You reached your goal for the year just a few months after the launch. What makes you so successful?
Züger: Our corporate design appeals to a lot of women and I’m sure that’s one factor behind our success. I think it’s extremely important to transfer emotions to the digital world and make financial topics more accessible in the process. The idea behind elleXX is to address women not only in terms of tonality but also by appealing to their high expectations with regard to design and aesthetics.
Jürgensen: Our content strategy is another factor behind our success. We’re not only a finance platform, but a media platform, too. I spent many years working as a news journalist. The topics I’m dedicated to, like equality, feminism and care work, were never given top priority, though. The editorial departments still largely ignore topics of concern among women as well as the fact that their readers want to be taken seriously. Women don’t just want to read “women’s magazines” or about how to dress beautifully or lose weight.
So elleXX is your way of offering an opposing array of topics?
Jürgensen: Yes. We use elleXX not only as a way of teaching women financial skills, but also to report on topics related to society, culture, careers and sustainability. We definitely take a courageous, feminist stance on matters. Our authors look at topics like the negative consequences of a ban on abortions or whether menstruation leave is needed or why women have fewer opportunities than men in the literary business. Those are topics that appeal to a large number of women.
“We were describing the problems over and over again but were never part of the solution. Now we wanted to be part of the solution.”
Were you surprised by your own success?
Laeri: I wrote the first business plans for elleXX in 2017 and 2018. I then worked with Simone Züger in 2019 to put together the first pitch deck. We proposed the idea of elleXX to potential investors based on that. We kept hearing that nobody was interested in our undertaking and that there wasn’t a market for it. We were even laughed at. After hearing so much criticism and scepticism, of course we were flabbergasted by its enormous success: within five months, elleXX had gained 25,000 followers, which already makes us the largest female finance community in Switzerland. We even surpassed existing finance portals and media.
You’re three founders, a team of CEOs, not lone wolves. What made you so certain that you wanted to create a team together?
Laeri: It was definitely a process. I met Simone at a Medienfrauen event. I thought the visualisation she presented was extremely appealing and spot on. When I told her my idea, she was the first person to understand right away what it was all about. Nadine Jürgensen and I had already been “partners in crime” for a long time and knew each other well. That means we already had a foundation of trust. I wouldn’t advise anybody to start a company singlehandedly. It pays off if you join forces to strengthen and complement one another. What’s more, I think the number three is ideal for a democracy. That way, the majority wins.
Züger: Each of us is a professional in her own field and contributes years of experience and expertise. We bring different disciplines together and complement one another in terms of content and design, which offers many advantages. Our shared vision is also something that binds us together.
What you describe about the founding of your company and your vision falls under the category of “purpose” in today’s parlance – is this something that helps you?
Züger: Having a purpose definitely helps. My own experience shows that things turn out well if they’re built on passion, curiosity and dedication. And another thing I’ve noticed over and over again throughout my career is that if you can summon up the courage to pursue your passion and purpose, it pays off.
Jürgensen: The way I see it, success isn’t just about being successful in the here and now, but about possibly changing things for the generations to come. For my daughter’s generation, for example. That’s undeniably a part of my purpose at elleXX. My nine-year-old recently wrote me a note that said, “Dear Mummy, I think it’s great that you work so hard for women’s rights. When I’m 20, maybe women will have more rights because of you.” For me, being able to make a lasting impact is a strong driving force, one that certainly helps me succeed.
Sustainability is very important at elleXX. What does sustainable mean in terms of women and finance?
Laeri: Women don’t just want to invest where they’ll earn big profits. They want to do something good with their money so they invest sustainably. 92% of women consider sustainable investment important (BNY Mellon 2021). ESG criteria for companies provide a guideline. ESG stands for environment, social and governance and thus relates to a set of corporate standards governing issues in those areas. Studies show that women invest more sustainably than men. That means the more willing women are to invest money, the more important the topic of sustainability becomes. You could also draw the opposite conclusion: the more women invest, the more companies will focus on sustainability – and that’s fantastic!
“You need to have the courage to take action and be ambitious enough to acquire expertise.”
Jürgensen: Sustainably invested money can have an enormous impact. Let’s just imagine which big wheels could be set in motion if the nation’s entire assets that are currently invested in 3a and pension funds were to flow into sustainable investments. We’d definitely have a better world. We always talk about sustainable consumption, but sustainable investments can have a much bigger impact.
But you also say that women have some catching up to do in the area of investing. Why are women more reluctant to invest?
Züger: Advertising for investment products still primarily targets men. And even the financial jargon puts many women off. Because of that, women are less likely to relate to the topics of assets and investments. Studies also show that many women lack the courage because they don’t feel competent enough. Around one in three women doesn’t have the courage to invest a portion of her own money. It’s therefore also a matter of financial knowledge – but that’s something that can be taught.
Laeri: Women still lack role models. That’s something I was already noticing while at university. There were very few women in business, and none who had started their own company. That meant I couldn’t join a network and get advice. You need to have the courage to take action yourself and be ambitious enough to acquire expertise. According to the American Institute for Economic Research, the phenomenon also has something to do with how women are raised and educated. There’s a proven gender gap when it comes to financial literacy and allowances: for example, girls get less pocket money than boys.
Jürgensen: Finances are still a fairly new topic for women. In Switzerland, a married woman has only been allowed to have her own bank account and be gainfully employed without her husband’s permission for 35 years. It’s somewhat understandable that there’s some catching up to do. Women have already achieved a great deal. They’re also becoming more courageous when it comes to investing. I’m sure of that.
Patrizia Laeri, Nadine Jürgensen and Simone Züger – In the spotlight
The first thing I think of when I hear the word “courage” is …
Joan of Arc. (Patrizia)
For me, the colour of courage is …
When it comes to courage, my role model is …
Lou Andreas-Salomé, who lived a completely independent life like no other in her era (19th century). (Simone)
This animal embodies my personal courage the best …
black panther. (Simone)
If you want to make courageous decisions, you have to …
take that tough first step. (Nadine)