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Scaling Up: Democratising the investment industry with Alex Vynokur, CEO and Founder of BetaShares
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27 Oct 2022
Scaling Up Democratising The Investment Industry With Alex Vynokur, Ceo And Founder Of Betashares (830 × 530 Px)

Alex Vynokur joins us to discuss the scaling story of BetaShares. This episode begins all the way back in Alex’s childhood growing up in Soviet Ukraine and follows with multiple nuggets on how BetaShares creates a culture of innovation. Enjoy!

 

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Transcript: 

 

Ed (02:48): Alex, what an absolute pleasure to have you on scaling up. There’s going to be so many wonderful words of wisdom, no doubt, because your story resonates with me on so many levels. I love the grit, the determination of not just your life story, but also the founding story of BetaShares. Let’s start there. Let’s start with your history, your background, and we’ll see where this takes us.

Alex (03:09): That sounds great. Good to be with you. I’ll try not to disappoint on the on the words of wisdom.

Ed (03:14): Can we go back to you arriving in Australia as a 16-year-old?

Alex (03:19): I was born in Soviet Ukraine, I grew up there and for quite some time as we were growing up, my family was considering how to get out basically. And it wasn’t easy while Soviet Union was intact. But finally in 93, at the end of 1993, we got permission to leave. That was after Soviet Union fell apart, and in March 94 we arrived in Australia, quite an experience.

Ed (03:47): My understanding is at that point you didn’t speak any English.

Alex (03:50): That’s correct. As you can tell, I probably still struggle from time to time, but yes, we didn’t speak English, but it’s one of those situations and I think it’s a story that is very common with a lot of immigrants. You kind of sink or swim basically, so you’re placed in an environment where you have to start learning fast.

Ed (04:11): In terms of swimming. You might well have broken the 50-meter freestyle record. Can we pull back the curtain back, so to speak? On, growing up in the Soviet Union seems a very foreign thing for anyone who’s grown up in beautiful and lucky Sydney, Australia. Can you describe your upbringing, the things that were dear to you at the time, and I’m always a big believer in those formative years, really creating a sense of your values and philosophies that hold you in greater stead for life as it starts to flourish. How was your upbringing and how did it shape your thinking today?

Alex (04:45): Great question. There were several important forces that influenced my childhood and, and upbringing. First of all, family, I am very lucky to have been born into a very loving and a very selfless family. So even though life in Soviet Union was quite difficult, I never felt difficulties, I never felt problems, I felt a lot of love and a lot of support from my family. So, my family has really been the most important and a very important sort of formative obviously factor and that meant that I was encouraged to be at my best, basically at whatever that was. And like most Soviet kids, I grew up playing chess piano being good at math or relatively good at math. Now my son is shaming me, but those were really important.

I think the war and the background of my family and a number of very close members of my family perished in World War II, had a very big impact onto the psyche. Definitely cherishing each day and cherishing the family and making most of it has been always very, very important. And I think the third thing, which is kind of more specific, I guess to the Soviet regime is that the regime was always so restrictive that part of the mindset that I’ve observed from some of my closest family members and my late grandfather probably in particular, has been the fact that you have to look for opportunity. If you, just go with the flow the system will not provide anything to you. You really need to be proactive, and you need to look out for opportunities.

Ed (06:31): That’s a wonderful lesson and will get into how you saw an opportunity in BetaShares. One thing, while we are talking about the Soviet Union, to me BetaShares, is democratizing investing. And there’s this nice narrative, I’m probably not the first to try and elicit this, but growing up in the Soviet Union, creating a business that democratizes in a very fair and equal way people access to great companies all around the world. Do you ever reflect on that and think that those formative years actually shaped your views on the business that you have today?

Alex (07:09): Undoubtedly, undoubtedly, it’s a really good observation. That is absolutely the fact. I think back in my childhood in Soviet Ukraine, pretty much everybody was equal. I mean, they were equally poor, but equal, people didn’t understand the concept of wealth creation other than the fact that you have to work hard and try to earn basically whatever you can. The only investment that was available at the time were government bonds, basically government pay. But you could buy like literal physical, like sort of bearer bonds basically, which would pay you nothing, but at least would kept your money safe and most people would keep their money under the mattress, back in the day. So, I definitely, back in my childhood knew or my understanding was there, the only way to really create wealth is to work very hard.

There was no understanding of the fact that you can actually make your money work hard whatever it is that you’ve saved. Frankly, I always grew up with an understanding that investing was only for the rich. And we came to Australia with nothing like we had no money. And I remember very clearly having that hope in me and the ambition and the desire in me to one day, be able to invest. But understanding that it’s really only something that you can do when you’re rich. Over time, as I got a little bit more educated and understood a little bit more about the world of investing, it definitely motivated me greatly to enable everyone to get ahead in life and to enable everyone to make progress financially, no matter where you start whether you’re starting with very little like we did when we came to Australia, or whether you have a meaningful amount of savings.

Ed (08:51): So wonderful and inspiring mission that you’re on. Let’s get into the BetaShare’s founding story, as it were. I think the time lapse as you presented it came to Australia at 16 incredibly, a double degree finance and law. Most people can only dream of that.

Alex (09:06): They had very low standards. They had very low admission standards back at the time at UNSW.

Ed (09:11): Having gone from no English to a double degree in six years blows my mind and talks to the grit and dedication of you as a person, and you’ve applied that to BetaShares. Let’s fast forward to 2008. The GFC is well and truly underway, and you saw an opportunity.

Alex (09:29): The opportunity with, with ETFs have actually been on my mind for quite a few years, before then, but as always you kind of look for the right time, basically. I had prior to starting, BetaShares, had the chance to work with a number of traditional active fund managers and the one thing that I’ve observed is that, I mean, they’re all very smart highly educated people. But despite that in statistics the scoreboard is very clear that three quarters of active managers cannot outperform the index, basically, it’s just a reality. Whether you are in Australia, whether you are in the US, whether in Europe, whether you’re managing money in equities, on bonds that’s just statistics. And it became very apparent to me that there must be an opportunity to make index investing more available.

And then I stumbled across the ETF vehicle and started following it for a while. Eventually in 2008 in 2009 we, we went live, British shows went live in December 2010. A bit of time spent on research, and I actually went to the US and spent a bit of time actually in the us interviewing everybody that I possibly could and just picking people’s brains and just begging for favors basically, and just asking for people to, to spend time with me. It became very apparent to me that there’s a great opportunity to build this business in Australia. And interestingly enough, if I may just take a small detour the ETF industry itself was actually born after the great crash of 1987. So, this is a bit of an old story. I hope not to bore you with it.

Ed (11:07): No not at all.

Alex (11:09): But not all the American Exchange AMEX at the time was desperate. Was desperate to get out of financial STR after the 1987 crash and they had a 70-year-old physicist who was still working there. He came up with the idea of essentially creating this rapper, which would allow investors to trade baskets of stocks baskets of bonds essentially trade managed funds, create a rapper, a convenient rapper which allows investors to pass on that managed fund to each other in a convenient and a cost-effective way. It’s really interesting. So, a physicist actually invented ETFs, that’s number one. And they were also born after the after the financial crisis.

Ed (11:52):I was going to, to touch on, on the history of ETFs, because I think it plays into BetaShares. What I’m curious is the opportunity, as you saw it, when you have an idea, you can either do something better than what is already being done, and ETFs, as you say, and have alluded to already existed, particularly in the States, or you can do something new. And in this case, you decided to do something better. What was the proposition that you were trying to convey, particularly in Australia where it was probably more nascent than in the States and how it played into the opportunity that you saw?

Alex (12:25): Yeah, so look first and foremost, having spent a reasonable amount of time in the financial services industry prior to starting the business, it was very clear to me that there’s a big difference between a great idea and actually turning that great idea into a business. I have been possessed by this concept of focus on execution for a very, very long time. I had felt that yes, it’s a competitive industry globally, and it is a competitive industry in Australia, but it’s always important to try to apply to your strengths, recognizing what you’re good at, recognizing what you’re not good at. And the business case for BetaShares early on, it’s a little bit different to, to what it is today. We’ve evolved and we’ve learned a lot of lessons, but at a very high level, of course it’s centered around the secular trend of rebalance basically between the vast majority of mining being managed actively, even though the vast majority of active managers don’t perform, to finding some sort of equilibrium where there is a better balance between active investing and index investing.

That was first and foremost and then in terms of our right to exist under the sun as a business and be able to compete with some of the strongest financial services players globally was really focused on a, the Australian customer, the Australian client, understanding the needs and building solutions for that client as opposed to being an export led business where you’re making existing solutions that might exist in other parts of the world available. And then working hard and working smart trying to be innovative and not take anything for granted.

Ed (14:03): Maybe it’s worth digging into what you saw in the Australian market specifically, because there are some characteristics and traits in this local market that has made BetaShares what it is today.

Alex (14:16): Certainly, certainly every market of course is different, and Australia is no exception. There are some very specific nuances of Australia. I think number one Australian investment market is very much a retail driven, Australian ETF market is very much a retail market. It’s very different to what it is in Europe. Europe is predominantly institutional, US is probably 50-50 a mix of sort of hedge funds, actively managed funds, other institutional and allocators in retail. Australia is very much a retail dominant.

Ed (14:47): Are we talking 80, 90%?

Alex (14:50): Yeah, probably close to 90%.

Ed (14:52): And broken up of self-managed super funds and what you’d call retail investors as directed by brokers.

Alex (14:59): Yep. So, I would say of the 90, if we use that approximately, I’d say about half are completely self-directed and the other half are advised by financial advisors, by brokers. And the remainder is institutional, basically. It’s very much a retail market. Again, if we rewind back to the day of formation of BetaShares, there were a couple of things that were really interesting and fascinated me at the time. Australia obviously has a very small population, but we have a very significant retirement savings pool, right? Fourth largest in the world thanks to the compulsory superannuation regime. The vast majority of SMSF investors have a brokerage account. And what was available through that brokerage account was basically Aussie stocks at the time was just Aussie shares. You can buy BHB, you can sell NAB, you can buy Telstra, you can sell Woolies.

It was very clear to me at the time that the only way for us to have a viable pension system, basically, and SMSF industry of course is part of their pension system, is to get exposure to global markets. It was very, very apparent to me, and I thought that ETFs are going to be a fantastic vehicle to deliver that exposure. So back to your question of what’s specific about Australia, it’s very different when you’re sitting in the US and your market is give or take half of the global benchmark and the world. It’s a very different urge to diversify globally than one has to a situation that we have in Australia where we are a tiny proportion of the global GDP and Australian market is a very small portion of, of the global benchmark. We need to look outside of our home ground in order to have a sustainable future as investors. That to me was very clear, I think the ETF industry provided and absolutely does provide very convenient, very cost effective and transparent access to the global markets, whether it’s global equities, whether it’s any particular sectors, technology, et cetera, fixed income, the list goes on.

Ed (17:09): And that’s become clearer and this strategic move that you’ve made has really propelled BetaShares to just a size and scale that now is really dominating the industry. I think you were the first to, to have a NASDAQ 100 ETF, which you’d think of as, it’s a pretty vanilla ETF, so to speak, but it now feels as though this kind of second act of the first horizon was international in terms of bringing the ability to invest internationally to Australian retail investors. The next little moment is around it feels, and correct me if I’m wrong, thematic investing, be it ESG or any other thematic that you can think of. I’ve heard of metaverse indexes popping up here and there, but that certainly feels as though BetaShares has grown to a size and scale, but you’re only just warming up.

Alex (18:00): It’s a very, very good observation and in fact, quite often when we sit down with the team and talk about where the business is at, I honestly feel today and I had that feeling over the course of the last 12 months or so, that we are really at a moment of almost second founding of the business, basically, as if we are starting again, which is a pretty incredible feeling. I talk to my wife about it a lot, I just feel very, very lucky and very blessed to be in this position because unlike in 2010 of course when, when we launched our first funds, we have an incredible, incredible team. I mean, we had a great team, it was on only a team of six back in 2010. Today we have an incredible team with so much more depth, with so much more capability, and we are continuing to find opportunities to lift the bar basically, and to continue innovating, continue delivering opportunities to our clients. So today I feel as excited, in fact, probably more excited and more motivated and more driven for the next decade than I was back when we started the company.

Ed (19:11): And you talked to initially almost that counter position of providing products that the consumers wanted. Are you seeing this huge ground swell to thematic and ESG investing?

Alex (19:24): Oh yes, yes. Look, the way I think about it, I think about it in quite simple terms. And often think about the expression that Warren Buffet uses when he talks about himself. He says, I invest in what I know. I think the truth is that most investors actually invest in what they know and if I look at the asset allocation of the typical Australian investor sort of 20 years ago, 10 years ago even, you’d basically see the big four banks because they’re on every street corner and Telstra, because you get your phone bills from Telstra and Woolies because you go shopping at Woolies. And maybe a few other stocks and people have actually in Australia, like everywhere else have been investing in what they know. Now over time, of course globalization, world economy has changed a lot.

I mean, today we are all carrying iPhones or Samsung devices we are using social media we’re using Facebook and Google or Meta now of course Google and sort of similar companies we become clients or customers of those. I think the thematic investing space, just tying it back to what you asked, thematic investing is essentially allowing people to invest in what they know. So, if you think about cybersecurity, we have a very successful cybersecurity ETF hack people know cybersecurity is an issue. It’s very simple. I mean, you don’t have to even refer to the recent scandals basically of hacking and some of the other issues. But people know that they have to protect themselves, governments and corporates investing, hundreds of billions of dollars basically to strengthen their cyber security posture. It’s a great investment if you participate in the cyber security industry. And the same goes on for others, whether it’s robotics, whether it’s automation, whether it is clean energy. I mean, those are themes which are very accessible. People understand them, they invest in what they know, and ETFs deliver that opportunity in a very accessible way.

Ed (21:24): It feels though you’re almost in amongst this perfect storm of you have these not only incumbent ETF providers that you have been disrupting, but also the incumbent index providers. And all of a sudden there are these younger, nimble index providers that allow for this thematic investing to take place. And they’re spinning up indexes in, I don’t know, a week, two weeks where the incumbents were taking six months, 12 months to maybe put out a ASX 200.

Alex (21:53): That’s great point. The innovation in indexing has been absolutely mind blowing. Over the course of the last decade when BetaShares started, the vast majority of investors associated index investing with broad diversified market capitalization in indexes like MSCI World or ASX 200 S&P 500 today. We’ve got the traditional index businesses, the S&P and NASDAQs and FTSE of this world, but we also have firms such as Solactive, who are absolutely shaking up the world of indexing they work fast, they bring fresh ideas to the table, and that ultimately enables the industry to continue lifting the bar. I mean, there’s definitely a lot more indices available out there in the market today than even five years ago, three years ago. That’s continuing to evolve.

Ed (23:06): Just to put a wrap on Horizon one, BetaShare’s gone from zero to 23 billion in funds under management, incredible. In 11 years, it’s 25% market share in Australia. There’s no doubt that the market will probably grow from a hundred billion to 500 billion in the next five to seven years. So, you’ve got room to grow organically, no doubt. You’re thinking from an asset accumulation point of view, there might be some international opportunities. What does Horizon two look like? And I guess the question is, what permission do you feel like you now have to create a whole range of products for the retail investor having gained their trust through such a wonderful business that you’ve built already?

Alex (23:48): That’s a question that I’m thinking about a lot and I’m thinking about it a lot with my, with my colleagues, of course. First and foremost, we are incredibly fortunate to have the trust of almost a million Australians. We are working every day to gain that trust and to maintain that trust because trust is not something that one ever can take for granted. It’s very easy to lose trust if you abuse it and we have a very strong grounding as a team and very strong understanding that that trust can never be taken for granted. So, whatever it is that we do we need to make sure that we deliver on the important things that have that have gotten us to where we are. So, what those are, are first of all, trying to provide value for money transparent financial products or financial services.

We definitely have an opportunity to do more with our clients. We would love to do more with our clients. There are some areas, if I was to drill into it a little bit, we certainly feel that financial literacy in Australia still has a way to go. We think there is a need for a future manager of investor assets to help those investors make more sound investment decisions, or in some cases prevent investors from making mistakes. I don’t see a world where sort of we employ a team of financial advisors, but I certainly feel that technology is starting to bridge the gap of what is possible. We certainly hope, I certainly hope that in the future we will be able to utilize technology to help our clients make better financial decisions.

Ed (25:37): I love the theme of creating not just a country, but a world with greater financial literacy, having lived in the world of, of athletes and a lack of financial literacy in just in that very small cohort. Something I’m, I’m very passionate about. So, I’ve kind of gone through the growth opportunity I think it’s emerged pretty quickly what your competitive advantages are, be it brand and scale and counter position. What else do you think of that makes BetaShares such a special business? How do you think about your own competitive advantage that we may not have drawn out already?

Alex (26:12): The biggest competitive advantage we have is people, our people is something that I’m much more proud of than anything else. I mean, we can focus, of course, and often external observers of course, focus on the metrics that are measurable and our assets under management is measurable, and our revenues are measurable as are profits. And of course, I am very proud of all of those, but that pales in comparison to the sense of pride and the sense of achievement I have when I walk into the office every day. I love walking to the office every day and be surrounded by this incredible, incredible group of people. We have so much in common as a team, and that gives me so much pride and that is absolutely a competitive advantage because I often think about the world of business in a way which is very similar to my upbringing of playing chess.

When you play chess, you have to have a game plan in mind before you sit with an opponent and you’re about to start a game. If you don’t have a game plan in mind, you’ll be wiped out pretty quickly. You need to have a game plan, but at the same time, it’s much more important to be able to adjust your game plan and to be able to respond to the moves that your opponent is making. And Magnus Carlsen I mean, he’s obviously regarded as one of the best players, if not the best player in the world. But one of the things that’s special about Magnus Carlsen is that he throws curve balls at his opponents all the time. He doesn’t play the traditional game and in the world of business, it’s very important to have a business plan when you’re starting a business or when you’re running a business.

But it’s also critical to be able to respond to the evolving market dynamic, to respond to the moves your competitors are making. If you just blindly follow your own game plan that you’ve conceived when you started, you’ll not make it. So, the team that we have, and the DNA, for lack of a better term that we all share, is that ability but also the willingness and also the desire to always keep an eye out on what’s going on around us, and to be able to evolve and to be able to adjust to the dynamics in the market that are evolving, of course, all the time.

Ed (28:38): You certainly beat me to the punchline. One of the themes I wanted to elicit from you was your secret sauce around people and culture. And what I’m hearing is around this cognitive flexibility and, and willingness and ability to adapt and evolve, and that to me could be wrapped up in a simple word, and that is innovation. I’m always curious to understand whether innovative cultures can be planned for, or is in an outcome of an effective culture?

Alex (29:06): To a large extent, probably yes. There’s probably a bit of both, but the fear of failure in my view is one of the greatest inhibitors to innovation. So, the one thing that I spend a lot of my time on, and we as a team spend a lot of time on is breaking down any concerns around trying something that doesn’t work. I am a huge believer in the fact that innovation by definition means that you’re doing something that has not been done before. If it is in fact that you’re doing something that has not been done before, it is almost a mathematical certainty that you will fail on occasion and embracing that mathematical certainty and just reality of life, then when you’re doing something new, something different, it will occasionally not work, is absolutely fine. I love living with that understanding and we as a business, and we as a team practice that on a daily basis. So, every day we talk, and we do try new things that could be launching new products, and sometimes we launch a product that doesn’t work. It could involve a marketing campaign that doesn’t work, and we’ve learned some lessons out of that. It might be a different sort of different approach to explaining something to sort of to clients. It happens every single day and I feel that innovation without genuine embrace of failure and making mistakes is really hard.

Ed (30:38): Let’s dig in here. Can you give a practical example for maybe some operators listening, how you’ve empowered your leaders and managers to not just move quickly and make decisions quickly and hopefully effectively, but also have that same mindset that failure is okay. Some things if we are being generally innovative, will fail?

Alex (30:56): Yeah, we literally talk about it on a very, very regular basis, and I would say every single person that works at BetaShares is aware of the fact that we encourage doing something differently, trying new things. And we absolutely encourage mistakes, as bizarre as it sounds, we absolutely encourage our team to be brave and to not fear making a mistake. We talk about it we try to learn from our mistakes. Of course, nobody wants to repeat the same mistake 20 times, but that is absolutely a part of what we do and part of the mindset of the of the team.

Ed (31:36): What about the practicality of hiring people now at 110 people with this innovative culture and mindset that you’re trying to impose? Do you think you can test an incoming employee to see whether in fact they do have this in every mindset or do you just back yourself to unlock that inside them?

Alex (31:54): It’s a bit of both. It’s a bit of both. You definitely can test for curiosity. Curiosity in an individual is very apparent certainly very apparent when it lacks. That is very clear and very important. There’s certainly a number of instances of colleagues that we have successfully worked together with now for many, many years. We’re very fortunate, generally as a business we’ve had very low turnover as a business. But there are people who come from restrictive environments, and it doesn’t matter how creative a person you are, if the environment around you is restrictive or is punishing or not welcoming of change or innovation or new ideas or overly harsh on treating failures, basically or mistakes, it’ll absolutely crush moral. It’ll crush any ounce of innovation. So, it’s a mix, it’s a mix of both, in my view.

Ed (32:44): And what about as a leader, how you are tracking this culture innovation? Are there any forward leaning indicators that you might look to or, or measurement or any diagnostic tools? Obviously, there are vast ways to which you can measure culture specifically, but to dig into innovation more specifically, is there something that you look to as a CEO that says, Right, we’re on track here?

Alex (33:06): Yeah, look, I mean, there are lots of things. I mean, innovation happens at a micro level every single day at a macro level or a slightly higher level, it’s very much visible to me in the, in the results and the ideas. I mean, I’m almost on a, on a weekly basis, surprised, for example, being surprised by something that the team puts forward. There’s a really great indicator of innovation ideas that I have not thought about or our senior management team have not thought about. I mean, that is awesome. I love sitting in the room with one or all the teams or the entire business and hearing ideas and hearing things that are being worked on that is genuine innovation basically. That happens completely away from the boardroom or completely away from certainly from my desk. So yeah, there’s a bit of both. There’s a bit of micro indicators that, that are very frequent. And slightly high level

Ed (34:01): Just to wrap innovation in a bow so to speak. Is there a cultural shadow to innovation? You, you might think of unfinished MVPs some unstructured innovation that leads nowhere that you might be willing to take or might not. It might be that low humility creeps in and, and you’re a high humility environment, even just hearing you talk low ego, high humility, but knowing I will innovate, and the customers will love it, as opposed to we want to hear the customer and innovate on what we’re hearing. What are the shadows to some of the innovations that you might have uncovered?

Alex (34:37): It’s a really good question. I’ll try to answer it, but also not answer it in the sense that there’s just a couple of things that come to mind as you sort of asked your question. I think first of all there is a, I don’t know if you love Japanese food. I love Japanese.

Ed (34:53): Love Japanese.

Alex (34:55): You love Japanese, Okay. Well, I love Japanese food and I love Japan. Japanese have a concept of omakase and that is basically a term where you kind of rock up to the restaurant and you sit in front of the chef and the chef gives you food and you don’t even know what he’s going to give you basically. And by the time you finished your meal, you are just blown away quite often by what the chef serves you, even though you haven’t ordered it, basically, you didn’t even know that you want it.

And I kind of think about the concept of omakase applicability to innovation, applicability to business, basically. Too much focus occasionally is being given on, giving customers what they want and occasionally we like to play with the idea of actually giving customers something that might not have even thought of, basically. I think that customer research is certainly important, and we do quite a bit of it, but we also like to play around with an idea of omakase and bring to the market something that people didn’t even know existed. I mean, we’ve recently launched the first Global royalties ETF. Nobody would ever ask you for Global Royalties, ETF. People know that General Reinhard got very wealthy of royalty stream, but nobody would say, yeah, give me a royalty’s ETF, I’d like that.

We thought we should, we should launch something like that because it makes sense. It’s good enough for Gina Reinhard, it might be good enough for our clients. That’s kind of number one. So, the omakase concept is really interesting. The other thing that I would mention, and that’s kind of the shadow as you said, behind innovation, is that innovative environments are environments of pace and environments of change. I think being able to live without pace and being comfortable with the change is really important. And that’s something that we continue highlighting obviously to our team. We continue highlighting to people who are considering a career with BetaShares. When you are in the innovative business, and again, I certainly don’t think we’re the most innovative business. There’s lots of other innovative businesses that I love reading about and following and tracking, but that is certainly one thing in common with a lot of businesses that innovate change is something that happens, and the team needs to be happy with that change.

Ed (37:13): Wonderful insights. Just to come full circle, the last topic I want to cover, we’re going to go back to your beginnings in the Ukraine. And unfortunately, we’re now living through a time of sadness for that country with a horrific war taking place. I know you are very active in supporting the Ukrainian community, both in Australia and back in your homeland. I’d love to hear more about your passion project that I know is so close to your heart.

Alex (37:42): Yeah look, it’s a really horrendous situation, obviously, and it does break my heart. Having spent a very meaningful portion of my life in Ukraine to now see the country being subjected to such atrocities, I was paralyzed for the first few weeks after the war and the invasion started, I was angry, very angry but really wasn’t productive in any way, couldn’t really focus on work. I was just glued basically to the, to the TV screen and as they say, the doom scrolls basically of social media. But fortunately, I had a moment of realization that obviously being angry is not a productive or constructive way to be.

I realized they need to start doing something basically myself. So, me and my wife, Shauna, have started buying sort of ambulances and other aid for Ukraine. Then I had a, a number of my friends who approached me and said, hey, Alex how can we help? How can we get involved? Can we give you some money, so we buy more? And that’s why I figured if there is an opportunity to do it in a bigger way, I should really try to make it happen. We started a foundation called the United Ukraine Appeal. Those that are listening and have any inclination any desire to help, please check out the Ukraine appeal.org. The United Ukraine Appeal is a registered charity. It is focused on delivering non-military aid to the victims of war in Ukraine.

We have just two days ago seen the latest escalation and the latest barrage of missiles and rockets. It absolutely brought me and my family to tears to be receiving videos from Ukraine of people living in bomb shelters that we have built over the course of the last few months. The fact that we know that these are the things that we have been able to do and been able to send ambulances, a lot of medical aid that is again, a small contribution that we are very fortunate to be able to make. So, again, if anybody feels that supporting this causes is worthwhile, please check out our website be very grateful for any support.

Ed (40:19): I’ll make sure I put the website link in the show notes. Click through the icon on whatever podcast provider you’re listening to, and the link will be sitting there for anyone that does want to support. Alex, this has been incredible to uncover a world that many know of, but probably haven’t dug into. And the world of ETFs is fascinating, and you’re at the center of it, particularly in Australia. So many lessons for so many operators. Thanks for your time.

 

 

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