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Profile: How Strawberry plans to shake up discretionary distribution

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by David Campbell on Jun 06, 2014 at 11:37

Exeter is many things: home to one of England’s most charming cathedral squares, and unfortunate proof of the abilities of both the Luftwaffe and British post-war town planning. It is not, however, a place that has ever felt close to the white heat of technological revolutions, whether industrial, space age or digital.

This makes it a slightly unusual place to encounter a company often compared to disruptive discretionary businesses such as Nutmeg.

At little more than three months old, direct-to-consumer platform Strawberry Invest is still more promise than actuality, but founder James Priday (pictured), director of fledgling discretionary business Prydis Wealth, has no doubts about the potential.

‘When we looked at the research, it said that [individuals with] £72 billion in investable assets would consider investing via an online platform,’ says Priday, one of this year’s Wealth Manager Top 30 Under 30 managers. ‘Even if we only win a very small amount of that, it would really be a very big thing.’

He adds the company deliberately set up Strawberry Invest as a standalone business with a different client profile and strategic aims to the parent company.

‘Charles Stanley has developed Charles Stanley Direct, and while they are a well-funded company that will obviously make a success of it, there is an element of saying “come to us for excellent management and broking” and then saying “yeah, just do it yourself”. We didn’t want to muddy what we do [as Prydis].’

Challenger brand

Entirely self-funded, Strawberry Invest remains very much the challenger brand in the developing field of discretionary platforms, with much more limited functionality (and marketing) than its larger, venture capital-backed peers.

But the company has turned thrift into a virtue, with a simple and clean user interface it says is less intimidating to regular savers than full-spectrum investment research and modelling tools. It has also overcome its lack of advertising budget with an enthusiastic social media presence, which has brought it national attention. 

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