Anna Haotanto on a Quest To Make Women Financially Savvy

Anna Vanessa Haotanto, The New Savvy
Anna Vanessa Haotanto, The New Savvy

Anna Haotanto, recently nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia), runs The New Savvy, a website dedicated to empowering women by helping them to be more financially savvy. LadyBoss catches up with her to understand her motivations and how she intends to achieve her goals.

 

Why did you take the plunge to being involved in a startup?

First, due to my family financial situation, I have always been fascinated with the intricacies behind the working of money.  I understood that I have to take care of myself and my family and that realization sparked off my wealth-building path. The idea of making my money work harder for me really fascinated me, and I felt that was a way out for me from living pay cheque to pay cheque and feeling very stressed every month.

As a result, I started learning to invest by reading Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham while in Junior College. I also read a lot of other finance books. I am lucky to have the opportunity to study and work in Finance. I learnt financial management skills, picked up economic ideas and started investing since I was 21. While I am no expert, I am familiar with financial products and managed to build a comfortable portfolio for myself.

Second, when I was in Hwa Chong Junior College, I did some volunteer work and noticed how many women were stuck in unhappy situations or marriages as they were not working or have any earning capabilities. That motivated me always to protect myself financially and to prevent myself from being in similar situations.

Third, coming from a finance background with very decent earning power, it’s difficult to turn into an entrepreneur. I was giving up a good five-figure income and some people told me not to be naïve and “get a real job”. That affected my morale.

For a long time, I was wondering if I am just impetuous or silly. Should I just continue earning money and be in banking? There’s a societal pressure, especially when you don’t know what’s going to happen and I am doing this mostly to help other women.

If proper financial knowledge and planning worked for me,  it would work for many women too – which was why I started The New Savvy.

 

As a woman, I want to know how smart financial management can impact my life and how relevant it is to my needs. I want something I can relate to, something that can inspire and motivate me.

 

What are some of the main challenges in this business?

In the beginning, I struggled a lot. My background was pure Finance and Banking. I was clueless on developing a website, producing content, digital marketing, and publishing. But I knew it was something I wanted to do and HAD to do. It was a desire that couldn’t be ignored any longer.

I did everything from scratch myself. I looked around for website developers and researched on websites. I learnt about how websites are arranged and how they worked. I did a short market survey on what is lacking regarding women financial education and what women will like to learn more.

I took up a Digital Marketing course and learnt how to utilise tools like Google Analytics, Search console and understood the terms. Last, a good product is useless if there are no users. How do I get the word out? How do I market The New Savvy to ensure that more women are aware that my product exists?

Most importantly, this difficulty had been in my mind non-stop since I embarked on this journey – How do I make women more interested in financial literacy?  We focused on having original content that are engaging, fun and relevant. I was very sure that we didn’t want to be another financial site which teaches you to make 20x in a week. I wanted The New Savvy to be relatable to women, so they won’t be intimidated by Finance.

 

Anna Vanessa Haotanto, The New Savvy
Anna Vanessa Haotanto, The New Savvy

 

What’s the idea when you started TNS?

Over the years, my female friends have approached me to share with them on how to invest, how to open a securities account, which loan makes sense, the difference between a bond and a bond fund. Truth be told, even as someone trained in Finance, I don’t want to read yet another stock picks or technical analysis.

As a woman, I want to know how smart financial management can impact my life and how relevant it is to my needs. I want something I can relate to, something that can inspire and motivate me.

That’s what The New Savvy has been to many women. I’ve met many strangers at different events who told me that they read and love The New Savvy. Many women wrote to me, sharing with me their lives and financial situations.

Most women I knew always tell me that they know financial knowledge is important and they have wanted to learn but kept procrastinating. So when they know about The New Savvy, they are more motivated to be in charge of their finances.

 

What plans of monetization do you have in mind?

We do branded content, advertising, consultancy for corporates and financial institutions. In addition, we organise events, workshops and next year, a personal finance conference.

We received a couple of offer from Venture Capitalists and Investors to invest in The New Savvy. We have taken some seed funding. We are in the midst of raising and closing the round. We are very careful not to raise too much or get distracted and lose sight of our goals.

 

What are your plans for TNS in the next 5 years? What’s your ultimate vision for TNS?

My strategy, from day one, has always been: To provide value, focus on users’ needs, learn and keep improving.

The New Savvy is an online platform that focuses financial and career issues for women in Asia. We have technical articles which are informative, must-know Finance concepts in bite-sized to make it more palatable to readers as well as lifestyle pieces are fun articles that discuss issues plaguing the modern women. All of them include a finance or female empowerment angle to them.

We also have inspirational stories include stories of individuals breaking barriers, speaking up, living authentic lives. We also have interviews sections where we question our subjects on their occupations or businesses, financial planning and thoughts on women issues.

We are also developing bite-sized financial online courses and looking at holding workshops for financial education every two months. Our 5 year plans include regional expansion, personal finance conferences and wealth management advisory platform.

 

Women are at a very interesting juncture in history. We are earning more, progressing further in our careers yet still lagging behind men in financial literacy. Women control most of the household expenditure, yet we save and invest much lesser than men.

 

The only true insights I can share is…I find that the other site owners to be really welcoming and friendly. I’m friends with some finance websites owners, and we motivate each other to be better. We discuss topics and even collaborate. Even if it’s business, I don’t think we focus on making money and ousting each other. All of us started to help others be financially savvy.

I am friends with other women-focused websites owners, and likewise, they are smart women who want to do good. We try to work together and learn from each other. The future of new media, to me, is endless. In today’s era, every one can be and IS already a publisher.

People are increasingly consuming content through their devices such as laptops, iPads and the biggest growth area, mobile phones. We are slowly moving away from print (newspaper, magazines), and while I think that’s a big pity, it’s happening. In fact, most of us consume content from Facebook. We used to go into the browser and go directly to websites. Now, we see what is shared by our friends.

 

Anna Vanessa Haotanto, The New Savvy
Anna Vanessa Haotanto, The New Savvy

 

TNS and yourself have been getting significant media coverage and media partnerships, how should other women businesses set about to do that as well?

While we didn’t actively pursue the media coverage, I think the public, media and women resonates with our mission of focusing on empowering women and managing their Finances well.
In addition, with everything else in life, I believe in helping others. Always be gracious, be kind and focus on doing good.
Don’t focus on the outcome but on the ‘Why’. Be open to opportunities, you never know where it might lead you!

 

Women Finance is a grossly under-served market. Most financial news are technical and boring. They don’t speak to women and form real emotional value.

 

Do you find that women in general shy away from investments? And if so, what do you think is the reason?

Women are at a very interesting juncture in history. We are earning more, progressing further in our careers yet still lagging behind men in financial literacy. Women control most of the household expenditure, yet we save and invest much lesser than men.

There is no shortage of financial media, yet they are mostly catered to men. Women Finance is a grossly under-served market. Most financial news are technical and boring. They don’t speak to women and form real emotional value. Women don’t want to know stock picks or technical analysis; we want to know how certain financial choices can better our life and improve our net worth.

Women want authentic advice that address our struggles. We want relevant insights that are tailored to our complex needs. Women have different needs from men and can benefit from unique financial advice. 41% of women are intimidated by finance and do not invest. Information available can be complex, technical and often, exasperating.

Women need different financial advice from men.

 

How do you think women can be better with investments?
First, you have to want it. Desire is a strong motivator. Know what you want financially.

A clear focus and direction on what you want to achieve financially. A detailed financial plan on how you are going to achieve those goals. Focus on important objectives instead of glorified achievements. Don’t compare yourself with others.

Be very tight on finances, spend lesser than you budgeted because you always need more money. Sometimes, you also have to depend on timing and luck.

 

What motivates you personally?

I define success loosely in 3 areas – personal, interpersonal and financial.

Personal – to live authentically and lead a balanced life.

Interpersonal – relationships are very important to me so I always ask myself, if I am giving enough to my loved ones and how I can help others.

Financial – Being financially successful to me is having the choice and security to live the life I seek meaning in. And by extension, giving the people I love the lives they desire.

 

I’ve always wanted to help people and finance is the best way I know how to. Women and children are my pet causes. I’m passionate about financial literacy and how it can transform lives. This feeds my soul, and the rewards are probably intangible, I am definitely happier than before.  

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Written By

Jackie Yeo is the co-founder of Ladyboss. She is an internet marketing specialist who focuses on helping clients build and manage their online presence. Jackie is also a strong advocate of women's rights and is keen to promote entrepreneurship among women. Outside work, she's a self-professed foodie and an avid dancer.

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