For Fahd Rachidy going to work is very far from being a chore as he gets to combine two passions.
As a young boy, Mr Rachidy was a bit of a space boffin, building rockets and the like. But after studying at École Centrale Paris, a postgraduate-level institute of research and higher education in engineering and science, he went into finance, he was offered a lucrative role at Société Générale as a trader.
Despite being in a job where he was not building physical structures, it was a role that allowed him to build a career in finance, while helping members of his family. And this desire to help families is still very much a driver behind what he does.
He set up Abaka in 2016, after being moved by his father’s experience when he was about to retire.
After working 35 years for the same company, Mr Rachidy’s father was left without his full pension – a result, he says, of a lack of financial education and no access to affordable help or financial planning.
“We want to help the industry provide a solution for people struggling to save for retirement or who cannot afford to get access to advice,” he says.
“It’s a huge social and economic problem. Clearly, people are not saving enough, and we are not doing enough as an industry, to help change those behaviours.”
A study last year by the World Economic Forum found that in the UK, male retirees can expect to live 10.3 years longer than their retirement funds can pay for.
For women, the savings deficit is even greater at 12.6 years more.
With the world facing an unprecedented crisis brought on by Covid-19, it may be more critical than ever for the advice gap to be narrowed.
Mr Rachidy says: “We recognise that the continued access to digital retirement and savings solutions during periods of stress and uncertainty is critical for our clients’ customers.”
Abaka sells its artificial intelligence technology to retirement providers, asset managers, wealth managers and independent financial advisers, to improve the way they can interact with customers, thereby allowing them to reduce some of the costs and fees.
The company helps these businesses to develop an online experience for the customer, while enabling the firm to provide guidance and advice on retirement solutions through an online portal.
Mr Rachidy says: “We need to start the engagement early and it needs to be an ongoing thing, so understanding people’s behaviour and appetite and collecting that information, then creating from that the most impactful messages and sending them a very personalised communication will drive that engagement and activate that customer.”
With the lockdown and working from home policies, he says this is encouraging people to use more digital services.