Moulding the next generation of financial geniuses - The Banqer story
I have mixed memories of school, but one that clearly stands out is I really had no option to learn any financial literacy or skills unless I purposefully chose it as an elective in my senior high school years. And being an energetic, restless teenage boy I instinctively chose P.E over any money based subjects and was restricted to very little financial education. Thankfully, my parents aren't clueless with their funds and taught me a lot but that's not true for a vast majority of children in this country, and this is where Banqer comes into the question.
Bridging the huge gap left in students knowledge about anything to do with finances, Banqer provides an incredible platform that acts as an online bank, to teach youth how to manage savings, deal with interest rates and other potentially ‘overlooked' areas of everyday life that are left up to the parents. We had an incredible opportunity to chat with Kendall Flutey, co-founder of the start-up to discuss the ins and outs of this unique and exciting concept.
Liam: Where did the concept for Banqer come from and what inspired it?
Kendall: In late 2014 I'd just transitioned from accounting into web development and went home for a weekend before starting this new job. I was chatting away to my then 11-year-old brother and found out about the financial education system his teacher (Micah Hocquard) was running in his class. It was a paper based monetary system not unlike a lot of like the ‘funny money' systems a number of kids would have had growing up. My brother was really inspired by it and had also clearly learnt a bunch of relevant financial skills. That's when the idea to take this concept and put it online came to me.
I met up with Micah the next day and when I pitched the idea to him he saw the vision straight away. From there we took that idea to a start-up weekend and that's where we found our two other co-founders Ben Wigley and Marc McHardy.
L: How have you managed to develop the businesses exposure?
K: We honestly don't spend too much time or effort devising elaborate ways to get exposure. I think the exposure we've had to date is simply a byproduct of building a novel and meaningful product that people love, and also having a purpose you care deeply about. We do however work with some amazing Kiwi companies and organisations (the likes of Kiwibank) who have a much larger reach than us so that clearly attributed to our exposure. Other than that, being really accessible (I'm usually giving a talk somewhere at least once a week) and open has helped us.
L: What challenges have you faced in trying to work with/battle the education sector?
K: The New Zealand education sector is remarkably progressive compared to other countries around the world. Despite the fact we still have some systems that could be widely innovated, our digital adoption rates, as well as the calibre of our educators is impressive. That said there is one challenge that I've found to transcend borders and that's the zero-sum mentality in relation to a teaching day. This is a real road blocker for a lot in the education space and is something we're working hard at to overcome at Banqer.
L: What's one massive lesson you've learnt along the way?
K: Your team is everything. Finding people who share your same drive and passion is what enables a company to be more than just a business. If you don't have this, your trajectory is nowhere compared to your potential.
L: What's next for Banqer without giving away the secrets?
K: There aren't really any secrets in our camp. We're pretty busy expanding Banqer internationally, I've been blogging pretty openly about the challenges that come with that. Hopefully, this year will equate to a lot of international growth. At the same time though we have aspirations to ensure Banqer is a product for all Kiwi kids, and we have some translation goals that align with that.
L: What is your selling point that makes you stand out from competitors?
K: Firstly, we don't feel there's much room for competitors in our space. Financial illiteracy is a problem so large that the solution really has to be a collaborative one, and that's why we partner with organisations that others might consider our competition.
But there are a couple of things that I think really resonate with our teachers and parents. First and foremost we're an education company, not a finance company with a charitable arm. That means all our product decisions can be unbiased and in the name of financial education. And secondly, we're not afraid to narrow our scope and team up with others. We work on that premise that we're going to do our one small part really well, rather than trying to do everything to an average standard. This allows us the time to indulge obsessing over both product and customer, not having to make too many sacrifices along the way.
L: Banqer's plans to expand already show promise, around 450 schools in New Zealand and numerous ones in South Africa, Britain, Canada and the United States have already taken on the concept. Australia has become the next big focus, and from the current growth rate, there's very little doubt it will stop there. The success Banqer is showing comes from a mix of ingenuity, motivation, ability to adapt and capturing a market that like Kendall says, doesn't create competitors, rather includes them for the overall objective. For such young founders, the business is already breaking down barriers that education in New Zealand has failed to do for so many years.
Banqer has to be one of the most exciting and creative platforms I have seen in some time, and it hits a personal note with me because it is a consistently overlooked area of education that is being solved with such a basic concept. As Kendall discusses in a different interview, this platform has the potential to tackle the huge financial illiteracy faced in our disadvantaged youth and can seriously counter inequality and excessive debt.
This for me is something I have always viewed as a real issue that we fail to address so this platform is making a real push to take down the ‘elephant in the room'. By instilling a monetary scheme to everyday activities, we automatically put a value to common actions and make our students realise the value of saving and planning their finances out to match interest rates and exchange rates. This platform only offers endless potential for our future generations and it's incredibly exciting to think my children might have a chance to prepare themselves for the real world, years before they have to face it.