Can you tell us more about Blackbullion as a company? How does it work with universities and students and how does it benefit both groups?
When it comes to money what happens to students has a huge ripple effect through the higher education system and beyond. Students who run into money problems are more likely to struggle with paying rent, pay for food and also more likely to drop out of education altogether.
Money has a way of compounding the distress of those with mental health challenges and for some students the only way they see out is to turn to less desirable potential sources of funding like gambling, payday loans or loan sharks.
It’s in universities’ interest to help students be money smart to try and minimise these potential issues.
That’s why we work with higher education institutions in the UK and Australia, to help over 500,000 of young people, with access to Blackbullion, develop money skills for life.
What inspired you to set up Blackbullion?
My parents believed it was a key skill so it was not taboo in my family to talk about money and as such I grew up fairly savvy and confident. I assumed everyone else did too but of course we know this isn’t true and a lot of people don’t take early enough action to set good financial foundations. After the financial crisis I felt the time was right to see if I could make a dent in this and Blackbullion was born.
You recently held a tweet chat on students and financial resilience. Can you tell us a bit more about why you wanted to explore this topic?
A predictor of people’s ability to survive financial shocks is rarely how much they earn – it’s far more related to a person’s ability to survive financial shock (and how prepared they are for it).
We think this is particularly relevant to young people because students’ ongoing financial success relies on them taking responsibility for their own financial futures. Universities can help, but the final say lies with the individual student.
If you could give one piece of financial advice to a teenage version of yourself, what would it be?
Money is at its most powerful when it buys opportunities and time, not crap!
If you could change one thing about the financial services industry, what would it be?
Wherever there is money I would add an education element – not a marketing piece but actual education. The truth is that financially savvy consumers are better consumers of financial products and so financial education is not “charity” it’s a business case which means businesses win because consumers win.
What would you do if you were Prime Minister for a day?
Not a lot you can do in a day but I would Jack Bauer it and squeeze 12 months into 24 hours and review our preparedness as a nation for a future of automation, AI and technology monopoly. There is a destruction of jobs taking place which will only escalate and a significant part of the population will be “gig-workers” – what will that mean for people’s finances and future security? What will it mean for cohesive society? For people’s feelings of self and self-worth? Ok, maybe I’ll need two Jack Bauer days!
What is your biggest pet peeve, or makes you angry?
My biggest peeve is thoughtlessness. Particularly in speech. In the name of honesty people can be very cruel, or unkind – which is always counter-productive. I particularly like Isaac Newton’s quote; Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy. Be thoughtful, even if you are simply motivated by self-interest!
Now, tell us a little about your life outside of work, do you have any hobbies?
My life is my business. I feel this is my calling but I do love hiking – one of the things that I am most conscious of myself as I grow the business is the level of stress I am constantly under. It’s the unspoken danger of being a founder and there are some great startups trying to tackle this. Getting out into the country and hiking mountains is the best way I have found to clear my head and take myself out of the normal environment. Ironically I am also at my most creative in these moments.
What is the one column or website that you read every day?
Twitter takes me all over the world – but I take special care with FT – to keep up with the financial world, Times Higher Ed – to keep up with the education world and follow David Skok, SaaStr, Techcrunch and Pando to keep a finger on the pulse of the tech sector. Ultimately I believe tech can enable great scale with education but we are smashing through the brush to create a new path for doing this and there is much we can learn from the fields of health technology and financial technology.
What would you do if you received a windfall of £10,000?
I’d take the team out for a slap-up dinner, pay off my last outstanding credit card and buy some shares – I miss playing the stock market. Yes, I’m a nerd!