We talked to Evelyne Pflugi on how The Singularity Group makes applied innovation investible, and this is what she had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Evelyne Pflugi: We are doing well, thank you. We had some cases at work and in the network. Luckily, none of the cases took a severe course.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded The Singularity Group?
Evelyne Pflugi: We founded the company in 2017 when we felt there was no offer for investors to put their money where innovation is happening. My career is rooted in portfolio management and working as a fundamental company analyst, so I knew the market well. Tobias Reichmuth, my co-founder, is known as the sustainability and green energy pioneer in Switzerland. His first company, Susi Partners, is specialized in new energy infrastructure, So he’s looking at innovation as an enabler for sustainability goals. We both shared the idea to establish a methodology that would identify actual value generation through applied innovation in the business models of listed companies and across industries. The Singularity Group believes at its core that innovation and technology are the solutions to many of the global challenges – like we face them now -, and that without innovation as a critical element of the business model, no company can survive, adapt, or progress. We started tracking the Singularity Strategy in 2017 when we teamed up with Nasdaq to establish a global equity index. Less than a year later, we launched the corresponding investment vehicle, The Singularity Fund, which has shown a pleasant performance since inception and with that – proof of concept.
How does The Singularity Group innovate?
Evelyne Pflugi: Our company innovates by making applied innovation investible. The process that helps us identify the companies in our portfolio combines the expertise of a global innovation think tank – industry practitioners active in various technologies across industries, thorough data analysis, and an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system tailored to our data and our goals. It could be described as utilizing the best of both worlds – HI (Human Intelligence) and AI, and also tech expertise (via the think tank) and financial expertise (via our team). We have established an innovation scoring system to measure companies’ exposure to innovation and make them comparable with their peers, the first of its kind.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Evelyne Pflugi: There are two aspects: the external and internal effects. Externally, the crisis brought our main topic, innovation, and exponential technologies, to the masses’ consciousness. So we benefited from this paradigm shift by way of more attention than usual. Closing a deal has become a bit more complicated, though, because, in our experience, personal meetings are almost irreplaceable when significant amounts of money are involved. We tried to mitigate this by using technology and communication to stay even more in touch with our client base and prospects. We have become more proactive, something we want to maintain beyond the crisis.
Internally, we had to reorganize ourselves, just like most companies. Getting used to working remotely, keeping up the team spirit, managing projects. I think we managed reasonably well, especially because we were essentially already set up for the online world before this crisis hit – both as a company and in the investment strategy.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Evelyne Pflugi: Luckily, we didn’t have to make as difficult choices as other companies. So far, we’ve been navigating the situation by keeping calm and working. On the economic side, we are on target.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and The Singularity Group in the future?
Evelyne Pflugi: It helps to introspect where fear or anxiety stems from. Managing different perspectives of team members was the crucial bit here. Stress revolved around the market uncertainty, keeping on track with changing government restrictions, and reorganizing processes and structures to keep the business going.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Evelyne Pflugi: We don’t look too much towards other companies. In many ways, we add something to the investment landscape rather than compete with existing products. However, third parties often compare us with asset managers and their funds. For our flagship product, the Singularity Fund compares other global equity strategies, or the MSCI AC World Index is fair. However, we are an innovation scoring business at the core and building up a database and a holistic system. So it’s hard to compare our apples to apples with anything out there. Our focus is on refining our strategy, developing new products, and expanding our area of business. We have some cool projects in the pipeline, but I won’t talk about them yet.