Yoni Assia, as the CEO and Co-Founder of eToro, the global multi-asset investment platform, is liberalizing the world of finance. He spoke with Efma’s Boris Plantier about his early start in finance, his company’s recent growth, and how a willingness to take risks has led to startup success.
Tell me a little about your background.
I first began trading when I was 13 years old. My father knew a lot about finance and often sat down with me and taught me about trading and the wider financial system. This meant that I was able to make money at a young age and I knew this wasn’t something to take for granted. I soon realized that not everyone has access to someone like my father, so I knew I wanted to find a way to share financial knowledge and make the complex world of finance accessible to more people.
What does your workplace look like?
Our office in Israel is open plan, very modern, with lots of natural light. I don’t have an office. I have a desk on the floor like everyone else. This is really important to me. As we’ve grown as a business we’ve taken more floors within the tower. We are now across four floors and the names of our meeting rooms reflect the diversification of our platform. We started by naming rooms after indices but as we have grown so much we now also cover cryptoassets.
Could you describe your usual working day?
No two days are ever the same. I could be in the office or on the road for meetings with investors or conference speaking opportunities. As our business expands around the world I am spending more time traveling.
What is your favorite food?
What do you do when you need a break from work?
I don’t believe in the daily grind. I love my work. Going to the office is not a chore or a job for me, it’s my passion. My other passion is my family - my wife and four children.
How do you build a successful team?
To scale eToro we needed a broad range of expertise, as eToro is a tech company, a multi-regulated broker and an online marketing company. This is reflected in the composition of our board and management team. As we have grown around the world, we have also been sure to bring onboard the right local expertise. The last two years have seen a rapid growth in eToro’s headcount reflecting both our global expansion and the growth of our crypto offering.
There is a saying that we learn more from failure than success. Tell me about one of your failures and what you have learned from it.
The ‘dare to fail’ has been key to eToro’s success. It is vital to try new ideas and I always urge entrepreneurs to take risks, even if other people tell you you’re crazy. eToro had several false starts. Initially my brother (co-Founder Ronen Assia) and I thought that gamification was the key. However, we soon realized that investors and traders wanted something that was simple in terms of being straightforward, not in the sense of being a game. So, we changed tack and focused on allowing investors to keep track of, and share, their portfolios. This ‘social’ element then evolved so that our users can copy other traders and investors. This ‘copy’ functionality has become our USP.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to succeed in financial services?
I have three pieces of advice for young people who seek a successful career in financial services:
1. Don’t be afraid to be innovative and be patient. Understand that it takes time for new technologies to be adopted - especially within financial services. There are countless examples of this throughout history such as the helicopter or electric power. Blockchain is the latest example.
2. Entrepreneurs tend to be stubborn and to not listen. Passion and persistence will certainly help you achieve success but you also need to learn to listen.
3. Clearly define your target audience and ensure that you have direct contact with them. You need to understand your clients. You will get the most honest and valuable feedback from your clients.