Don't Trust The TikTok Business Gurus

Anne-Claire Bennevault, founder of consulting firm BNVLT and think tank, weighs in on the rise of the so-called "finfluencers".

Don't Trust The TikTok Business Gurus

U.S. "Finfluencer" Robert Breedlove (and his Bitcoin tattoo)

Official YouTube channel
Anne-Claire Bennevault


Some 15 or 20 years ago, if you were looking to get into finance, you would read the Wall Street Journal, pay attention to Henry Kaufman's analyses and closely follow both Ray Dalio's speeches and Warren Buffet's masterclasses. These traditional financial gurus do continue to have very large audiences, but now they are rivaled by tech-savvy newcomers who understand the power of social media.

If you're over 35, you probably haven't heard of the "finfluencers." They include Alessio Rastani, Robert Breedlove, Dan de Chartguys and Erik Crown. They are active on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. Finfluencers use their platforms to help you manage your personal finances and sometimes even teach you investing techniques. They usually specialize in either technical analysis, the stock market or crypto-assets, and it is safe to say their audiences are only growing.

The most recent Audirep survey from the Bank of France, dated July 2020, highlighted a paradox: The majority of French people (52%) are interested in financial news and topics, but many face significant gaps in their financial education. In other words, they have not mastered basic financial knowledge.

The finfluencers are often talented, with many being self-taught, sometimes not having had any previous experience in finance at all.

Thus, the rise of the finfluencers is theoretically good news. They are helping to democratize personal finance issues and are making complex topics — such as blockchain and crypto-assets — accessible to all. While major financial institutions struggle to reach out to 18-35 year olds, finfluencers have succeeded in capturing their attention by offering perfectly tailored content in the form of short, dynamic videos and other posts that avoids financial jargon and reaches them via the channels they use most: social media.

A study released by Lending Tree in January 2021 showed that 41% of Americans in Generation Z (those born after 1995) reported using TikTok to learn about financial information during December 2020. The implication of these findings demonstrates that young people prefer social media over traditional avenues. This is likely because they have already mastered the technology and know-how to find people that will explain things to them simply and without judgment.

The finfluencers are often talented, with many being self-taught, sometimes not having had any previous experience in finance at all. They are also very good at monetizing their audience. However, not all finfluencers are reliable. Some fail to warn their audiences about the inherent dangers involved with financial investments. One of these risks is related to leverage, which functions similarly to credit and allows you to invest more than you have in the stock market, but can also lead to massive losses in the event of a market downturn.

Finfluencer Carmen Perez runs the personal finance blog — Photo: makerealcents via Instagram

This is where we reach the limits of democratizing financial education via social media platforms, which exist outside of any regulation. You cannot simply wake up and decide to be a financial investment advisor. Reality TV star Nabilla Benattia-Vergara is a perfect example of this: She was forced to pay a 20,000-euro fine for promoting stock market services on Snapchat without mentioning that she was paid for the advertisement.

It is important to remember that in France, financial investment advising is a strictly regulated profession, as evidenced by the rules related to insurance coverage, membership in professional associations, registration with the Organization for the Unique Registry of Insurance, Banking and Finance Intermediaries, etc. The field follows several rules connected to good conduct and ethics.

We should be pleased to see more and more young people becoming interested in their personal finances, and social media is a good starting point for financial education. But, on the other hand, there needs to be more oversight of finfluencer activity.

Social media sites have started to take more responsibility by issuing warnings, sometimes going so far as to ban some unscrupulous finfluencers and updating their terms of service. For instance, TikTok recently updated its regulations to prohibit users from advertising financial services on its platform, and Google announced that it will take new steps in the fall. In France, it is becoming more urgent that the Financial Market Authority (Autorité des marchés financiers) takes a closer look at the subject.

The financial brands that will succeed in capturing a long-term young audience will be those that succeed in getting onto these platforms.

Moreover, financial institutions, the old-school interlocutors when it comes to savings, should also adapt their content and messages to address young people. This involves becoming active on social media, including potentially forming partnerships with serious players in the online finance field and modifying their content so that it corresponds with Gen Z's expectations.

The key takeaway is that the approach that once worked for 35-50 year olds does not work for young people, as they do not have the same relationship with social media, nor the same life trajectories, assets or income expectations. In addition, financial institutions must deal with and offer support to young people, as they have experienced more generalized financial insecurity and lack of employment opportunities.

In recent years, all the major banks have adapted their offerings to young people by avoiding thinking of them solely as students who need to only be addressed at the beginning and end of the school year. They have come to understand that their profile is more diverse, whether they be young professionals, interns, students or unemployed.

According to a study conducted by Diplomeo, 73% of 16-25 year olds get their information from "social networks," with Instagram, Twitter and Facebook leading the way. This is why the financial brands that will succeed in capturing a long-term young audience will be those that succeed in getting onto these platforms, as more and more young people will exclusively use them to plan their financial futures.

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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.



• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.


"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.



For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.


Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

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We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.


Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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