Niels Fibæk Jensen og Emil Stigsgaard Fuglsang connect pensionsavings to the UN Sustainable Development Goals with their fintech-startup Penstable. Foto: A. M. Kjemtrup Photography

Penstable: Pension savings can solve global problems

There is more to pension than returns and savings for the old age of the individual. Pension Funds can also help to secure a more sustainable future for the planet as a whole. That’s the vision of the fintech-startup Penstable.  

Danish fintech-company, Penstable, is founded on a vision rather than an actual product. Niels Fibæk Jensen is today the CEO of Penstable, but he was originally employed by the Danish delegation in the UN, New York. Here, he was part of the negotiations and formulations of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in short SDGs. With a set of 17 ambitious goals, the SDGs provide a framework for sustainable development in the years leading up to 2030 in order to secure both the planet and humanity.

However, radical changes demand capital and in order to reach the SDGs, pension funds could be a potential starting point. This was Niels Fibæk Jensen’s core idea, and he so strongly believed in the potential impact it could make, that he decided to say his goodbyes to New York in order to become an entrepreneur.

Selected investments based on impact

Back in Denmark, the idea took shape. Together with partner Emil Stigsgaard Fuglsang, former employed at ReD Associates, they surveyed the market for a pension fund based on sustainable investments.

The concept at Penstanble is to exclude investments which obviously put the planet and humanity at strain, but moreover, Penstable also selects certain companies which conduct business in accordance with the SDGs.

“We have a data driven approach. As a result, we can set the bar higher than the common exclusion of for instance tobacco, alcohol or companies using child labor. We intentionally pick companies which contribute in making a positive impact in questions of equality, health, the environment and the climate,” Niels Fibæk Jensen tells.

Ready for growth

Penstable is visiting Copenhagen from Amsterdam, where they right now is part of an accelerator program initiated by Startupbootcamp. The course will end this February, and by then the company will make the move back to Copenhagen.

Penstable will be ready for the market within the first six months of 2018. The ambition is that the launch will take place from both Denmark and Holland with respective national Pension Funds as partners.  And from then, the world is open.

At this point, a pre-seed round is no longer relevant. We soon have a product why we need funds for upscaling

The ambition is to raise money through a seed-round this summer. Till now, Penstable’s first steps have been funded by InnoFounder and Climate-KIC, EU’s environmental innovation initiative.

“At this point, a pre-seed round is no longer relevant. We soon have a product why we need funds for upscaling” says Emil Stigsgaard Fuglsang.

To save for a better world

So far, energy and time in Penstable has been spent on analyzing the market and deciphering the feedback from future customers. Founded with the SDGs in mind, Penstable is addressed to customers who already make conscious choices in order to live in the most sustainable way possible.

Looking at our savings for our old age there is no sustainable option available. This is a paradox.

“We recycle, buy organic foods, limit our meat intake and make numerous choices every day based on ethics. However, looking at our savings for our old age there is no sustainable option available. This is a paradox 9 out of 10 in our target groups become frustrated with,“ says Emil Stigsgaard Fuglsang.

More than financial returns

The end result from the surveys is a digital solution where investments in sustainability can be secured through an ambitious screening of the companies. Also the digital user experience has been prioritized.

The users of Penstable will be able to follow the impact of their invested pension funds and read articles on the difference they make. The idea is to make the experience both relevant and meaningful for the young customers between the ages of 25 and 39 who constitute the primary group of interest for Penstable.

“We want to contribute to change the agenda in the question of how we save for our future and to bring forward a pension solution which is to be considered as more than just a return and a service,” says Niels Fibæk Jensen.

Sustainability can also be good business

As a new player in the field and, the question remains whether the established industry is ready to partner up with a company not mainly concerned with financial returns. Penstable, however, come prepared:

“Among asset managers, we have repeatedly met the belief that screening for sustainability equals a lower return. Today, this is simply not true anymore,” says Emil Stigsgaard Fuglsang and refers to, among others, reports from Morgan Stanley and Harvard Business Review.

However, Denmark lags behind as the initiators at Penstable generally experience a greater endorsement of sustainable investments in countries such as Holland and Sweden. Furthermore, in the last two years investment products based on ethics and sustainability has sprung up worldwide. A global market never seen before is thus now opening up and, according to Penstable, making it possible to link complicated pension funds with the ambition of a more sustainable future.

“One can only see the irony in the fact that the Pension Funds we build for our own future simultaneously take part in destroying the planet with the very same money. We want to build a business alongside with changing society to the better,“ adds Niels Fibæk Jensen.