Edition 5 Kernel Optimisation

  • Ringatoi Matua / Design Directors
    Jodie Catterall, Scott Kennedy
  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Members
    Ashley Keen, Armin Svoboda, Ryan Potter, Sam Williams
  • Kaitautoko / Contributors
    Becca O'Shea, Christine Jensen, Catherine Emerson, Dean Anderson, Stephen Upton, Jacky Jiang


In today’s economy, traditional money-saving methods are falling short. Using information provided by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, we calculated that, each year, Kiwis lose over one billion dollars in potential wealth by leaving their savings in the bank.

Thanks to Covid-19 and the increased accessibility of trading platforms, Kiwis’ awareness of and appetite to be involved in their financial wellbeing is higher than ever. However, seeking out wealth managers and financial advice is still seen as ‘out of reach’ and tilted in favour of the intermediaries.

We were frustrated with the inefficiency and lack of innovation in the industry. We needed to create a long-term wealth-building solution that provided a curated range of investments, to empower all Kiwis to safely save for their future. So we created Kernel with a mission to foster a wealthier, more financially literate New Zealand for generations to come.


We surveyed over 500 current and prospective investors and conducted 30+ interviews. We found many Kiwis are great at saving and repaying debt but hesitate when it comes to investing.

One way to overcome this challenge was to create a standardised solution that felt bespoke to an individual's needs – ideas for which we delivered over a series of agile design and development sprints. Sprints started by sketching low fidelity solutions as a team before using a newly developed component library to bring to life designs we could share for feedback. We tested progress with users every week before inviting a core beta group of 120 existing Kernel investors to start using a functional MVP. Having a direct line of contact to our design team created a valuable feedback loop, empowering us to rapidly test and iterate before pushing live.

Kernel had to effectively deliver important information in a simple way to cater to various financial literacy levels. Automating where possible, like our Pause-Start Auto-invest function, meant we could remove unnecessary noise or gamification. This was important to us because, the reality is, good wealth creation should be boring and aligned to personal goals and aspirations, not something that keeps you fixed on picking “winners”. Since Kernel’s operating model is based on a low annual management fee, our interests are aligned to provide users with everything they need for successful, long-term engagement.

Kernel’s 11 fund options, including Clean Energy, Green Property and the first NZ 50 ESG index fund, systematically assess and weight investments according to highly-considered criteria, including sustainability. Plus, we’re paperless, offset our carbon emissions and are a Living Wage employer.


Since launching our new customer platform in mid-May 2021, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve seen a +36.43% increase in average customer balance; +39.78% increase in total funds under management; increased adoption in tools like auto-invest; and a range of deposits from $1 to $5M+.

Kernel’s key difference of reducing noise, lowering costs and focusing on long-term investing might not be flashy, but it works, and we’re proving it every day.