New Faces: Banking On Financial Literacy With Kendall Flutey
Kendall Flutey is the 24-year old co-founder of Banqer, a financial literacy app for classrooms.
With a varied background spanning accountancy, entrepreneurship, programming and diverse styles of education, Kendall is the archetype of a young entrepreneur who has experienced the status quo, and is intent upon improving on it.
We chatted with her about education, success and why New Zealand is the perfect place to start a business.
Let's start out with the Banqer story. What was your motivation behind building the app? What were the underlying problems you were trying to solve?
I guess I didn't quite realise what the problem was at first, because it was presenting itself quite locally. It started from a discussion with my younger brother who was about 11 at the time. He started talking about business, and it wasn't something I'd expected to talk to him about. I dug a little deeper and it turned out that his teacher was running a financial education scheme in his classroom.
After talking to his teacher, I realised that the lack of financial literacy is a massive problem for our society. It weaves its way into so many facets of our lives. Given my background, as an ex-accountant and now a developer, I decided that this is something I could really contribute to.
I took the idea behind Banqer into a Startup Weekend in Wellington, and we ended up winning. We have three of our original seven still remaining on the team.
How many classrooms, school or students have you got using Banqer?
Banqer has been tracking really well to date. We've been growing a lot over this past year, we're about to reach our 200 classrooms milestone.
Are classrooms using Banqer it in a uniform way, or are there differences in the ways that teachers are applying it?
We had our assumptions going in, thinking that we could standardise this kind of education. But really, like most things in the real world, every Banqer classroom experience is unique. The one-size-fits-all approach to education just doesn't really work in today’s world. Everyone is coming from such different diverse backgrounds, and I really believe in kids being able to explore how they learn best. We can guide teachers and students down one path, but it’s really up to them to determine how it works within the context of their own classroom.
Have you seen any interesting side effects from the use of Banqer in classrooms, outside of financial literacy?
We have seen a lot of positive externalities. One thing we hear a lot from Banqer teachers is how it’s improving kids’ interpersonal skills. We're breaking down some of those peer group silos, and some of the typically shyer children now have an excuse to talk to other members of the class. For example, perhaps now you need to go hit up Johnny because that transaction for his rent didn't come through, or you're employing Sarah for your new chair stacking company.
I also hear stories of Banqer students going home and speaking to their parents about what they're learning in class, so it’s great to see that the learnings are trickling down to family members and friends.
Does Banqer provide any scope for learning about alternative economic models, such as cooperatives or collaborative investments?
At the moment we’re limited to pretty traditional economic teaching within Banqer. But definitely in the near future, we want to be introducing some of those alternative approaches. In particular we’re looking at sharing models and some sort of cooperation scheme.
You were in the first cohort to go through Enspiral Dev Academy's nine week coding boot camp. How did this education differ from your university education?
Being a part of Dev Academy's first cohort was life changing for me. Having gone through a both traditional and then an alternative tertiary education scheme, I feel that perhaps I could have skipped that first step altogether. I think unfortunately universities are often used as a signalling theory for corporates. It's like you can tick a box and say, “yep, I've got my degree, I'm ready.”
But what does being ready mean? Does it mean learning a whole lot of information, regurgitating it on an exam and then forgetting it over a long four month summer? Or is it about actually learning, comprehending, questioning and challenging things, looking at yourself and understanding how you'll best make your mark on the world? Critical thinking needs to be at the forefront of any kind of tertiary education.
Dev Academy aims to produce students that not only are technically sound, but have some of the softer skills, the interpersonal skills. I think that’s where a lot of tertiary courses fall over. It should be the responsibility of the educator to produce whole individuals, and I really benefited from some of the emotional intelligence work that Dev Academy put us through. It made me reflect and question things that I hadn't considered before, and also helped me understand who I am and what I'm all about.
What role do you see entrepreneurs having in shaping our collective futures?
I think entrepreneurs are the ones who progress us as a society. A lot of people are able to contribute to maintaining the world as we see it, but entrepreneurs and innovators are the ones who push the boundaries and push us forwards.
Do you think New Zealand has any advantages in terms of being able to start a business?
New Zealand has massive secret sauce in terms of starting businesses. Our size and limited degrees of separation play to a huge advantage, we’re so fortunate. Not everywhere is like that. Even in Australia, having four or five times our population, it’s too big, too vast to have the sort of magic that we've got. It really feels here that everyone is rooting for my success and the success of other entrepreneurs.
A lot of Kiwi businesses look to go global from day one, which is pretty important. But it’s also really naïve to forget about New Zealand as a market. There is a lot to be said for growing a strong user base domestically who love your product and enjoy it. I think especially for me with Banqer, I really want to contribute to New Zealand society, so growing and nourishing the domestic market is a really important thing for me.
What are some of the toughest decisions you've had to make? And what have you learned through those processes?
A lot of the tough learnings for me have been around narrowing my focus. I find I want to help out in a lot of areas and to contribute my time to a lot of things. So it’s about being disciplined and focusing on what I really want to achieve. It's a really hard one, and I still by no means have mastered it, but at least I'm aware of it and I'm making progress.
What advice would you provide to other young entrepreneurs just starting out?
My number one piece of advice would be to expand your definition of what success is. A lot of us have an idea of what success looks like - becoming a professional, a partner, or an old school corporate perhaps. If we can expand the definition of success to include the world of entrepreneurship and the world of failure, I think we will be a lot better off.
Entrepreneurship is really a game of trial and error. There is no handbook. You’re forging your own path so everything is new, and in that vein you’re learning everything from scratch. But that said, you don't have to reinvent the wheel completely. There are some awesome mentors out there who are happy help you out along your journey.
Being young myself, I think what I offer is my naivety. I am able to be bold, and say and do things that older people would consider potentially inappropriate or not suited for the situation.
Finally, what gets you up in the morning?
I think it's my passion for what I'm doing that gets me up in the morning. I'm really lucky to go to work every day and love what I'm doing.