George Milford Haven, the business brains behind the uSwitch utilities comparison site, has invested a reported £3 million in MoneyGuru, a Brazilian personal finance website.
The new business, based in São Paulo, has a number of parallels with George Milford Haven’s former venture in the UK. Originally founded in 2013, MoneyGuru provides consumers with an opportunity to compare details of a number of different personal finance products to find the best deal for them. This includes the full range of financial services – everything from loans to credit cards.
The Brazilian market is growing
This is a new development in the South American market which has traditionally exhibited significant brand loyalty in financial products. Going forward, MoneyGuru expects to develop its existing partnerships with leading players in Brazil’s banking sector, Itaú and Bradesco. Around £10 million in investment in the company is expected in 2017.
George Milford Haven has chosen a prime time for investing in the Brazilian market. A recent survey showed 13% of Brazilians already go online to check prices on items they are looking to purchase and there have been huge booms in smartphone ownership and use. As an indication, one in four Brazilians will look online while sitting watching television.
The start-up market is also hot. In 2016 there were 2,835 new startups in Brazil. The largest number of these was in the capital Sao Paulo, which saw 605 new firms. Minas Gerais followed with 181 and Rio de Janeiro had 125 new firms launched.
The MoneyGuru team
The financial market in Brazil is ripe for innovation, much like the UK’s utilities market was when George Milford Haven saw the gap that uSwitch filled. Brazilian banks are solid and many major international banks have operations in the country. This means that the market for financial services is well-developed and there is a wide range of products available. This is due to the strategic adoption of IT systems which allows for the fast transfer of money.
MoneyGuru was founded, and remains managed by George Milford Haven’s business partner, Stanlei Bellan. The internet entrepreneur comes from a strong background of creating user-friendly technology, having previously been at the helm of dating site eHarmony.
During his time as the managing director of the company, Bellan led on the company’s launch and development strategy – building the service’s profile from the ground up in the Brazilian market. He has also collected considerable experience as an investor himself. He also has experience standing behind a number of successful internet start-ups.
When you cast an eye over his CV, it’s easy to see why George Milford Haven saw fit to invest. Bellan has a strong background in forward-thinking marketing and advertising. Strings to his bow include OgilvyInteractive (WPP), AgenciaClick (Aegis) and MediaContacts (Havas).
Under these umbrellas, he oversaw digital strategy for industry players such as Coca-Cola, Google and Citibank. He also crafted messages and products for Unilever, Whirlpool, Siemens, Fiat, and Kraft Foods. It’s no surprise he is now working in financial services as he started out with Chase Manhattan Bank.
This new venture is, however, a long way from his qualification as an electronic engineer from POLI-USP (Universidade de São Paulo). He also holds a Master’s degree in business from FGV (Fundação Getulio Vargas).
The British involvement
Quickly realising the extent of the opportunity in Brazil, George Milford Haven’s family trust financed the investment in MoneyGuru– largely supplemented by the sale of the uSwitch platform to American media company EC Scripps in 2006 for around £210 million. The titled cousin of the British Queen created uSwitch at the turn of the millennium after deregulation of the UK utilities market provided new opportunities for customers to survey the market for good value deals.
uSwitch, under George Milford Haven’s team’s management, was one of the first portals to capitalise on this freedom of choice and has allowed millions of customers to save money on their household bills.