Building financial confidence in the classroom: a Q&A with Banqer

Following the launch of Sharesies Kids Accounts, we wanted to chat with someone who knows the ins and outs of educating Kiwi kids about money. Helena Lowe is the Sales and Marketing Lead at Banqer, a financial education platform that transforms a classroom into an online economy. Throughout the school year, students earn a fictitious currency for attendance and doing jobs around the classroom; they pay tax, invest, save, and more!

How did Banqer begin?

Banqer began when our co-founder and CEO Kendall Flutey noticed that children weren’t being prepared enough for the financial world. Her then 12 year old brother Jordy was fortunate to have a teacher who went out of his way to include personal finance lessons in the classroom. Neither Kendall, a former accountant, or her parents had taken the time to pass these skills on to Jordy. 

Unfortunately, this is the norm in our society as financial education has typically been the responsibility of parents. Through Banqer, we have uniquely transferred the ownership of that area of learning to schools! The platform takes the educator along on the journey and includes resources (like lesson plans) that support teachers to introduce these concepts and provide them with clarification around basic concepts.

Why is it important for kids to be financially literate and learn about investing?

Investing and the stock market is not an easy topic to learn or to teach. The best approach when teaching kids about investing is to simply make investing a part of your normal, daily conversation. Kids will be more excited to talk about something if they have ownership of it, which is why ‘buying’ stocks can be great as a teaching tool. We shouldn’t be afraid to let them fail—it’s far better for them to make financial mistakes under your roof than it is for them to make them when they’re older in the real world!

Regardless of our own financial circumstances, if we are to bring up kids who are able to live a full and happy life, it’s important we give them the tools to manage and understand money. We want children to have their own financial conscience and be able to make choices that will enable them to keep on moving forward without the burden that can come from making poor financial choices. Financial literacy ensures kids won't be financially misled or deceived in the future. 

How does financial literacy in NZ stack up against countries overseas?

New Zealand actually ranks around 12th in terms of financial literacy performance compared to other OECD countries. This may sound like a good position to be in, however the absolute performance of nearly all countries in the study is dreadful. Unless we stop comparing ourselves to other nations who are underperforming as well, we won’t be able to create the urgency needed to lift ourselves out of our current financial capability status—and we’re actually really well positioned to do so if we choose! We have great vision and a sound strategy from the Commission for Financial Capability, and a number of people really dedicated to defining what NZ’s future looks like.

What does a financially informed and empowered generation look like?

Empowerment itself is the process of increasing the capability of individuals or groups to make choices and transform those choices into desired actions. A financially empowered generation isn’t a bunch of people driving around in fancy cars, with a large investment portfolio and wearing designer shades. It’s a financially capable collective made up of all walks of life; different backgrounds, religions, race, age and gender. A world where people are educated about the basic financial concepts and know how to earn, save, invest, spend thoughtfully, and donate is a world I want to live in and one that our team at Banqer is trying to create.

What can parents do to help support their kids’ financial education?

Don’t be afraid when it comes to money-related conversations. Demonstrate to your kids how to value money by valuing it yourself. If you tell your children they have to work hard, save their cash, and buy things only when they both need to and can afford to, you have to model that behaviour too. As a starting point, having open conversations around money and letting your children in on as much as you can at home is a great start! 

As a mother myself, I feel it’s a top priority to make sure my daughter is prepared for her financial future. She's only two, and it's astonishing the things that she can already comprehend—it's never too early to start the conversation. 

What’s next for Banqer?

We’re currently contextualising our platform to consider Te Ao Māori, to hold true to our social mission of ensuring all Kiwi kids are prepared for the financial world ahead. We’re also introducing a few new features very soon, with our next one exploring who the real driver of Banqer is in the classroom.