Why is elleXX necessary?
Patrizia: Can you guess how many women in Switzerland cannot provide for themselves financially? 56 percent! In other words, 56 percent of women can't support themselves. That's an extreme level of economic dependency. And it is precisely what keeps women down and, above all, stuck. elleXX wants to change this. Money is the final battlefront for gender equality.
Nadine: Money rules the world but women don't have a say in it. Cash flows are one of the most important vectors to create global change. Ultimately, things will stay the same until the big money is flowing in the right direction. Only then will a more sustainable and women-friendly world be created.
Simone: We also want to shake women up a bit and inspire them to close these gaps. That's why we decided to take action rather than just talk about it. We want to offer solutions for every woman, step by step, for a more just future.
Why did you found elleXX?
Patrizia: As a long-time business and stock market journalist, I was frustrated by the fact that men's investments flourished over the years, whilst women were rarely involved. Women hardly invest. Over the past few years, this has once again widened the wealth gap between the sexes, the Gender Wealth Gap. Think of the pandemic: a lot of men have become even wealthier by investing in the stock market, and a lot of women have lost their jobs. This has to change. For me, elleXX is a life's mission. I already wrote the first business plan for elleXX in 2017. When Nadine Jürgensen and Simone Züger came on board, the concept gained momentum.
Well, what was your personal motivation for co-founding elleXX?
Nadine: I had been writing on the topic of equality and the gender gaps for years. A number of women have asked me for advice over the years because of my articles. Seeing the first plan of elleXX in 2019, I knew there was a big need among women. The unfortunate truth is that women have large gaps in their personal financial lives: by living longer, earning less, doing most of the unpaid work for their families, and usually working only part-time. In Switzerland, the Gender Overall Earnings Gap for 2018 is a hefty 43 percent, or about 100 billion francs less income per year for women. We want to encourage women to review their financial situation. Pension poverty is female. That's why Close the Gaps! is our slogan.
Simone: I instantly saw the great potential and felt understood. Being an entrepreneur, I was directly confronted with the task of finding the right pension solution. So far, I had not found a women-friendly, social and sustainable offer. In addition, I never really felt that I was being addressed by the tone of the financial world until now. I would now like to help appeal to those who feel the same way and to make financial topics more accessible. I am convinced that as long as the world of money is male-dominated, equality will be difficult to achieve.
Wait a minute, you've been on it since 2019, so why are you just launching now?
Patrizia: Only about 2 percent of global venture capital flows to women and their ideas. We felt that, too, and had to fight for funding in exactly the same way. Moreover, we wanted women investors on board, but there are practically no female venture capitalists. Most wealthy women invest primarily philanthropically. We quickly had to bury the dream of a bank by women for women and get more creative.
Nadine: This is exactly why we had to keep refining the business plan. We've done a lot in the past few months with incredibly few resources. Liip, a digital company, was one of the first to believe in us. Without them, this ambitious platform development of elleXX would not have been possible.
What do you want to achieve with elleXX?
Patrizia: Our aim is to shake things up, to touch people and to encourage them. If we could break the taboo of "money" and start a new, honest dialogue about money in Switzerland, we would be overjoyed. We must also get away from this negative concept of money. The subject of money is not just about blind consumption and about oneself. Above all, money can do a lot for others and the environment. That's why it's so important for women to invest. Particularly because they also tend to invest in a more sustainable and meaningful way.
Nadine: Many women are downright afraid of the terms related to investing and making provisions, and believe that it's not for them. But that's not true at all! We are convinced that women want to be addressed differently when it comes to finance. We try to make the highly regulated world of finance comprehensible and want to offer solutions for women's different financial situations. Up until now, men have been designing products for men and neglecting the needs of women.
Simone: We found female cooperation partners who believe in us and our idea, and support our vision. It is our goal to achieve an equal society or at least to pave another piece on the way to it. Women's participation and access to their finances and resources are an important milestone in this process.
But surely there are already enough financial products and blogs?
Patrizia: According to the Black Rock Investor Pulse study, 85% of women don't feel addressed by financial industry content at all. Financial jargon is often unnecessary and off-putting. Investing is not that complex.
Simone: Many banking and insurance websites are also designed in a dull way - as are media websites, by the way. But we want to do justice to women and the topic. Women have a high standard when it comes to design. Another major objective for me is to transfer emotions into the digital world and thus make financial topics more accessible. We want to draw attention to these gaps that exist in society through surprising and artistically staged actions. As an artist, I also want to bring a transformational quality to the topic, moving away from a taboo to a relatable, even playful approach.
Patrizia: A lot of people, unfortunately, underestimate design. Even though Steve Jobs taught us better years ago. We want our readers to feel comfortable. Design is a sign of respect and appreciation toward our users.
Aren't there already sustainable and women-friendly investment products?
Patrizia: Take a closer look at these products. For example, the top 20 ESG funds, or sustainable funds, are teeming with oil companies. Data from the Economist also shows that "green" investments are full of dirty investments. In some cases, they even contain shares in defense contractors. This is simply outrageous in the truest sense of the word! Sustainability criteria in the financial industry are not regulated and binding. Comparability and transparency are non-existent. That's why we had to take a close look at each stock ourselves in the elleXX equity product.
Simone: Often, as an average consumer, you can't even look at all the stocks, but only the top five. We want transparency and disclose every single company.
Nadine: It's a jungle out there - fees, performance, ESG ratings - we've sort of fought our way through it and found a solution that we as founders can back and also invest in ourselves. "elleXX approved", so to speak. This way, we want to make it easier for many women to start investing.
How did you select the stocks?
Patrizia: We chose a big data approach: in addition to the classic investment analyses, we incorporated research studies, rankings, media reports, social media screenings, but also evaluations by female employees. In the end, we researched each company again individually. We immediately kick out a company if it violates our investment philosophy. There must be consequences. We want to take measures. Otherwise it has no impact. And only an actively managed product can do that.
What is the investment philosophy?
Patrizia: We invest in a sustainable and women-friendly way. We want to support those companies that eliminate the gender gap in the workplace. We invest in companies whose products help women and improve their well-being and lives.
Simone: It is also mandatory and natural for us to invest our own money in the elleXX products as well.
3rd pillar products are much more complex though?
Patrizia: Indeed. Pillar 3 is extensively regulated under BVV 3 and excludes many stocks and funds. We were able to implement our sustainability strategy, but we had many more restrictions and some of the women-friendly funds were too small to be included. As sad as it is, we are only at the very beginning with women-friendly products, which also go under Equality or Gender Lens Investing. Globally, only a small absolute figure resides in these products. But initiatives like elleXX will change that.
Nadine: We are grateful that we have found a cooperation partner willing to tackle this pioneering work with us in the highly regulated third pillar. We are convinced that over time we can convince many people of this solution, with an increasing number of funds that also work for tied pensions.
You also offer legal protection insurance, why?
Nadine: A lawyer costs several hundred francs per hour - the hurdle to defend oneself against injustice can be very high. It was very important to us that protection for women be expanded in two areas: The first area is labor disputes under the Equal Opportunities Act. For example, dismissal because of maternity, unequal wages - many women have experienced this and have not done anything about it. Without financial means and support, it's hard for women to stand up for themselves, even if they are discriminated against based on their gender or pregnancy. We want to make it easier for them. I was inspired by the story of Natalie Urwyler, who sued for her rights without legal protection and is such a great role model for many women. In the Money Talk that I had with her for elleXX, she said: "I recommend getting legal protection insurance as soon as you begin professional life."
I recommend getting legal protection insurance as soon as you begin your professional life.
You mentioned two subjects: Does the legal protection insurance also protect in the case of a divorce?
Nadine: The second coverage area is family law matters. We have negotiated with our partner that an insured person can seek advice on marriage and divorce law up to CHF 15,000 (taking parental leave into account), e.g. in mediation or in setting up a divorce or dissolution convention. Even if it goes to court, the costs are covered within this framework. As far as I know, no other legal protection offers this. Having seen many divorce proceedings as a court reporter, I know that legal costs are an additional worry at a time when things are bad enough. We want to alleviate this, at least partially, with this legal protection. It's important to mention that the two areas (labor disputes and family law) are services we offer in addition to all other matters usually covered under legal protection i.e. contracts, traffic, ruined holidays, etc. You can find out more here.
What are your experiences as founders?
Simone: After my studies and experiences in agencies, I noticed that I was always oriented towards design studios and agencies that were run by men - I lacked female role models in my industry. That's why I launched an initiative to better connect and exchange ideas with women in the creative industries, which often involved insurance topics, retirement solutions, and general financial products. This gave me first-hand experience of the state of personal pension provision in my environment. But there was no satisfactory offer. As a designer and artist, I am constantly confronted with trying out new things and going down unknown paths. This is exactly what we do with elleXX. It always requires a portion of courage to leave the familiar and dive into the unknown.
Nadine: As a one-person company, I have been on the road for quite some time, but founding our own corporation, building the elleXX platform, negotiating with cooperation partners for many years, and concluding numerous contracts before the launch was exciting and at the same time very time-consuming. We had many long nights of negotiations. And we had some low points during which we feared that the deals would fall through and months of work would become obsolete. Since there are not so many all-female startups in Switzerland, we would like to pass on our knowledge to other women in the future. Legally, there was a ton of work anyway, so my original training as a lawyer came in handy.
Patrizia: I've had my own limited company for years and produced the tri-national business program DACHelles myself. That's how I gained entrepreneurial experience. But elleXX blew everything away. To be honest, at times I felt like a machine. We worked around the clock and often I couldn't sleep because so much was whirling through my head at the same time. At the end of the day, the most important thing about entrepreneurship is a strong, understanding environment that supports and sustains you. Many thanks to my husband, my family, and my mother.
Nadine: I can only agree - my husband has been incredibly supportive over the last few months and we've been living a completely different family model than we used to together. I am very grateful for this new partnership. We are also proud of how independent our two children have become.
Simone: While we're on the thank-you circuit - my environment has of course also been very supportive. Our daughter recently turned one year young, I could never have been so committed to elleXX without the invaluable support of my parents and mother-in-law. And my partner has not only supported me, but as a financial market law specialist has spent countless hours advising us. Merci!
Something completely different: Are men actually allowed to invest with you?
Nadine: Of course! Everyone is invited. There are also quite a few men who don't feel addressed by the usual financial jargon and also prefer a more equal and sustainable world. Equality only works together anyway. The more of us who stand up for the same values, the faster something will move. I think real men are also those who stand up for their feminine side and meet other people - not just men - at eye level. Real men support elleXX.