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I don’t do anything halfway

Emma Due Bitz got an idea while working at Nordea Markets: To teach women about investment. Now, together with two partners at Female Invest, she is on Forbes’ list of Europe’s most influential young persons, and the company has won an international award and extended its learning universe to 40 countries. So far.

11. Dec 2020
10 min
Af Birgitte Aabo
baa@finansforbundet.dk

Around 200 metres. It’s no further between the front door of the tastefully decorated, two-room owner-partnership flat in Vesterbro, which Emma Due Bitz shares with her boyfriend, to the compact premises at the Soho shared offices in Kødbyen in Copenhagen, which is where Female Invest is based.

It is fortunate that travel to and from work does not take long since Emma Due Bitz has other things to spend her time on. Since January, the company’s turnover has gone through the roof, with growth of over 1000 percent, and she is deeply focused on her working life.

“In the beginning, we faced a lot of doubt concerning our idea, but we continued to work on it. Now, we have five full-time employees, we are self-financed and we are still undergoing rapid growth. I feel privileged to have been on such a unique journey.”

This is no exaggeration. In March, they were notified that they had made the famous list in the American business journal Forbes for the 30 most promising and influential young persons within the financial category. That was the day after Denmark was locked down and they lost 80 percent of their turnover in one day, so the recognition came at a time when it was most needed.

“It gave us a kick in the butt. We couldn’t give up now, and in two weeks we turned our entire business around.”

And that was not all: The following month, Female Invest won the world’s largest competition for female entrepreneurship, Cartier Women’s Initiative, and the prize of USD 100,000, which they invested in the company to prepare it for a version 2.0 in the spring.

The recognition generated lots of mentions, not just in the financial media but also in other places, such as British Vogue. Domestically, a number of newspaper articles were published about the company as well as a lengthy feature in 21 Søndag in October.

“Before this, we would face the biased view that it was very sweet that we were puttering about with a network for women. So getting recognition and winning the award naturally meant a great deal to us and our mission,” says Emma Due Bitz, which Magasinet Finans interviewed at one of the long tables in the café environment at the young entrepreneur community, where many big dreams are dreamt and quite a few are realised.

 

 

“We call ourselves financial feminists – we want to activate women to invest more and to achieve financial freedom and thus freedom in general.”

A boost from corona

Other than the awards and the international launchpad they represented for the three young women, Female Invest was one of the companies that experienced a positive effect from corona, as we have already hinted. Previously, they held many physical events and workshops, with up to several hundred participants, including in connection with Finansforbundet (Financial Services Union Denmark).

“For us, corona hit at time when we were experiencing growth but were having a hard time meeting demand, which required our physical presence. Now, the physical events are no longer an option in the same way, and everyone is more open to digital alternatives. At the same time, it gave us the opportunity to grow on the international market – we are in forty countries with our learning universe now and have helped over 25,000 women,” indicates Emma Due Bitz.

The focus of the learning universe is to give women the courage to invest, and it works based on membership and a range of offers, e.g. video courses that can teach the user about finance in a clear and comprehensible language. An idea for which Emma Due Bitz saved up for a number of years.

“With after-school jobs from the age of 13, I had saved quite a bit of money by the time I was 18, and I was not happy that this money just gathered dust in a bank account. At the same time, I also discovered that my male colleague at the local bakery received DKK 10 more than me in wages per hour when we both went from youth wages to adult wages. It was provoking and inexplicable discrimination because we did exactly the same thing. This inequality could become significant throughout a career.”

It was not the only inequality between sexes that she noticed. Emma Due Bitz wanted to have the money she had laboriously saved to grow, but she was unsure of how to do it.

“I started noticing that the boys at my high school were talking about shares, but the girls weren’t. It was as though it was a closed system – a knowledge that was passed on from father to son.”

The 25-year-old entrepreneur grew up in Roskilde with a younger sister – who now also works part-time at Female Invest. Her parents worked as a sales director and controller, and they did not deal with shares but focused on teaching the children how to establish healthy finances.

Nordea did not jump on the idea

The desire to know more about shares persisted, and while Emma Due Bitz took her bachelor at Copenhagen Business School, she got a student job first at Private Banking Nordea in Roskilde and then at Nordea Markets in Copenhagen.

“As a student assistant you listen a lot and gather a lot of knowledge without saying much. I heard a lot about the challenges in relation to getting women to invest and to come to the events for which the bank sent invitations. For me, it wasn’t all that strange since these were traditional events aimed mostly at men – try the new Tesla and that sort of thing.”

The idea of taking a different approach and reaching women in a way that made investment interesting to them started to take shape. Emma Due Bitz decided to try to pitch this to the bank.

“No one was really listening. No one got it nor wanted to hear that the bank’s approach was too rigid and boring.”

This meant that Emma Due Bitz had to get started on her own. She needed a partner, and she had taken notice of one of her fellow students, Anna Sophie Hartvigsen.
“Anna was hard to overlook because she talked a lot about shares and about how she financed her travels through investment. At first, it was a little overwhelming that a girl was talking so loudly about investment, but she was the obvious person to ask. She was on board with the idea right away, and it turns out we complemented each other very well – much more than we had imagined – and neither of us does anything halfway.”

The two of them founded Female Invest in February 2017 and began by launching a network on social media.
Actually, Emma Due Bitz was shortly thereafter involved in another start-up, the job portal Casefair, which she launched in October 2017 together with her boyfriend.

“Back then we did not know that Female Invest would become my career. Casefair stems from my boyfriend’s clash with HR, and the experiences I drew from there have been important lessons. However, Female Invest is my baby. Therefore, I had to go all-in when the opportunity presented itself.”

Author of a popular book on finance

Female Invest took off quickly. Three months after starting, Information noticed the initiative and published an article about the company. They were then contacted by a publishing house with an offer to write a book.

“Everything moved quickly.” Now we were going to write a book on finance! It was a little nerve-wracking. The content had to be flawless since we could expect that the book would attract attention due to our young age and profiles. We were, after all, students on the side, but we prioritised it and found the time,” explains Emma Due Bitz on the process that became “Klar – Parat – Invester – håndbog til begyndere” (Ready – Steady – Invest – a handbook for beginners), which was published in early 2019 and made the bestseller list for non-fiction.

It helped further the demand for Female Invest’s offers. About one and a half years after the company was founded, another fellow student, Camilla Falkenberg, became partner. During that time, they kept quiet about the fact that they were still students and were running Female Invest on the side.

“We were 21 and 22 years old when we started, so we were and still are very aware of the impression we make, so that we can be taken seriously in the financial industry while still having broad appeal and reaching everyone. For instance, a few years ago, I cut off a lot of my hair to have a more professional appearance.”

Men are also welcome to learn from Female Invest.

“Our products are designed with women in mind, but men are welcome to participate, and we reach about 10 percent of them. We call ourselves financial feminists – we want to activate women to invest more and to achieve financial freedom and thus freedom in general,” she says, indicating that today men are responsible for nearly 70 percent of all investments.

“If a woman doesn’t want to sit and wait for big structural changes in society, she can do something about it herself. This is what we are inviting them to do. Generate changes by taking control of your finances.”

Good timing

In her view, Female Invest received a boost towards its mission from the intense debate on Me Too and sexism.
“I think we benefited because the opportunities of women are being discussed every which way at the moment. So, in many ways, we had great timing.”

Despite the massive success, awards and recognition, Female Invest is still a start-up.

“We are doing this because we believe in it. I am not nervous about the future, even though it would have been easier in many ways to stay on the career path we each were starting – I could have been earning twice as much at the moment had I made that choice.”

However, this never tempted her. There is great freedom and satisfaction in being self-employed and succeeding.

“Time passes so quickly, and when I turn 40, I think I will be happy that I pursued this. That I dared take some chances.”

Emma Due Bitz

25 years

Grew up in Roskilde

Bachelor from Copenhagen Business School in international business and politics

Student job at a Nordea branch and Nordea Markets

Founded the job portal Casefair in 2016 together with her boyfriend

Together with fellow students, founded the learning universe Female Invest in 2017

Co-author of the best-selling non-fiction book “Klar – Parat – Invester”

On Forbes’ list of most influential young persons within finance

Winner of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award of USD 100,000

Lives with her boyfriend in Vesterbro in Copenhagen.