Breaking Italy’s Wallet

April 23rd 2020 UPDATE: Most of the analysis of Gimme5 and AcomeA has been removed from the post for precautionary reasons. I had a meeting with them on April 23rd and they’ve been very aggressive. I still believe AcomeA funds are to be avoided at all costs, and Gimme5 app is investing only in AcomeA funds. Gimme5 is owned by AcomeA SGR S.p.A. as indicated on their website.

May 4th 2020 UPDATE: restored most of the content that I put down, after a minor review. The document is full of extra notes, added after our April 23rd meeting. To avoid polluting this post I put them into “showhide” buttons. Click on them to expand the content and to read funny stories.

May 12th 2020 UPDATE: Today’s Breaking Italy episode was sponsored by Gimme5, and Shy announced a stronger collaboration with them “like a podcast“. A bit sad. Given that I spent quite a lot of time on this, and had a couple of meetings with Shy himself, I would have preferred to be at least notified by his final decision before getting pinged by a reader 🙁

May 31st 2020 UPDATE: I’ve suspended my patronage to Breaking Italy (I’m no more a patron on his Patreon project) and stepped back to being just a follower. Rationale: I’m happy to financially support a creator that I love SO THAT they can create content free from the dirty hands of unethical sponsors. But if my creator is happy to receive such money… well, help yourself! There’s always another Catramel Cigarettes company eager to put their ads on your channel 😉


Dear readers,

I started writing this post mainly for Italians living and investing in Italy. But do not worry, if you’re a beginner investor who doesn’t know how to evaluate an investment proposal I think you will find useful material as well.

Let’s start!

I’m a huge fan of Breaking Italy, a infotainment YouTube channel owned by Alessandro Masala, better known as Shy (acronym for Shooter Hates You).

In my opinion, Breaking Italy is the most factual source of news and deep dives into what’s happening around the world avaliable in Italian language. Shy is a critical and first principle thinker. His own views are not hidden, but they don’t impact the quality of what’s offered to viewers. He’s what Paul Graham would call “accidental moderate“.

Shy has a very active and engaged community (La Gentaglia) who loves his authenticity, his hard work, his obsession with quality, his honesty, his points of view, and his transparency and openness. Please take a look at the video about his ongoing battle with depression.

I’m a huge fan of Socrates, the father of philosophy, and Shy’s way of navigating the world (with curiosity and a reverse Dunning-Kruger attitude) reminds me of him, to some extent.

Shy also hosts a monthly podcast. His role model in this endeavor is Joe Rogan. The podcast’s guests are Italian politicians, economists, other youtubers and so on. I’m currently listening to his podcast with Marco Cappato, an Italian politician who fights many battles around LGBT rights, euthanasia, legalization of drugs, civil disobedience and digital freedom. Another accidental moderate. it’s an amazing podcast, but it’s more than 2 hours long. I’m listening to it in chunks 🙂

If you have time, enjoy!

YouTube as a platform loves videos where advertisers can put their craps on. Which usually are the inoffensive ones. Sadly, the topics Shy touches are demonetized most of the times on the platform. To maintain autonomy and not have advertisers dictate what to publish, Shy is running a successful Patreon program, with more than 2000 patrons.

I am one of them. It’s the only membership I have. You know how I hate recurring fees, but I’ll never regret those 10 EUR per month!

Thanks to the stability of his Patreon program, he’s been able to hire a couple of assistants and rent a real studio. He claims to be living in a small 50sqm flat, and to not care much about money and material stuff. If he had more money he’ll put more money into his projects.

Call me naive, but I believe it to be true. Shy is one of us!

Before moving on, a minor disclaimer: I’m happy if you help him by joining his Breaking Italy Club (his Patreon community), but I don’t have any affiliation with his project. To be clear: I get no money if you join the Club. But I hope you do!

I used to be a member of the the club. I’m no more since June 2020.

So far, so good.

RIP, what is this post about?

it’s about financial literacy.

Shy is, in my humble opinion, a fine thinker. A person searching for truth. A wise man whom I’d ask for an opinion on mostly anything.

But he did something I didn’t like in one of his last Breaking Italy videos (link), and I want to share it with you all as a reminder that financial literacy in Italy (and maybe in your country as well) is a huge deal.

Shy’s revenues don’t come only from his Patreon community. His channel run some YouTube ads (though frequently demonetized), he has an amazing apparel store, and he accepts sponsorships for some of his videos and podcast episodes.

I admit, I have problems with sponsorships.

First of all, I hate shout-outs.

Every time I watch a video, I want that video to be immortal. Evergreen.

As a #DataHoarder I like to save content that I love for future consumption.

Shout-outs destroy content immortality.

Imagine if a song you love would contain 20 seconds of commercial within the song itself:

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do…

By the way, by a Nordmende CRT TV! They are the best! Now up to 32 channels! Use the code #YokoOnoGFY and get 10% off!

…Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

I hate that!

I don’t know… keep all sponsorships outside the actual content. Or at least, after a week (when 99% of the views have been obtained), make a clean version without the shout-out for us, romantic people. Keep the money a bit out of the temple, please.

Anyway, business is business, who am I to complain?

I trust Shy’s independence of thoughts, and I know he won’t let any business drive his content, which is the only thing that matters.

Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters

By the way, drink Pepsi! It’s almost as good as Coke!

Some of Shy’s sponsors have been of extreme high quality, like Treedom and Revolut. Revolut is an amazing product that I also use and love, and if I weren’t so lazy I’d join their affiliate program as well.

There have been a bunch of “meh” sponsors like Penta (bank accounts and credit cards), Idealo (prices comparison), and the so-loved-by-every-content-creator-in-Italy: NerdVPN (slightly changed the name to not get associated with that in case it turns out to be a scam). If you’ve been on YouTube Italy during last 12 months, literally everyone had a NerdVPN affiliation. Huge 90% discount for customers who sign up thru affiliation (i.e. decoy pricing strategy), and I assume a hefty affiliate bonus for salesmen content creators. Looks like BrownHost.

I’m monitoring you, NerdVPNers!

Anyway, the sponsorship that pissed me off the most was the one on this video of few days ago: Gimme5.

From the video description:

Since I’m kind of interested in everything about finance, I decided to take a deeper look.


April 23rd 2020 UPDATE

As I said above, I removed the entire analysis as a precaution. Gimme5 app lets you invest only (as of April 23rd 2020) in AcomeA funds. Most of my analysis has been done on AcomeA funds. I don’t care of the fancy Piggybank-looking App, I do care a lot where people money gets invested. I still believe investing in AcomeA products is sub-sub-optimal and I will let the numbers talk. If you are here for my previous analysis, contact me privately and I’ll let you know more.

May 4th 2020 Update: after this section it’s the original content revisited. Enjoy.

This is their “aggressive” fund class A1, rated 1 star on MorningStar. 10000 EUR invested in 2001 –> 6826 EUR in 2020 (before Italian IVAFE tax, 0.20% per year).
This is their “aggressive” fund class A2. TER 1.09% instead of 2.36% of the Class A1. The assets are the same, I assume. Rated 2 stars on MorningStar. 10000 EUR invested in 2011 –> 10397 EUR in 2020 (before Italian IVAFE tax and capital gain tax (“luckily” not much) if you sell in 2020).

From here on, I would only consider AcomeA A2 class funds, the one offered within the app Gimme5. AcomeA Class A1 Funds have all higher costs thus even worse performances.

“Globale” (global stock, like VT). TER 1.06%. Rating 1 star on Morningstar.

Few words about “Globale”. This is a July 20th Update for 2020 performances YTD:

Negative 14.44% for 2020 until July 19th, which is 11% worse than their benchmark.

And look at the shape. It’s exactly like the benchmark. I would expect a different shape, taking some brave bet!

When Michael Burry shorted the housing market before the subprime bubble exploded, I bet his fund returns compared to S&P500 before and after 2008 looked like this:

Which makes sense for an active strategy. What’s the point of active management if you’re essentially just replicating the benchmark and losing 11%?

This is their “Prudente” fund, which means “cautious, conservative”. Rated 1 star on Morningstar.

Their “cautious” fund holds the following:

south African, mexican, turkish bonds.
mostly long maturity (>10 years), i.e. more risk.
70% of which, NON-INVESTMENT GRADE.

The above is their “cautious” fund. And Class A2, the good one.

Wanna take a look at the A1 Class? It’s the “Traditional choice” for those less money savvy.

How has a “cautious” fund (and a good one, the class A2 one) performed during the flash crash 2020 (Feb 19th-Mar 23rd)?

You’re welcome:

A cautious minus 25%!

They do perform less horrible on those markets that performed poorly anyway, like Emerging Markets:

A good 9% in 9 years, in line with MorningStar benchmark. Four Star, kudos.

But on their website they seem to be performing worse:

I run my numbers against an index fund I own (EIMI) since EIMI inception (2015):

EIMI:

EIMI, -5.14% since April 17th 2015, yeah, not a nice 5 years for EM. But EIMI – which is passive – is matching the index almost religiously.  No surprises. Working as intended.

AcomeA Paesi Emergenti Classe A2 over same period:

-15.28%, yeah, and that’s one of their best funds. Just 10% worse than the passive counterpart (EIMI).

What about local market? A fund about Italian stocks?

Almost in line with the benchmark, sadly it’s just 5% over 9 years. Ah, and 1 star rating on Morningstar for their A2 fund. I don’t want to see the A1 class.

Finally, their less riskier bond funds (still actively managed), which happen to be their best choice because low returns is a feature here. If you were really going to invest with them, take this one and nothing else. But please, think 100 times before doing that.

“Breve Termine”, i.e. Short term. Return over 9 years: 35%. We know bonds had a great decade, sadly with the drop of interest rates everywhere in the “investment grade” world, expected yields for the future are very low. Btw, the fund has good rating on MS.

On AcomeA website you can find other low risk / low return funds (for which I bet that they will have hard time generating profits to even cover their costs).

Conclusions:

  • NEVER invest in AcomeA funds of class A1. NEVER.
  • Before investing in AcomeA funds of class A2 try to pick a random card in a deck and roll 5 dice. If you pick the Ace of Hearths and roll a Yahtzee of 6 then go ahead and invest in their Breve Termine. Else you don’t. Those are more or less the odds of reaching the same level wealth after 20 years compared to having invested in a 60/40 portfolio of passive index funds.

Have a nice day.

But wait.

On July 19th 2020, pushed by curiosity, I took a slightly deeper look at their “Breve Termine” fund. I was surprised that at least one of their funds wasn’t complete shit, and given how angry the AcomeA guys were during our online confrontation about their “masterpiece” I bet against them that their short term fund was going to perform like shit for the next 5-10 years at least, in this low yield environment.

2020 YTD performances of Breve Termine are negative and below their benchmark.

Yeah, RIP, you’re being picky… cmon, they are performing exactly the same!

Yes, agree. Exactly the same. Both the fund and its benchmark (on their website) are performing the same. But look at volatility. Look at what happened during the Corona crash. Doesn’t it look weird? Are we comparing apple to apple? Because it seems like comparing a riskier fund (that should have higher expected return) with a less risky one. A benchmark should be in the same risk category, owning similar assets.

So.. what’s inside the Breve Termine?

A lot of crap! In order to achieve higher yield these (quick, give me a word that’s not offensive but looks like one) askholes will invest your money in the same crappy assets that are in their “Prudente” fund! Turkish Bonds, South African Bonds and so on.

I had to look up what that 11% Yield IBRD Bond was! Spoiler alert: Turkish Lira bond emitted by “International Bank for Reconstruction and Development” (part of The World Bank) to Turkish Government.

Let’s look at the Credit Rating of their investments:

More than 50% of your assets are NON-INVESTMENT GRADE! And this is supposed to be your “short term” fund!

Holy shit…

Yeah, RIP, what are the alternatives?

Holy crap, even keeping your money under your mattress is a better alternative!

Do you want an alternative? I don’t know, let’s take the most popular Vanguard Bond ETF: BND.

BND invests only in INVESTMENT GRADE assets:

There’s nothing below BAA rating in BND, i.e. 95.5% of what’s in AcomeA Breve Termine is crappier than the crappiest bond in BND. And BND holds 9659 bonds!!

 

Yeah RIP, investing in safe assets will achieve low returns

Exactly, and that’s what you expect from a low risk / short term investment!

I love spicy food. But if I go to a restaurant and the less spicy dish had a shitload of chili peppers in it I’d complain!

Btw, these are BND returns:

2020 YTD return is just 6.42%

Oh wow… But it must cost a lot to them to handle almost 10k bonds! What are the expenses?

BND TER is 0.035%, while AcomeA Breve Termine is 0.37% (while A1 class is 0.87%).

That’s a close call, they cost almost the same 🙂

Nope, BND costs 10 times less! Maybe you missed the extra ZERO after the dot 😀

Oook… but wait! BND is quoted in USD, so there’s currency exposure risk!

That’s a good point, but the difference in quality and expected returns should cover 99% of the currency risk. The USD has been a bit weak since FED pumped trillions of dollars into the economy: since beginning of 2020 the USD has lost 2% vs the EUR. It’s a bit scary for someone like me that’s overexposed to USD, and honestly this is the worst year of USD since I observe the markets. Still BND is returning >6% in USD, which is >4% in EUR, which is >NEGATIVE that’s how Breve Termine is returning – with a fraction of its volatility.

So… avoid Breve Termine like you’d avoid Ebola as well!

But RIP, if I use Shy’s affiliate code I will get 5 EUR credit on Gimme5!

Yeah, what a great deal…


May 4th 2020 UPDATE

Restored most of the content I put down for precautionary reasons. Look at the hidden notes for extra fun!

Gimme5

Gimme5 is an app that helps you save and invest money with a very low barrier: you can invest as little as 5 EUR. Well, we’ll see that investing just 5 EUR won’t make any sense, but it’s a nice catchy slogan.

Good! Nice guy Shy, finally promoting financial intelligence! I’m triple sure that this app is awesome (Shy recommends it), and maybe I will give them some of my hard earned money. Let’s take a look. let’s see what’s the best option for an investor in Italy!

Another Disclaimer: I don’t blame Shy for a sub-optional recommendation. I think he’s acting in good fate. I think he did some sort of background check of the sponsor. I believe – and here lies the problem – that the suboptimality (to be nice) of the offer is not even perceived as such, which shows the low level of financial literacy in Italy. Learning how to invest properly is not Shy’s core business, so he defaulted on the Italian average, which is not enough to understand that this product is suboptimal by a lot. Shy is still an awesome guy though, don’t touch my Alpaca!

Back to Gimme5.

On their website, it’s clear we’re talking about a kind of roboadvisor. You put money on your account, choose an investment plan (Short Term, Dynamic, Aggressive or more), and once per month your cash balance gets invested in the plan you chose.

So far so good.

There are other features that make the product “young and cool”, like the ability to set goals (gamification), and start crowdfunding (ask people to “help you reach your goals”).

They won “Best Italian finance App” in 2019, and the company behind it AcomeA (we’ll come back to them soon) won many Italian financial awards since 2013.

It seems promising.

And here stops the investigation journey of the average wannabe investor: “Enough, this is good, I’ve found my financial Ithaca. Shut up and take my money!

And here, on RIP website, we’ll dig deeper and draw our own well informed conclusions 😉

Again, this is a post with a lot of Italian references and language, but I hope you can find value in the thought process I’m drawing here on how to evaluate a financial product.

Another disclaimer: I’m by no means a financial expert. I’m a guy with a blog, some rusty tech skills, and a passion for critical thinking. Do your own research, as always.

Back to Gimme5.

Their homepage – like any landing page written by a professional copywriter – follows a pattern that I’ve seen hundreds of times: customer reviews (of course all of them, only six though, are amazing), press coverage, number of users, total money “saved”, “goals” reached, calls to actions (sign up, join us on Facebook, refer a friend), and so on. I don’t usually waste a second there and go straight to the core:

  • Who owns the house?
  • What do they invest on? Give me all the details.
  • What are the costs?
  • Are there independent reviews?

Let’s go deep!

Who owns the House

Gimme5 is an app developed by AcomeA, which is a “Saving Management Company”. Let’s check the company structure, solidity, ranking and philosophy.

On their “about us” page, among a wall of buzzwords you can find some important info:

  • Founders are grey haired entrepreneurs with experience in the financial sector. Maybe I should also do a bit of founders’ background check. I’m too lazy, just googling for some huge red flags: found none.
  • They actively manage a dozen of funds, and are also happy to manage (wealthy) individual portfolios.
  • They claim to be “independent from banks”, so their investing strategy is claimed to be unbiased. A quick check: 2 banks own 17.33% of the company combined. a bank (Banco di Desio e della Brianza S.p.A.) owns 8.66%, and an insurance company (UnipolSai Assicurazioni S.p.A.) owns another 8.66%.
  • According to the same document (point 17), all their funds are accumulating funds and do not distribute dividends.
  • They seem to handle 2.4 Billion Euros. Not bad.
  • It’s hard to find some numbers about the company itself. A 2016 post (<– here’s the link, boomer!) from the CEO mentioned that they employed 12 people: 8 in marketing and 4 in technology. Yellow flag. Small company, marketing being 66% of the workforce. On AcomeA website I count 17 people in total in April 2020. On Gimme5 website I count 17 people. Couldn’t find better numbers. 
  • They have a YT channel with… ehm… 600 subscribers (May 4th Note: 850 subs). Yellow flag.
  • They have a blog. Read few articles, not impressed. Also visually hard to read. Meh.
  • They offer a free online course on “how to invest today”. I’ve took the “Red Line” (nice course aesthetic though) and I’ve seen good generic advices (spend less, save more, invest the difference) but also too many sales pitches, and numbers out of nowhere. But there’s some value for a beginner.

About their investing philosophy:

  • Here‘s an interview with the President where he says he doesn’t think passive investing tracking indexes is good, and he believes active management is the way to go. Yellow flag. [May 4th Note: the article is not online anymore]
  • Another one here, against passive investing and pro value investing.
  • Here the CEO claims that active investing is good because “passive and day trading create space for arbitrage“. Yellowish flag. During the same interview he also said (November 2019) that European markets (and also Italian market) are the most promising markets. Also Japan. Also the Oil sector in US. Orange flag.
  • In an article on a famous Italian newspaper (reported on AcomeA website), the CEO said that “today more than two thirds of market volumes are moved by algorithms that replicate indexes” which is so wrong they can’t ignore you (cit). Index funds own less than half of the stocks shares, but given their low trades nature they move less than 5% of the trade volumes. Investors trading ETFs shares on the secondary market (like you and I) don’t matter for price discovery and market efficiency. I trust Ben Felix more than I trust someone with a cliché Milanese last name. I’d call this an almost-red flag.

So far, not so good.

I’m eager to jump to conclusions, but let’s wait to see what they invest on, check their past performances compared to benchmarks, and the costs (hidden and not) of their funds.

What do they Invest on?

[May 4th Note: I’m talking about AcomeA funds, I don’t give a crap about Gimme5 as a nice app with cool graphics and millennial-friendly gamification features. I care about what they invest on with your money]

They have a family of products (I count 14 different funds) split in 4 categories: short term bonds, mid-long term bonds, flexible, and stocks.

You can see a lot of data (kudos for their transparency) for each fund on their website, except their costs, which are displayed separately in a different section of the website, not in the fund page. Light-Yellow flag.

While the bond funds have a benchmark to brag about (and all the four funds seem to be beating the benchmark since 2011), the “flexible” funds have not.

I took a deeper look at the Aggressive plan (in the flexible family). According to the description “the fund goal is significant growth of invested capital in the long term, with high risk“. Ok, it smells of 100% stocks, but it’s not (40% stocks, 50% bonds, 10% others).

It has an ISIN: IT0003073209, which I quickly found on Morningstar.

Oops, the fund rating on Morningstar is just Meh.

They assigned a benchmark for the fund, and… well…

Red line is the fund, Green line is the benchmark… and Red is also the Flag!

What’s the performance of this “aggressive” fund since 2011?

Since June 2011, S&P500 total index returned +165%

Ouch… it sucks!

Top holdings? Italian banks (including Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which lost 99% of its value, and then lost 99% of its value again), and South African bonds?

This too I shall Pass.

Red flag. Huge red flag.

No wait RIP, I want to see their fees!

I’m not sure you’re ready for this…

It seems they waive the purchase fee (but it’s not guaranteed)

Ouch… 2.34% TER…

Plus they also charge you with a 20% performance fee for performances above “a benchmark” (that’s not shown on their website) 15% performance fee based on high watermark criteria. For example, in 2018 they charged an extra 0.34% performance fee, and in 2019 an extra 0.81% on A1 class (1.20% for A2 class).

That’s because “passive and day trading create space for arbitrage“… yeah, they’re arbitraging out financial illiteracy! Speeding up the process for which “A fool and his money are soon parted“.

And I was tricked at first, because on Gimme5 costs page it’s written that Performance fee is 0.20 of the difference between fund and benchmark. 0.20! I thought 0.20%! I didn’t realize that there was a “%” missing there, on purpose! What a marketing asshole move! 0.20 seems little, while 20% is a lot!

“Luckily” they miss their benchmarks most of the time. Phew, you saved some performance fee thanks to their inability to beat the market! 🙂

Let’s move into stock funds.

Wait RIP, they also have A2 and Q2 class funds… what does it mean?

It took me a while to understand their share classes, but I think I get it now.

Class “A” is the “mutual fund”, while class “Q” is the ETF.

ETF?? Don’t they only handle mutual funds?

Yes, some of their funds have an ETF ATFund version and can be traded on the stock exchange. For example the ETF ATFund version of the “Aggressive fund” has a different ISIN (IT0005091084) and different performances as shown on Morningstar (and a 1.12% TER instead of 2.36%).

A couple of issues here:

  • The share class size is 3 Million Euro, meaning that I could buy 40% of the entire fund if I wanted. 😀  I said this not to brag (just a bit), but to show that they have very low liquidity, i.e. high buy/sell spread… you know that, don’t you?
  • We started from the idea that “you can invest as little as 5 Euro“. If an investor has a brokerage account and enough funds to trade on stock exchanges on their own, their ETFs ATFunds face a much tougher competition, and the competitors are orders of magnitude better.

So, goodbye ATFunds, you’ll never be missed by us!

Number (1 or 2) in their classes means “full service” (or traditional) vs “self service“.

Class A1, for example, is their “traditional mutual fund”, for those who “want to delegate”.

Class A2 is for the DIY investors who like to play with AcomeA mutual funds on their platform.

Class Q2 is the ETF ATFund, which is Self Service by nature.

Wait, one of their funds have shares of class C1! I wonder what that means, but let’s move on.

Btw, if you invest within the Gimme5 App, you invest in A2 class funds.

But I also see “P” classes. What are they about?

The “P” class is for Italian specific tax advantage accounts (PIR) which suck assess. Italy tried to launch its own version of IRA (after tax, tax advantage accounts) but the constraints make PIRs inferiors by design. 70% must be invested in Italian industries, 30% of which in small and mid caps. Avoid that like you avoid the Covid-19 (or Prudente, Aggressivo, Paesi Emergenti, America, Italia, Globale and many more AcomeA funds, no matter which class).

Let’s now move into stock funds. Let’s just take a look at their “Global” and “Emerging Market” strategies. No need to investigate further.

Let’s also be nice and only look at the A2 classes of their funds (A1 is 2x more expensive, and Q2 has similar costs to A2, but lower liquidity).

Enters AcomeA Global A2 (KIID here)

  • 14M EUR share class size. Peanuts.
  • 1.12% TER. Not extremely bad, but we know about world funds with 0.1% TER or less.
  • Obviously underperforming their benchmark, even on their website.
  • 20% performance fee in case they beat the benchmark (“luckily” they almost never do, like 90% of active fund managers). In that rare year would beat the benchmark, you’d pay 20% on the overperformance. You don’t get back anything for the years they underperformed. Cool.
  • 4% max entry fee, which I assume are only charged on those naive customers brought into this fund from high commission third party salesman financial advisor. [May 4th Note: entry and exit fees currently waived for Gimme5 users]

Let’s take a look at their EM fund.

No RIP, no need to go there. I’ve had enough!

Ok, right, I’m also tired and I’m sure I won’t find anything surprising there.

Btw 4% entry and exit fees, 1.02% TER (class A2, class A1 TER is 2.13%)and other fun stuff here

Enough!

Don’t you want to know if they beat the benchmark? 🙂

Enough!!!

What are the Gimme5 extra Costs?

We covered most of the AcomeA fund costs while analyzing the funds. That’s where good marketers hide true costs of investments 😉

On the Gimme5 website you see shiny “Zero costs” banners everywhere:

Why the hell 1 EUR for reimbursement??

There’s more, though.

You can always invest directly in AcomeA funds on their website, but we started this journey by analyzing the Gimme5 app. So let’s see what’s up with their app.

First of all, you can only pick one fund. You can’t have X EUR on Fund 1 and Y EUR on Fund 2. You gotta choose one.

RIP, I changed my mind. I want to switch from Fund 1 to Fund 2. I assume it’s fee

Oh oh oh nice pun my friend!

Yes, you can’t switch fund for free. It’s another flat fee of 1 EUR per switch. It’s not much, but still.

Plus the regular taxes in Italy, like:

  • Every year 0.2% of invested capital in “Stamp Duty” (min 1 EUR, which makes the “invest as little as 5 EUR” a bit… inefficient?) 
  • 26% capital gain taxes on stocks (12% on bonds). The guys at AcomeA are kind enough to withhold taxes for you by default. So if you have to do some sort of compensation with other gains/losses you have elsewhere in your Net Worth it will be a total pain in the ass. Classical Italian way 😉  [2020-11-09 UPDATE: this seems to be a desired feature by Italian investors, according to many threads on r/ItaliaPersonalFinance. I’m a hardcore investor in Switzerland, and I prefer to be in control of my taxes and not have N entities handing withholding on my behalf. My bias. Mea Culpa 🙂]

RIP Review

Now I finally have a better understanding of what’s going on there, and I’m annoyed and pissed off.

I think Gimme5 and AcomeA Funds are inferior solutions, that are fighting for their market share in the same old way: via marketing strategies instead of via product quality.

But RIP, I’m a student who wants to start investing, I only have a couple of hundred bucks…

I get that if you have a hundred bucks their app may be your best choice (I didn’t investigate their competitors), but listen to me very carefully: if your wealth is 100 EUR don’t your waste time investing. You have other things to focus on. Come back when you have 10k EUR, and at that point regular brokers and low-costs index-tracking ETFs are way WAY more efficient!

Just for fun, I made a spreadsheet to calculate Global on Gimme5 vs VT on IB.

This assume you open a IB account and deposit some amount each month and invest it in VT. Ok, didn’t take into account currency conversions, let’s assume you can find a VT equivalent traded in EUR currency (AcomeA funds are also traded in EUR currency and it’s not written anywhere how they handle assets in a different currency anyway). What matters here is the same return of both alternatives.

We know IB charges a 10 USD monthly fee if you have less than 100k USD invested with them. IB also offers IBKR Lite accounts, without monthly fee (which I don’t recommend for high net worth individuals for reasons that are outside the scope of this post), but let’s assume we want to compare against a IBKR Pro account.

The goal was to find the minimum amount to invest monthly in VT on IB to break even with Global stocks fund AcomeA, via Gimme5 app, assuming same average performances (5% yearly).

Gimme5 key strength is small size, right? You’d assume that if you have 100 EUR per month to invest you’d be better off with Gimme5 right? Opening a IB account, depositing 100 EUR, and paying 10 USD fees per month until 100k doesn’t make sense, right?

WRONG.

If you keep investing every month the same amount for 30 years, investing in VT on IB breaks even if your monthly investment is as little as 55 EUR!

Gimme55!

RIP, I don’t believe you! If I put 55 EUR into IB each month I’ll pay almost 20% fees (10 USD) each month! How can it be??

Well, of course at first it’s going to hurt, but over 30 years you’d break even!

Here you go:

Now… I’m not recommending you to open an Interactive Brokers account if you have ZERO ready to transfer, and you only plan to invest as little as 55 EUR per month (although maybe IBKR Lite works for you, I didn’t investigate it well enough) but I hope you get the idea. I wrote a post about what’s my suggested minimum lump sum amount to make an IB account worth opening (~25k USD), but if the alternative you’re considering is Gimme5, and you plan to invest as little as 5 EUR/month, even a lump sum of 6k EUR makes IB a better choice.

That means that we should have clarified that even where this product claims to be strong (spare change investing), it is actually very weak.

Press Reviews

Yeah RIP, thank you for your deep analysis… but are you the only one who figured it out? I’m reading a lot of good reviews on the internet!

Press reviews are mostly useless, because you never know if they’re paid ads or not.

Anyway, reviews are generally useful to double check your findings.

But make yourself a favor and always try to be a first principle thinker. You can reconstruct anything from scratch and find the truth from the axioms of your knowledge. Don’t blindly trust what others say.

Let’s take a look at the top press reviews anyway. Sorry, all of them are in Italian language.

  • Il Sole 24 Ore is probably the most authoritative source of financial news, with good international reputation. They wrote few articles about Gimme5. Here’s one mentioned on Gimme5 website. The article is from 2018. They show some numbers like 200k registered users, 25k monthly active (savers) users, 25M EUR total raised capital (125 EUR on average per user, or 1k per active user) and at the end of the article they say part of the truth: TERs are higher compared to ETFs, but the key strength of the app is “small amounts” starting from 5 EUR. Honest review.
  • La Repubblica is the most read Italian newspaper. This 2016 article compare Gimme5 to roboadvisor and it’s full of fluff. Nothing interesting here.
  • Salvatore Aranzulla is a famous Italian tech popularizer, with one of the most clicked Italian website. His key strength is “step by step guides” for basic and complex tasks in the tech world. He’s so famous that the Riccardo Zanotti (Pinguini Tattici Nucleari) and Eugenio Cesaro (Eugenio in via di Gioia) made a song about him. Aranzulla wrote an article about Gimme5 with a step by step guide to get started. Classical Aranzullian style. He’s also transparent about costs and taxes, but adds no personal opinion on top. Meh.

Those official reviews seem “too nice to be honest”.

Like this guy interviewing one of the co-founders (split in 3 videos: 1, 2, 3). Nothing interesting, except few plainly wrong statements like “moving money into Gimme5 is safer than keeping it on your bank account“, with respect to bankruptcy risk. Bullshits. Red Flags.

Let’s look for independent reviews.

The value of independent reviews is manifold: maybe I missed something in my analysis, maybe someone who’s currently a customer has a better understanding, maybe there are obvious red flags that I didn’t see and so on. I also want to check if others pose same questions and draw same conclusions of mine.

I had great expectations from Finanzaonline (FOL) though, the biggest financial forum in Italy. But I got disappointed!

Here‘s a “900 comments” thread that I randomly sampled (didn’t read them all, of course) and no open critique found. Astonished. Another one, only praises. Again and again.

I didn’t find what I was looking for 🙁

Am I the only one who’s run some math?

Or, more likely, is financial education in Italy this low?

Conclusions

I don’t blame Shy for having advertised something borderline for a common sense investor (cit). I’m more surprised that I’ve found no negative reviews. Nobody pointed that the king is naked!

That’s sad, but it doesn’t change my first principle thinker mind.

Yeah… well, I’m not sure I’ll be able to go that deep next time. What can I do?

Dear friend, I know. The financial world is full of sharks.

Make yourself a favor, and get some basic financial literacy.

I would like to remind you the following:

1) Do your own investigation before signing contracts and subscribing investments.

2) Understand what you’re investing in! Else you just don’t do it. Full stop. There is always a chain of risks that must be understood and acknowledged, that starts from solvency risk of all the middle men, and ends in actual market exposure risk. Some of the risk is compensated (market exposure for example) meaning that you should expect positive average returns, while some of the risk is not compensated (like higher investing costs and fees).

Do your own investigation. Spend few hours of your life today, and save a lot of money over your investing lifetime.

The more you want to delegate, the more likely you end up paying those 4% entry and exit fees, on top of the A1 “traditional” class TERs of 2+%!

I made a simple analysis of the impact of these fees and TERs on your long term investing horizon. Take a look at this spreadsheet.

Assuming a 5% average return, a 30 years horizon, and 500 EUR per month saved and invested, by not using a smart tool (like VT) you end up leaving on the table more than a third of your potential wealth! And this assume your actively managed fund performs the same as the benchmark!

… and I waived the 4% exit fee because I’m a good guy!

Kudos for their transparency and ease of access, but that doesn’t cover for the sub-sub-par quality of their products.

Shy, do not worry, I still love you 😉

Have a nice (and scary) week!

 

Meta Conclusions, and a bonus for Italians

It’s been a pretty long and painful post to write, without having done anything to let it circulate.

I’m not fighting any battle against this inferior active investors who are trying to get more people investing in their inferior products thanks to aggressive marketing and not via improving the quality of their products. This is just “business as usual” in the financial industry.

I just wanted to show how to conduct a deeper financial analysis.

If I wanted to really fight I would have written this post in Italian language, and shared as broadly as possible within Italian communities. I didn’t. I was actually contacted by Shy in person because few of his subscribers sent him a link to this post. And I’ve been very happy to help him get a deeper understanding of what he was recommending, since he was close to start a stronger partnership with these guys. Shy didn’t decide yet (or at least he didn’t send me any update) whether to stop those remunerative collaborations or not. I sincerely hope he shows them his middle finger, even though I would understand if he decided to move on.

And just to be clear: I have only to lose from this “battle”. I fear their retaliation. I blog anonymously, and I’d like to keep doing so until eventually I decide I don’t want to change this. Plus I don’t have a legal structure and legal protection… and they seemed very pissed off and who knows what kind of weapons they could deploy against me in revenge. Italy is he land of lawyers and people suing other people just for fun. I don’t want to have to waste time/money on these guys, which in a free market should just be shrugged away by the inferior quality of their offers.

Have a nice day, for the third time 🙂

Hey RIP, I’ve read this entire crap. You promised a bonus for Italians… where is it?

Oh right, I was going to forget about it 🙂

The days before April 23rd, after having talked with Shy, I collected more info about their funds and their strategy and wrote a doc I shared with Shy, in Italian language.

It’s written like a speech, like I was going to read it in front of a public (the guys from AcomeA).

I had fun writing it. The first part is about active vs passive, and that was the discussion I was expecting in the meeting, not four guys yelling at me over micro issues.

Enjoy.

And once again, have a nice day!

33 comments

  1. Unbelievable! I checked by myself their Website…numbers and fees are there! How could somebody subscribe something like that? I think you touched an important point: “financial literacy”. Often talking to friends, I realize that people don’t look at fees: entry fee, closing fee, TER…nothing! “A friend of a friend told me it’s good…and I bought it!”…Noooooooooo! Who is this guy? Why is he convinced this product is so good? Which competence has he got to say that? I know, also diversification and all the other aspects are important, but fees are the “initial” key: if you pay 3% for a product based on bonds and then a TER of 2%, it means you put 100 and in a blink you are at 95…and this is just the appetizer: one year later, after a difficult and probably unfeasible recovery, you receive the main course: -2%…TER is like a diamond…”a diamond is forever” ;-). Are you tired? Do you wanna quit? “Garçon, the dessert!”: “Here it is: -4%! Closing fee!”. Rock on!
    Go on this way, MrRIP, it is important to share knowhow with people “open to learn”. And it is important to identify “money-grabbers” who are addressing young people with tricky ads and numbers. Let’s start using comments, also in your blog, to give small and clear pieces of information, with clear examples, in order to give an easy and simple explanation about pitfalls and risks in the path of the “creation of one’s own robust portfolio”.
    Take care! SirRik

    1. Thank you SirRik, I’m a bit disappointed this post didn’t get the attention I wanted it to have (maybe I should have written in Italian?)

  2. in my opinion in other European states and the US there is no real perception of the Coronavirus danger that in a short time can lead to the collapse of any health system and block the economy, it is news today that for example FCA Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has blocked completely 3 important factories in Italy, including Melfi with dramatic consequences for all companies in the automotive sector, tourism and commerce companies are in serious crisis

  3. Hi Mr. RIP, I am a small investor and I am currently investing on Oval Money, which provides similar investing opportunities. In particular, Oval Money relies on SmartETN. Have you ever heard about them? Do you have any specific tips about this platform? Thanks a lot for your time!

    1. If you are a small investor, it is better to stick with plain ETFs from iShare or Vanguard. I hope you really know what you are buying (ETN) and I suggest you to read a recent article from WSJ, “‘Bankrupt in Just Two Weeks’—Individual Investors Get Burned by Collapse of Complex Securities”, where they say “The pandemic-fueled economic downturn has sparked turmoil in nearly every financial market. It has taken a particularly brutal toll on investors like Mr. Mark, who wagered on the roughly $7 trillion market for structured products: complex instruments that include ETNs, options-based strategies and certificates of deposits whose returns are tied to stocks or currencies. Banks and brokerages advertised them as offering payouts both steadier and more lucrative than plain-vanilla investments such as bonds or index-tracking funds. Most professional money managers avoided them. For many less sophisticated retail buyers, the market blowup taught the kind of painful lesson that comes with just about every economic crisis: There is no such thing as an investment that is both safe and highly profitable”

      1. Thanks for the article suggestion! I’m reading it and I double down on my skepticism about ETN.

        In general, why can’t people invest in clear, simple, secure EQUITIES. I’m talking about investing, not speculating. I really don’t understand why do people want to buy derivatives for anything else than their original meaning: insurances.

        1. I think that people do not want to buy derivatives but derivatives are aggressively marketed and highly promoted by brokerage firms for the high fees.
          The most of retail investors should just focus on the only choice that really matters: the split between equity and fixed income. Then, build a portfolio with broad market index and low-cost ETFs.
          If you are an Italian investing in Milan Stock Exchange, you just need 2 ETFs:
          1- Equity: Vanguard FTSE All-World UCITS ETF (USD) Accumulating VWCE.MI (ISIN: IE00BK5BQT80)
          2- Fixed income: Vanguard Global Aggregate Bond UCITS ETF EUR Hedged Accumulating VAGF.MI (ISIN: IE00BG47KH54)
          They are quite new and relatively small (iShare has some equivalent ETFs too).
          We can replace all-world with any other regional combination (US, EU, EM…) but it does not matter so much in the long run (or better, there is no way to know in advance which combination will give the best performance). What really matter is how much equity and how much fixed income we want.

          1. Amazing comment, and nice ETF selection 🙂

            For the stocks, other valid alternatives are the distributing version of VWCE, which is VWRL (reason: 5x AUM, meaning more liquidity. In Italy Dist or Acc is the same tax-wise), the iShares alternative SWDA which has another 5x factor more assets under management.

            For the bonds, the VAGF ETF is very young and I don’t have a mature enough opinion about it. Thanks for the pointer though 🙂

    2. I’ve never heard about Oval Money, and I just discovered that they invest your money using derivative products provided by a Limited Liability Company based in Ireland (smartETN), whose derivatives (ETNs) are managed by another Limited Liability Company based in UK (Cirdan), founded in 2014, with 11-50 employees.

      That’s enough to make me desire to run away close to the speed of light.

      This kind of things work well during the 364 days of the year where the Turkey thinks humans are awesome. Then Thanksgiving comes.

  4. Financial education in Italy is so low. My father has been investing with Mediolanum for 40 years and he does not understand that a TER of 2.5% can literally cost half of his wealth in the long run. I have been investing for 5 years in a portfolio 60% VUSA and 40% VEUR (I am 40), I showed him my results and gave him a bunch of articles / books on portfolio allocation with ETF and advocate for a 40/60 stock/bond portfolio but he is afraid of firing his FA (family banker) even if he costs him about 10K/year for no value. At the same time, he is constantly chasing the best bargains at the market. Insane.

    1. As I posted tonight, I’m going to address personal finance education much more in the near future. I really believe there’s a huge hole and an opportunity to have an impact there.

      I’m sorry for your father, I hope his shark is not going to suck all of his money.

      1. Thanks for your concern, RIP, and for your commitment. His FA just sold him a bunch of crappy balanced funds… not better or worse than the most of Italian second-pillar pension funds. Unfortunately, I live abroad and I cannot tackle this situation as I would.

  5. God, another youtuber, giopizzi, was sponsored and advertised gimme5 in his recent video “what is cyberpunk?”, I was immediately – like anyone else who doesn’t know anything about economy – teased by the possibility of accumulating small amounts of money with something so… Tempting. I’m still a hs student, so every passive fund looks like a far mirage that one day – perhaps – I’ll be able to use – but this is not that day, due to my natural lack of a good starting amount of money available -, however, I checked a bit on reddit and found a post asking about gimme5, the only answer linked to this thread. Wow, I really thank you for making me realize how much I have to study if I want to get even a subtle grasp of how not to get screwed and how stupid I’ve been… Well, guess I’ll put my small student savings on buoni postali which is still better than a kick in the balls and leaving excess cash I know I won’t use in a span of a few years home.

    1. Just kidding, after seeing the interest rate I concluded I’d spend my time better studying rather than subscribing buoni postali, I mean, even selling lemonade on the street in the American way would be more profitable ;D

      1. Hi Andrea, welcome to my blog!
        Comments like yours motivate me to push harder on personal finance education.
        I saw the Giopizzi video on Cyberpunk yesterday (a great video btw, I got a lot of material I want to dig thru) and when I saw the Gimme5 sponsorship I felt the urge to raise my voice. I will do that.

        1. Please continue spreading knowledge, for a student – as well for a normal person, anyone who isn’t directly involved in finance – it’s very difficult do learn even the fondamentals do and don’t, I wouldn’t even know where to start looking for info – except for this blog and a few other sites – because browser searches are completely filled with trash sites who just promote the daily advertiser

          1. Hey Andrea, if you are looking for good resources on how to start investing, take a look at 3 very good and simple books:
            1 – The Four Pillars of Investing: Lessons for Building a Winning Portfolio by W. Bernstein
            2 – A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Malkiel
            3- The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns by Bogle
            If you are Italian, you can also read them in Italian:
            1 – “I 4 pilastri dell’investimento. Lezioni per costruire un portafoglio vincente” di William J. Bernstein
            2 – “A spasso per Wall Street. Tutti i segreti per investire con successo” di Burton G. Malkiel
            3 – “Il piccolo libro dell’investimento. Un modo efficace per garantire il tuo guadagno nel mercato azionario” di John C. Bogle

  6. Grazie per le tue ricerche e per averle esposte in modo (abbastanza) chiaro, anche per un profano come me. Spero che Shy rifletta bene sul da farsi.
    Rimarrò aggiornato per la guida!

    1. Shy credo/spero abbia finito le sue marchette e spero gliele abbiano anche ben pagate.
      Ancora, credo/spero che abbia capito che ha sponsorizzato monnezza, ma abbia giudicato il ritorno economico abbastanza sostanzioso e la monnezza piazzabile senza far troppi danni.

      Peccato, perché nella nostra ultima call alla domanda “RIP, ma secondo te questa roba fa proprio schifo?” io gli avevo risposto “Per giocare con due soldi, e nel breve termine fa ‘schifetto’, ma se veramente vuoi raccomandare questa roba a giovani che vogliono investire a lungo termine questa roba è proprio monnezza della peggiore specie”. Aveva chiuso con un “ok, adesso ho capito”. Eravamo rimasti che comunque mi faceva sapere cosa avrebbe deciso, ma alla fine un mese dopo ho visto che è andato all-in con loro ed un po’ ci sono rimasto male.

      Pazienza, spero almeno abbiano pagato bene.

      1. Davvero spero che abbiano pagato bene, però sapere questa cosa lascerà un piccola macchia nella mia opinione per Alessandro. Massima stima per lui come “giornalista” (atipico a dire il vero), ma questo non me lo sarei aspettato.
        Devo dire che trovare il tuo blog mi ha fatto molto piacere: sono ancora studente e dovranno passare diversi anni prima di potermi affacciare al mondo del lavoro, ma mi ero messo a cercare risorse sul mondo della gestione finanziaria (molto lontano dal campo dei miei studi) e direi che questo sito è una fantastica porta di ingresso.
        Ho già letto gli articoli “About RIP/me” e il “FIRE Dialogue”; non sono d’accordo su tutto quello dici (parlo di scelte di vita ovviamente, di finanza capisco ben poco) ma apprezzo molto il tuo modo di porti a 360 gradi, senza contare che il fatto ti piaccia ZeroCalcare ti fa prendere molti punti 🙂
        Unico appunto: sulla pagina “External Resource” i link Learning Journal e Learning Projects non sono attivi. Te lo segnalo anche se forse è una cosa voluta.
        Ho scritto in italiano per guadagnare in velocità e chiarezza espositiva ma se preferisci che i commenti siano il più possibile in inglese mi sforzerò, al prezzo di inevitabili sbavature linguistiche

        1. I link Learning Journal e Learning Projects non sono attivi perché non ho ancora pulito e condiviso i relativi documenti. One day I will 🙂
          E’ ok Italiano su post come questo, molto “italiani”. per il resto se commenti altrove ti chiedo gentilmente di farlo in EN 😉

          Shy per me resta molto in gamba, e continuerò a seguirlo e non perdermi i suoi video.
          Ho solo smesso di finanziarlo tramite Patreon.

          1. Nessun problema per la lingua. Mi sono reso conto ora di aver scritto “atopico” invece di atipico, non potendo editare la risposta precedente mi correggo qui 🙂

  7. Ciao RIP,

    ho letto il tuo articolo e l’ho trovato molto interessante. Il fatto che nessun altro alzi la mano su questa carta straccia è preoccupante!! Purtroppo o per fortuna investo su ETF ishares e non seguo strumenti italiani.

    Capisco che sei coinvolto emotivamente dal fatto che Gimme5 pubblicizzi questo cibo per cani a ragazzi giovani e purtroppo senza alfabetizzazione finanziaria. Però ti devo dire che la tua critica alla gestione amministrata è un po’ gratuita e fa un attimo diminuire la tua credibilità (che comunque, fatti alla mano, è altissima). Personalmente penso che una app semplice come prova ad essere sia un po’ incompatibile con il regime dichiarativo.

    Tu lo critichi come “Classical Italian way 😉” ma se dovessi creare domani una app che permette a piccoli investitori di investire piccole somme, anche io non darei la possibilità di avere il regime dichiarativo per mantenere la massima semplicità d’uso e per non costringere i miei utenti a troppe scelte. In questo sono d’accordo con la scelta di Gimme5.

    Per il resto, farò il possibile per tenere i soldi dei miei amici ben lontani da questi farabutti.

    Grazie per l’analisi approfondita.

    Con cordialità,

    Mitsubishi Space Gear.

    1. Ciao MSG, grazie per le belle parole 🙂

      Si, ho letto anche io che la gestione amministrata sembra essere considerata un benefit da molti (a giudicare dai thread su r/italiapersonalfinance). Io personalmente sono più hardcore e preferisco essere in controllo di tutto. Qui in Svizzera, a meno che non sia ancora con permessi di soggiorno temporanei, nssuno ti gestisce la tua fiscalità. Ti prendi il lordo e paghi le tasse come e quando vuoi, senza neanche presunzione di criminalità se commetti errori a tuo vantaggio.

      Ne approfitto ora che me lo hai segnalato per fare un errata corrige: mea culpa 🙂

  8. Ciao RIP,
    grazie per l’analisi dettagliata.
    Io ci “ero cascato” proprio in seguito alle sponsorizzazioni di Shy.
    Ci sono rimasto molto male, non tanto per Shy quanto per la faciloneria con la quale ho firmato e sottoscritto il fondo, investendoci a più riprese circa 1000€ di risparmi, nell’ottica di formare un gruzzoletto sul lungo periodo (la fiducia pressoché sconfinata che riponevo in Shy non può essere una scusante).

    La colpa ripeto, è in primis mia, che non ho letto nel dettaglio kiid e prospetto del fondo (le informazioni va detto, AComeA le dichiara).
    Il seme del dubbio mi è venuto qualche settimana fa quando, anche grazie a un mio crescente interesse sul mondo degli investimenti, sono ritornato sul prospetto del fondo, andando a rivederne la composizione e notando con una certa sorpresa un’esposizione non trascurabile a obbligazioni turche.
    Allora mi sono messo alla ricerca di un’analisi dettagliata dei loro fondi scoprendo con disappunto la pressoché totale assenza da parte di testate o blog di approfondimento sulla finanza italiani, fino a che non sono arrivato per caso a te 😄.

    [Kudos per la citazione a Brambilla Fumagalli]

    Ciao e grazie ancora per i tuoi contributi

    1. Fantastico, contento di averti aiutato Alessandro 🙂
      Che le informazioni AComeA le dichiari diciamo che è un attimo obbligatorio per legge per chi opera nei mercati altamente regolamentati come quelli della gestione del risparmio.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment Spam Blocking by WP-SpamShield