Biz Bites with Kendall Flutey from Banqer: empowering financial literacy in youth, navigating startup challenges, and how to grow a real purpose-driven company.

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In our fourth episode of Biz Bites, I'm joined by Kendall Flutey, the dynamic co-founder of Banqer, an innovative platform revolutionizing financial education for the younger generation. I don't know about you, but I learned nothing about money growing up... Kendall is working to change that! We chatted the essentials of instilling financial literacy in young people, the journey of overcoming startup hurdles, and the art of cultivating a purpose-driven business. Kendall is well known for her groundbreaking work in financial education and I'm so delighted she has shared her unique insights and strategies with me.Our Biz Bites segment showcases trailblazing entrepreneurs who are making a significant impact with their ventures, focusing on their areas of expertise that can help you build your business. Expect no long introductions or unnecessary filler (well, not much), just straight-to-the-point, valuable insights designed to help you grow!

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Brianne: So, in one minute or less, and explain this to me like I'm five, what does Banqer do?

Kendall: Banqer simply teaches kids about money. So we prepare the next generation so that they can navigate our financial world and everything that we have to do within the financial world really successfully in a way that aligns with their financial well-being.

Brianne: How did you decide that was what you were going to do?

Kendall: By accident. My little brother was learning about money at school. I was a failed accountant. I had just retrained in software and he blew me away one evening when he was talking about progressive tax systems, investment strategies and employment structures as a 12-year-old kid. I knew from that moment that his financial trajectory had changed and that sort of formed the question in my mind, what if every 12-year-old had this opportunity to learn about money and that was really the start of all the magic.

Brianne: How did you take from that? What was the first step? Because every single person who I talked to through business, they said, I don't know how to get started, I have this great idea but I literally don't know what to do.

Kendall: Yeah, the first step is the hardest. The first step was asking more questions. That's something I can do. I went and met with my brother's teacher to know about how he was educating my brother and how he had engaged my brother so much and so effectively. I heard his story and that got me clarity on that next step which was to go away and to build something that would help them, specifically just their classroom. I built that in a weekend with some friends, a fake online bank so the teacher didn't have to do all the processing of transactions manually and that then gave way to the next step. So I really had a short line of sight to start with but I just kept taking the steps most importantly.

Brianne: Yeah, it's taking that first step that kind of builds confidence for your next step and your next step and your next step, right?

Kendall: Totally.

Brianne: Do you have a big hairy audacious goal like VHAG? I hate VHAG.

Kendall: Yeah, I hate VHAG too. I like the sentiment of it but I can't get behind that acronym. We do. We have really bold aspirations. We would love to financially educate the world. So just putting it out there, we think we can do it, one step at a time.

Brianne: I think you can do it. Because you've got to start with kids, right? Because they teach parents. I find I teach my parents when I teach things.

Kendall: Totally. Well, I mean, that's a whole other podcast, I think. But then it also becomes intergenerational, right? We have this knowledge loss, but if we can recapture it and we can treasure it, then one of my hypotheses is that we don't have to be here forever and everyone will have that individual responsibility to keep this knowledge alive.

Brianne: You have a really purpose-driven organization and you've grown fast, right? How do you get people on board with that without just writing on the wall?

Kendall: I laugh because we also do have it on the wall. Got to come at it from all angles. I think it starts with hiring, doesn't it? So making sure you're really clear in your expectations and understanding of who these people are sitting in front of you in and you're communicating that we have an organizational expectation, that people come on this journey knowing their aspirations. We're like eight years old, we're still a team under 20 people, and we serve two geographies, New Zealand and Australia. So we have had the pleasure of being able to protect that a little bit. A couple of ways we try and bring that to life, once we feel we've hired effectively, and we don't always get it right, but that's a process you can continue to refine, it does come down to values, and I agree with you. You don't have to have a lobotomy and we put in the Banqer brain when you come in to our organisation. You bring yourself. But we have really clear company values, and we also try and bring them to life. I need to bring them to life myself through my leadership, and that's every single action that I take or don't take, equally so. And also we socialise talking about our values. So once a week in a semi-informal environment, everyone in the company references a value they saw demonstrated. The last thing, well not the last thing we do, but the last thing I'll talk about doing is keeping people close to purpose. So every single team member of ours goes into a Banqer school regularly. And that is so they can see exactly what they're doing and the impact it has. If you're a software developer crunching code, like code is code. And when they're running around talking about mortgages with 10 year olds and their credit scores, the penny drops. And from that day on, every line of code is a bit more meaningful.

Brianne: What are some things, if you are trying to build a business, how do you create a business genuinely around a purpose? Or if you're trying to retrofit into a company, what are some things people should avoid?

Kendall: Yeah, I get really frustrated about the popular, well, and I shouldn't be cynical about it. The rise of impact businesses is fantastic so long as it's done authentically and with purpose. So that is something tricky to get right. Me personally, my purpose has to be equally weighted towards personal and business, so I need to, as a leader, inherently, innately care about this thing. If I don't have that, then I don't believe I'm the right person to steer the ship. You've got to care about the thing you're doing. Secondly, if your purpose can be innate to your production, so doing good is baked into selling more of your widgets or your licenses or whatever, that is the best way you can align intentional purpose. If you have to bolt it on, that's okay, but you need to tell a really clear narrative around that and don't try and be something you're not. And there are organizations that also do a fantastic job of that. I've also really benefited from, I'm a procedural person, so having a robust framework of what good means. I've got my own personal take on that, but the likes of B Corp that have a really clear regimented process and assessment against what good means, and whether that you score highly or not as great as you'd like to, it gives you a reference point of where you are today and how you can be better.

Brianne: Talking about your impact, and the outsized impact I believe you've had as an organization, how do you measure it?

Kendall: We measure it in, yeah, so B Corp, but we measure it in three key ways. The first is improvement or change. I'm not gonna assume we're always gonna improve a student's outcome, and financial literacy. So that's really easy, it's knowledge-based. We're a data-driven platform, so we can assess students' knowledge improvements over time in our platform. The second is financial capability. So what is the difference between financial literacy and capability? Literacy is about knowledge accumulation, capability is about behavioural development and again being a technology platform we can see when a student clicks to open a bank account that aligns with their wellbeing versus takes out that credit card and spins up a tonne of debt through consumerism on our platform. So we're looking for capability development that enhances wellbeing and lastly, the last is well back. And lastly, the last component for impact for us is financial confidence because you can have all the knowledge in the world but you can think, oh, I don't think investing is for me. And we really need to build that confidence as well. So that's a qualitative assessment which speaks about students' intentions for the real world.

Brianne: God, I wish you were around when I was at school. Honestly, I could have been.

Kendall: Hey, look, I think you're doing all right. Imagine what you could be!

Brianne: I mean, I went to university and immediately I got three student overdrafts.

Kendall: Oh, yeah.

Brianne: So dumb. I graduated with a $68,000 student loan because I used the amount they'd lend you to live on.

Kendall: I have this conversation regularly with some people I really admire, people who run multi, multimillion dollar companies, and they all reference that time at uni when, to some extent, there was predatory behavior towards someone fresh to the financial world and they got that overdraft, they got that credit card, they got that whatever it may be, and they carried it and it had a material impact on their next five or so years. So if we can create a generation of little empowered, capable, confident, literate consumers who know their rights and responsibilities. I just think that's a transformative state. Personal finances is personal and we've all got our story of how we got here and dollars to some extent, I know money doesn't buy happiness, money isn't the be-all and end-all, but it got us to where we are and we've all had stories that are shit, absolutely. that absolutely we just were in a horrible situation due to financial consequences. We've all had stories of empowerment through money. So I think this is something, the reason I love talking about this is it resonates with everyone because we've all had that personal journey.

Brianne: How do you break it down and get it across to people? What we're trying to do, the impact we've had, how it can help you, how do you break it down into a consumable by-sizes?

Kendall: I think you meet them where they are. So it really depends on who you're talking to. If we're talking to kids, obviously we simplify our narrative to some extent, but actually they're equally as capable as adults in many ways. We really just try and focus on the problem we're solving for people. People know the pain of not having financial literacy. People want more for the next generation. So sometimes it's actually not messaging for them because that's a bit close to home, it's messaging for their loved ones. But really the first thing is to know who you're talking to and speak in their language in a way that's accessible. Because you can get, we're really close to what we do and we can get caught up in features and technical buzzwords and outputs when really we're solving a problem. And we might be solving a problem for a teacher around behavioural management actually. So the secondary, the by-product is some awesome financial literacy. So we need to be able to ensure that we understand that that is the pain we're solving for them. For a parent, we may be solving the problem of comfortable retirement for their kid because they don't have the confidence that they can provide that. There's so many different problems we're solving, so understanding the people we're talking to and sort of almost speaking that back to them is the most effective way that I've found.

Brianne: The big question, definitely one I get a lot, how have you funded Banqert?

Kendall: I love talking about this question and you know what, I definitely won't have received this question as much as you. We bootstrapped for the first seven years. So we just earned money and spent money. That's how we funded Banqer. We earned more than we spent, which is I think fantastic in terms of what we do because we're really practising what we preach. Until last year we ruined it and we got a little bit of capital to grow. But that's because we really feel we understand the market. We really feel we understand the opportunity. We understand our numbers and we know where we can pour money to have a disproportionate impact faster and the key part of that is the speed at which we want to move at now.

Brianne: It is such a shame that it's almost like a measure of success now is how much money you've raised. People ask me all the time and what we've raised is comparatively little in comparison to our American counterparts and you do see a little level of respect gained when people raise 50 million, 100 million, whatever. And look, if your business needs to do that, fabulous. That's what you need. But I have so much respect for entrepreneurs who have bootstrapped the whole way through. And my example I always use is Sarah Blakely from Spanx. She grew a billion-dollar company and owned almost all of it, apart from the stuff she got to do.

Kendall: And it's not only about control and ownership. It's actually about fucking having to figure this thing out, like having to figure out how we can serve our market in a way that demonstrates value to them in which they will part with their pennies. And without really needing that money, I don't know if you need to solve that problem in the same way. We did not have to water down our values and I think it really shows in who we ended up with on our cap table. So majority is Māori ownership, which I'm stoked with. So it's not only values alignment, it's actually horizon alignment, some long-term thinking which, given the problem we're solving, that's really necessary. We're not going to be a billion dollar company in two years' time, which some investors asked me about my strategy to get there. I learned a lot about our organisation that I didn't know. So I probably naively didn't realize what an outlier we were in terms of the way in which we carry profit alongside purpose and the fact that, hey, that's not for everyone, but we just need to find the people who do resonate with that.

Brianne: You are so unusual and it's really refreshing because all I, and I'm not saying this is the wrong thing to do, but all I want to do is, oh, I want to grow as fast as possible because that's how we have so much impact. And I subscribe to that notion, right? I want to save half a billion plastic bottles, so I want to grow as fast as possible. But your attitude about purpose at all costs and everything else is irrelevant. It's horrifying, isn't it? It's so genuinely refreshing.

Kendall: Thank you, that’s very kind. I know I feel like I get a little imposter imposter syndrome when you say that because I'm imperfect in terms of my pursuit of purpose. That's for sure but I've got some some things I have real clarity on and I think I Yeah, I've got some personality quits. That means I'll be quite unwavering around those things.

Brianne: How many times do you feel unreasonable?

Kendall: Yeah, daily.

Brianne: Yeah, yeah. People less so now because they realize it doesn't work, but I got called unreasonable all the time by a lot of people in the startup world.

Kendall: That's an indicator that you're on to the right thing, right? See, I'm quite perverse in my thinking. I'm like, oh, that's good. I don't really respect you. No, I don't really respect you or we don't have the same value space. So if you're saying that I'm on the right track.

Brianne: You've taken Banqer into Australia?

Kendall: Mmm. Yeah.

Brianne: How did you approach export, which you were effectively doing?

Kendall: Yeah, again, I don't want to say it was an accident, it wasn't, but we didn't have the big grand strategy or plan that perhaps with the capability and experience I have, I might put in place now, still say might. It was really relational based, so we met an organization over there that wanted to support our launch through partnership, and we worked with them for the first three years to establish that and they've been fundamental and foundational to our growth and impact over there. Most recently we launched our secondary product over there on our own, which having that brand familiarity and understanding of the market really bolstered that launch.

Brianne: Do you have team members over there?

Kendall: No, we believe in building local, so we service Australia from, Aotearoa, from Ōtahi.

Brianne: Do you think there's any pitfalls to that?

Kendall: I think there's trade-offs. I'm not going to call them pitfalls. I think the trade-off is there's, I guess we're not as close regularly to our market. So we go into schools quite a lot here in New Zealand physically, face-to-face, whether it's to discuss some upcoming product work or whether it's from a sales or marketing perspective. We have to be more intentional around that in Australia and we have to be mindful that we're not just building for New Zealand because it's easier to do so from a geographical perspective but Australia is a big place so even if we had two team members sitting in Sydney, we want to service nationally, it's kind of the same thing. The other consideration we weighed up was the carbon consequence and through some slightly reductive modelling we also thought given the size of the nation it comes out sort of net-nil. But really, New Zealand, Australia, it's the same thing. Maybe we’ll have to reconsider our perspective when we push further afield, but for now I think the small trade-offs are worth it.

Brianne: What's the number one tip you have for someone who wants to build a mission in business?

Kendall: That's really easy. Oh, good. You need to be obsessed with it. Find something you're obsessed with that if you don't do this, no one else can or no one else can do it in quite the same way and you're going to sit back in your rocking chair at the end of the day and be so proud of the time, because that's our most scarce resource that you put into this. Think about the people we serve and how we can get there faster. And a result of, like if you're a mission-led business, then ultimately you want to create your impact in the world. And ultimately, the sooner you can arrive at that destination in a healthy mannerism, the better. So I guess our capital raise speaks to that, but it took us seven years to get to that point. So if there's one thing that someone could go away and do today, is ask themself, how can we have an impact faster?

Brianne: If you were Supreme World Leader, what is the very first thing you would do?

Kendall: I would mandate learning about money in schools, so no student would leave the school gates… I believe financial education, financial literacy is a human right. I can't believe we can enter the financial world with billions of dollars being poured into marketing, sometimes in misleading ways, of financial products and services. So I would mandate the fact that every student had to learn about money. They couldn't leave the school gates unless they were literate, capable and confident in a way that would drive financial success and financial well-being, whatever that means to that student.

Brianne: Imagine the difference that would make.

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