough money to help them with their future projects;
- My hobbies: being able to buy the next classic car I want to renovate.
Why do you think a service like Curvo is needed?
I believe that Curvo fills an underserved niche. As the younger generation of investors faces a scary financial future, they’re looking for advice on how to save their money better via tools that suit their daily habits. And this is exactly where Curvo is disruptive: on one hand, traditional banks cannot afford to serve those who don’t already hold a substantial amount of money to invest, this due to their high cost structure. On the other hand, existing online platforms and brokers do offer easy access to financial markets but with no advice at all, and are dependent on active trading in order to generate income. At Curvo, we combine the best of both worlds and compile this through a tool that is designed specifically for that niche.
If you have any questions for Ben, feel free to reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org!