At Smart Money People we're passionate about innovation within financial services, and love to learn more about new product launches and start-ups within the industry.

We recently caught up with Sam Abrika, co-founder of Nova, to understand the journey to creating Nova and his thoughts on the UK fintech market.

What is Nova?

Nova is an AI Money Planner that people can use to set savings goals, see when they can reach it, and have a plan to succeed.

Why did you start Nova?

The wealth inequalities are increasing more and more between the “asset class” and the “consumer class”. The “asset class” use their income to build assets such as buying a house or investing, while the “consumer class” just spend all their money.

Unfortunately, society produces what capitalism needs. And capitalism needs more consumers than financially educated people.

Social media, machine learning advertising, easy access to debt... turns us into consumer machines. We buy what others want us to buy, and even without realising it, we lose control of our financial decisions.

So I created Nova to rebalance the forces and help people be financially free. Because sometimes, the only thing we need is to think of what we want and walk into that direction.

How is Nova different from other budgeting apps?

While budgeting apps show how much you have spent, Nova advises on how much you should spend to meet your savings goals.

Then Nova makes it easier to run your finances:

  • The Nova AI automates all the tedious personal finance stuff: budgeting, monitoring bills, tracking what is spent vs planned... 
  • We have designed a smarter way to visualise your spending that we call the “Budget Line”
  • Nova gives options on how to react to the unexpected such as increased bills

What are your aspirations for Nova?

I want Nova to become the companion of all those who want to build their financial freedom. Ultimately we want the Nova AI to guide people on:

  • How much to spend, save, invest
  • Build their safety net
  • Clear their debt
  • How to invest and build a diversified portfolio

Tell us more about your background. How did you come to launching a fintech?

I graduated with an MSc in Engineering right after the 2008 financial collapse. I didn’t understand anything about banking so I started my career with IBM to learn about the financial regulation and financial models that banks use.

I became obsessed with liquidity management when I realised that the financial crisis was triggered by a liquidity crisis.

So I moved to UBS as the EMEA Head of Liquidity & Funding Risk to validate all their liquidity models and make sure that the bank had enough funding to survive the next financial crisis.

Despite having an MSc and MBA, I was never taught how to think about money. It’s only by spending years on the trading floor that I understood how the system works. That’s where I realised that our society is made of an “asset class” made of banks, corporations, rich people... who adopt similar principles to manage their money. And there is a “consumer class” which nearly does all the opposite.

What are your thoughts on innovation in the UK fintech market?

I think that the fintech disruption is just getting started. But it doesn’t mean that it’s all good for people. There are two kinds of fintech innovations: those increasing people’s net worth and those decreasing their worth.

What advice would you offer to other fintech start-ups?

The same advice I would give to any start-up: ignore the competition, focus on your target users, try to be contrarian while right - which is easier said than done.

Bring value to a niche, then figure out how to scale the business.

What's been your biggest challenge and your greatest success with Nova so far?

Although we are registered with the FCA and are subject to the same data protection as any regulated institutions, some people feel reluctant to sign-up because they have never heard of us. I actually receive emails from people asking me to prove that we are a legitimate company, and I’m happy to answer all their questions until they feel comfortable using Nova’s services.

Our biggest success is receiving all the feedback from the users who love what we’re building and are helping us make Nova better day by day.

Thanks to Sam for taking the time to share more about his fintech journey and Nova. We’re always looking to find out more about providers and people in financial services who are trying to do something different to help people be smarter with their money. If there’s a brand or product you’re interested in finding out more about, let us know and we’ll try to feature them up on upcoming blog.

Don't forget, you can leave a review for Nova on Smart Money People, or check out what others are saying with our Nova reviews. We also have a whole section dedicated to Personal Finance App providers and reviews if you’re not sure which app is best suited for your finance needs.