Shares is a social investment platform that strives to democratize access to the stock market and enhance the investment experience by enabling users to interact with a vibrant community. The platform empowers individuals, regardless of their financial status, to purchase fractional shares of over 1,000 stocks and ETFs without a minimum investment requirement.
After launching in the UK in May 2022, the platform has gained significant popularity, attracting over 150,000 users within a few months. Although initially limited to UK-based users, the company's expansion strategy envisaged rapid expansion to other European countries during that year.
There is still a significant untapped market potential in the Investing app space, and Shares aims to establish itself as the first social investing app in Europe, uniquely positioned to become a market leader.
To successfully build and launch their investing platform, they partnered with Alpaca Securities LLC, who acts as the execution broker; checkout.com, a payment service provider for topping up user wallets; and Modulr, who provides electronic money accounts. The final element to complete the puzzle was a ledger system that could map and log all money flow events at both a macro level for the Shares platform and a micro level for individual user portfolios.
However, building a financial ledger internally is a complex and time-consuming task that requires a deep knowledge of engineering, finance, and accounting. It could take many months of dedicated work and a full-time engineering team to complete the project successfully. Given these challenges, Shares was willing to partner with a provider specialized in ledger infrastructure, to enter the market more quickly, effectively, with a safe and scalable solution.
In May 2021, Shares partnered with Formance to implement the Formance Ledger. This move was necessitated by the fact that Shares' existing ledger, built in-house for the UK market, would not properly scale with the opening of the EU market. Additionally, EU banking agreements require a double-entry accounting system - which Formance provides by design in the ledger.
The transition from Shares' legacy ledger to the Formance Ledger was done incrementally over two months with the support of the Formance engineering team. The project was handled by two dedicated software engineers at Shares, which would have required mobilizing 4-5 engineers for 6 months if they had opted to build the ledger in-house.
By using Formance, Shares was able to vastly improve traceability, while also laying a solid foundation for a double-entry accounting system. Deploying Formance ledger allowed them to track, in real-time, what is owned by whom, especially when managing multiple sources and destinations (brokers, payment service providers, exchanges, user wallets), intermediary states of transactions, and reconcile all the money movements properly. This is critical for investment platforms where there is no room for inconsistency or inaccuracy when it comes to the amount invested, capital gains, and commissions fees for brokers. Shares engineering team also found that open-source technology was crucial in this case, enabling them to adapt and improve the solution according to their specific needs, while keeping the ownership of the code.
Shares rapidly expanded its services and presence in various regions: in only two months, they successfully entered the EU market and saw their user base double as a result. This impressive growth was made possible by implementing a robust ledger; but flexible enough to accommodate the specific needs of investment apps:
Multi-currency & asset support
Fractional shares ownership attribution
Internal user wallets
Proper representation of funds pending settlement and processing
One crucial factor in the decision to choose Formance was cost management: the whole project was completed by only two developers within a six-month period, and only required the assistance of one part-time developer for maintenance.
François Ruty, Shares' CTO, emphasized the importance of using Formance's ledger stating,
The partnership between Shares and Formance serves as a prime example of leveraging specialized technology to overcome complex business challenges. Ultimately, this allowed Shares to offer a superior investment experience for its users while ensuring the accuracy and traceability of its financial operations.