Too often we see people burying themselves in debt, making bad financial decisions, living paycheque to paycheque and passing that on to future generations.
One woman is putting a stop to all that and is starting with children from as young as six years-old.
Banqer chief executive Kendall Flutey was an accountant turned software developer when she was inspired to develop Banqer.
At just 26 years of age Kendall has achieved more than most will in a lifetime and she is now leaving her mark on the next generation thanks to a simple conversation with a sibling.
“I was at my family home in Christchurch for the weekend and my little brother was completely blowing me away.
“I had recently quit my job as an accountant and retrained in software development in Wellington,” she says.
It had been months since she had last seen her little brother, who was 11 at the time, and Kendall was dumbfounded by all the “complicated personal finance” questions he was throwing her way.
Dumbfounded and impressed, she decided to delve in further and she discovered it was his teacher who was using a ‘funny money’ scheme in the classroom that was having a huge impact on the way her brother saw money.
Wasting no time, Kendall met with his teacher, Micah Hocquard, the following day. “It was clear that Micah was spending a lot of time on his manual system. I thought I could automate it for them and save him some time.
“On top of that it would be a more realistic experience of how we deal with money, a mostly cashless experience.”
Using her newly developed software skills – one weekend was all it took.
“I took my idea along to a start-up weekend, pitching it to a bunch of strangers on the Friday night.
“A team formed around my idea and we got the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) finished and ready to go on the Monday.”
A little bit more “tweaking” went into it before launching it officially in January 2015, but the software was operable in the classroom for which it was designed.
To this day Kendall can’t explain the feeling she gets when she logs onto her computer in the morning and sees that ten or 20 more people have signed up for Banqer.
“To think that thousands of people are using and enjoying something that was just an idea you had a couple of years ago is pretty surreal.”
Banqer is currently used by more than 30,000 students.
The aim is to ultimately break the cycle of poverty, and that has never been far from Kendall’s mind.
“If we can get an entire generation of children to be financially literate we’re going to see thriving communities, informed decision making, improved market efficiency and reduced regulatory intervention.”
Already Kendall is hearing great feedback from teachers. According to those using Banqer in their classroom students are talking more freely about money and even going as far as to open up their own bank accounts and KiwiSaver schemes.
“Talking about money is really the first step in becoming financially capable so it’s great to hear this.”
According to an OECD study, financial habits and attitudes begin before children reach the age of seven so the sooner you can start teaching sound financial habits the better.
Kendall is looking forward to receiving quantifiable results this year as they are in the process of collaborating a full year’s worth of financial literacy and capability scores.
“Partial data from last year is already looking super promising.”
Kendall has always been passionate about education and technology and as a child she was always trying to sell things to her peers or neighbours; when you look at those three components, Banqer was inevitable.
She’s unsure why she’s always gravitated towards education.
“I’m not sure if it’s because there is a lot broken in education, or there’s just a lot of room for exploring.”
Either way she’s making her mark in more ways than one. Kendall is also inspiring more females to get into tech. “I think about my interest in computers from a very young age.”
She recalls idolising her step father with his Mac Book Pro. “I’m talking 90s Powerbook. I spent a fair bit of time playing around on it. He would teach me cool things and I’m pretty sure I thought he was a wizard for a while.”
Although she felt she had no real career path throughout school, looking back on it, she says it seemed so obvious that technology was her thing.
“I should have taken a more proactive step into technology however, I went the long way around.”
She’s striving to make other girls more aware of the opportunities technology has to offer and to not be afraid to get involved.
“I’ve already run a few courses in girls’ schools, but I’d like to do something on a larger scale in the near future.”
Kendall was never one to idolise pop icons or sports stars as a child, she idolised those closest to her and it’s those bonds that continue to help her realise the impact that Banqer is having and to just keep at it.
“Believe it or not there have been a number of times when I have considered getting a normal job, it’s been my family who gently remind me why I started this, and why I need to keep going,” Kendall says.
“I couldn’t have done any of this without those closest to me.”
There has been no shortage of awards to help reiterate Banqer’s significance either. Banqer won Start-up Weekend Wellington in 2014, Webstock BNZ Start-up Alley in 2015, Afiniation Fintech Best in Show in Sydney 2015 and Regional Rising Star Award in the Deloitte Fast 50 in 2016, along with a highly recommended at the SBN Business Awards, and has been a finalist in a number of awards elsewhere.
Kendall herself was recently a finalist for Young New Zealander of the Year.
After the success Banqer has seen in New Zealand Kendall has her sights firmly set on Sydney, Australia. She has recently taken up residence there to get started on the legwork necessary to build up a support network.
“Pretty early on it was clear that Banqer was destined to be a global product,” Kendall says.
Financial illiteracy isn’t an isolated issue and from a timing perspective, after seeing the results she was wanting in the domestic market, Australia was always going to be the next step.
Taking the process step by step has meant throughout Kendall’s journey with Banqer, success has been an easy state to attain.
“We just gradually keep extending the definition of success every time we meet it, but if I had the same definition of success that I do now, back when we first launched, I don’t think I could have possibly called it successful then.”
Her new definition of success lies in Australia which has so far gone without a hitch. “It just feels like I’m in a big New Zealand.”
If Australia goes as planned and her new defined level of success is reached, Kendall will continue to prepare as many children as possible for the financial world that awaits them.
Successful entrance into the Australian market is the big goal of 2017 and Banqer’s global expansion is hinging on that success Kendall says.
“No pressure right?”
Though the pressure might be great she remains humble. “It’s just as important for us to report a social impact as it is a profit.”
And thanks to Kendall that social impact is spreading, children are not only better prepared for life ahead but are enjoying the process.
If the momentum keeps up – bad financial decisions will bea thing of the past.
By Natalia Rietveld