Aeko Ongodia, is a renowned Charted Finance Analyst, the founder and CEO of Xeno Technologies, an investment management company that uses technology to help investors make investment decisions. He talks to our reporter Sharon Kyatusiimire about his inspirations, education and career.
What is your education back ground?
I studied Bachelor of Science in Quantitative Economics at Makerere University. I got my first Master’s degree in mathematical Trading and Finance at City University London and my second Master’s degree in Applied Mathematics and Statistics at Stony Brook University.
You are the founder of XENO technologies? What is your experience in financial management?
I have a 10 year experience in the African financial markets. 5 years at Bank of Uganda as Head of Stress Testing and Risk Modeling. I have also formally worked as a fixed income portfolio manager at NSSF Uganda where I was in charge of U$1.3 billion. My experience at those two financial institutions has given me the right expertise to manage an investment management company. I am also co-founded QuantEast Advisory, an institutional investment advisory firm.
That’s quite a lot of achievements at your young age, what is your secret?
Hahahaha, interesting question. You are very kind if you truly think I am young. I do think of my age much. I think of the problem. I have had the benefit of experience (more than a decade in the financial services industry) and extensive training in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). This combination has equipped with the tools I need to build solutions to problems people or organizations face. My entire career has been about building systems from scratch. Lastly, I have a rather adventurous predisposition and I am constantly researching, asking questions about how things even the most mundane can be done differently or how people elsewhere are doing things differently.
What is XENO technologies about?
XENO Technologies (“XENO”) is an investment firm licensed and regulated by Uganda’s Capital Markets Authority as a Fund Manager and Unit Trust Manager. XENO uses technology to provide professional investment advice and management to both individuals and institutions through the XENO Platform. Using the XENO automated platform, people can plan, save, and invest for various financial goals such as securing retirement, building wealth, funding education, home ownership, funding emergencies, and generating income.
Why investment management?
I have always been interested in the financial markets. Through a process of discovery, I gradually found out the function they play in the economy which is to intermediate resources from net savers (e.g. individuals and households saving for retirement) to entities (e.g. companies or governments) that need capital to expand production, develop new products, enter new markets etc. I initially worked on to acquire the tools necessary enhance my understanding of the industry (mathematics, economics, statistics, and computing) and then worked on getting the experience necessary to function as a professional.
What challenges is the company facing either in its initial stage or after foundation?
Like any startup worth its salt; our number one objective is to build something people love. Then gradually get more people to use it. Our strategy is to start small, gradually by building trust of our customers. We are fortunate to have be pioneers in our industry but of course that imposes a significant requirement to educate the public about our services. But by far, the greatest challenge is lack of knowledge about investment alternatives. We are there incorporating a significant educational component to our initial promotional strategy.
Young people feel they do not have or earn enough to invest? What is your advice?
That cannot be further from the truth. Most youth have a misconception about investing. Actually investing should start as early as you are in school. The trick idea is to think in percentages. Make a decision to save and invest consistently a certain fraction of your salary/ earnings, say 10%, irrespective of what you earn. We’re making that easy by helping you hold a diversified investment portfolio for amounts as low as USh 100,000. Just head over to https://www.myxeno.com/ and get started.
Ugandans saving culture especially in formal entities remain poor? In your opinion, why do you think that is so and what can be done to change this culture?
This is partly wrong. Ugandans love to save; this is evidenced by their urge to join cooperatives (saving groups). There many complex reasons why they are not saving formally. First, it is an issue of lack of access; Investment managers have not until now innovated a product focused on the retail customer. This might be because all of them are focused exclusively on institutional investors like pension funds and do not care whether or not the retail investor needs similar services. XENO is changing this by making professional investment guidance available to anyone.
Why should one choose Xeno as his/her investment manager?
XENO is the first Uganda Company to get a fund management license in Uganda. We’re also the first company to develop a solution aimed exclusively at the individual investor using our platform. We have harnessed the power of technology to extend an extremely important service to the common guy. XENO gives each client a customized portfolio designed to suit their individual circumstances and a place where they can monitor the performance of this portfolio on a daily basis. No one in the region even comes close to this. And we have built all our technology from scratch.