Startup spotlight: gohenry, the bank for kids
As a part of our startup spotlight series, we speak with Louise Hill, co-founder and COO of gohenry, a prepaid pocket money card and app that empowers young people to take part in the digital economy.
Hi Louise, could you tell me a little bit about gohenry?
gohenry is a prepaid Visa debit card and app with unique parent controls designed exclusively for 6-18 year olds, which was launched back in 2012. It is designed to help them learn good money habits in an increasingly cashless society.
gohenry is all about making learning the four pillars of good money management - earn, save, spend, and give - a fun and interactive experience. Children can show off their independent style with a range of card designs that can be personalised in their name - e.g. ‘goalice or gosydney’. The child app empowers children to manage their money responsibly through features such as setting savings goals for the latest must-have, donating a percentage of their pocket money to charity, and monitoring their available spend.
The parent app meanwhile, allows adults to easily pay pocket money direct to their children’s account and agree limits on how much can be spent and where (e.g. online, in-store, or at an ATM). Parents can also receive real-time notifications showing how much a child has spent and where, as well as set tasks such as washing the car to encourage children to earn their pocket money - or top it up!
What gives gohenry its competitive edge?
gohenry was the first to market. While there’s been a number of companies launching financial products for kids since, our advantage is that our products are solely produced for children and parents. With seven years of experience behind us already, we have a very unique insight into the financial behaviours of generation-Z that will allow us to develop features that are in tune with our young customers’ changing needs.
One of these features is our custom cards, which can be personalised to a child’s name and come in a range of designs, including special edition collaborations with artists. This is unique to gohenry in the UK and a feature that our children love.
Another is our recently launched giftlink feature, which lets friends and family send money direct to a child’s account with a fun note to make giving money that little bit more special - the child can even send a ‘thank you’ note back via the app.
What is gohenry's most recent milestone?
A big milestone for us is that we have over 850,000 active users across the US and UK who, like us, fiercely believe that being good with money is a vital life skill. We’ve been lucky enough to have customers who believe so much in our product and the educational effect it’s had on their children that they have invested in us.
In 2018, we successfully raised £6mn via Crowdcube with 3,000 investors taking part, around half of which were customers. In 2016 gohenry broke records for the largest equity crowdfunding in the world on Crowdcube when we raised £4mn, of which over £1mn came from our own customers.
As a business built by parents for parents it’s really key for us that our customers are at the heart of what we do. Having such a large number of our customers as investors is one of the things I’m most proud of - it tells me we’re doing a lot right!
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What can we expect from gohenry in 2020?
We’ll continue to focus our efforts on growing our brand in the US, where we launched last year.
We’ll also be focussing on increasing awareness for gohenry in the UK. We receive such a positive response from our customers - young and old - using the cards and have grown massively since launch, but we still have work to do!
About Louise Hill
Louise co-founded gohenry in 2012 along with two other parents when she realised that her children, now aged 18 and 21, needed to learn how to manage their money in an increasingly digital world. Fast forward seven years and gohenry now has a community of over 850,000 active users in the US & UK who fiercely believe that good money management is a vital life skill.
Prior to gohenry, Louise studied languages at Westminster University in London, and worked as an interpreter before moving into retail. She joined the ‘fast track’ graduate trainee programme at House of Fraser then, once internet shopping began to gain a foothold, she moved into e-commerce. In the past 20 years she has launched e-commerce websites and run contact centres and warehouses for many of the UK’s big-name retailers, including Next Directory, John Lewis, The Innovations Group, Past Times and Debenhams.
Louise now splits her time between gohenry’s headquarters in London and their Lymington office - which is housed in a former sweet shop. She dedicates time to talking to MBA groups at a number of universities around the country and, until recently, was a governor at a local secondary school.
For more information on all topics for FinTech, please take a look at the latest edition of FinTech magazine.
Zafin: Banking is now in the era of the tech ecosystem
The development of tech ecosystems is placing the future of post-COVID banking in jeopardy. At a time when Big Tech can replicate the functions of traditional financial institutions, what can banks do to retain a grip on the market?
John Smith, EVP Ecosystem at Zafin, has a few ideas. A SaaS cloud-native product and pricing platform for financial institutions, Zafin is preparing the next generation of banks to cope with this precise challenge.
Smith is responsible for the strategic and tactical management of the company’s ecosystem, including the creation of new business models to support growth and differentiation. We asked him four questions:
Q. Have the events of the pandemic caused an irreversible shift in the digitalisation of banks? If so, is COVID the sole cause or are there other factors?
It’s a great question and one that I am asked a lot. Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has driven a significant shift in the acceleration of digital. In fact, I’ve seen some estimates show there to have been as much as four to six years of digital adoption growth since the initial lockdown started.
While the pandemic may be the primary reason for this growth, two other drivers include fintech disruption and the high costs of operating a traditional retail bank. Both of these factors have caught the attention of banking executives as they set their minds on accelerating digital transformation with a focus on high return, low risk.
Q. Some commentators believe banks must learn from Big Tech in order to survive. Do you agree? Please expand.
I agree completely; we’re living in the era of the ‘ecosystem’. All the seismic shifts we’re seeing in technology, be it aggregation, embedded finance, DeFi or hyper-personalisation are all enabled by the foundation of an ecosystem.
When financial institutions work with a strategic partner like Zafin, which has made the strategic investments in a best-in-class ecosystem, they’re able to capitalise on opportunities more quickly and safely, and will be better positioned for growth now and at the other side of the pandemic.
Q. What are currently the obstacles to adopting Open Banking? Is it more likely to 'take off' in some regions rather than others?
I would argue that Open Banking has been in the US for some time and will only continue to grow there. By definition, Open Banking is about the secure sharing of financial information that customers are aware of and have authorised. Under that definition, we’re seeing aspects of this well underway even though its full potential remains to be seen.
Third-Party Providers are a natural outcome of Open Banking, whereby they can create propositions beyond what a bank normally does to enable banking functions such as payments, borrowing, saving and so on. Once again, some of these are already present through industry-led initiatives, whereas regions such as the EU have taken the pathway of regulation such as PSD2.
The industry-led initiatives we’ve seen in the US have also had the added advantage of guard-rails that regulatory bodies like FFIEC and CFPB provide. There are also other technology-led initiatives such as API definitions that are set out through the FS-ISAC.
I would argue the future of Open Banking in North America will be through the natural evolution of the guidelines and API definitions that have been published, as well as the natural progression of industry initiatives.
Q. Are there any other bank tech trends you'd like to discuss?
Coreless banking. Zafin has been pioneering some of the work around externalising functions out of the legacy core to drive a more ‘fintech nimble’ bank, while not having to deliver a ‘heart and lungs’ core bank replacement.
Real life examples of this include moving some of the core functions of a banking system, such as product and pricing to a platform like Zafin. Origination, onboarding, KYC, risk, and compliance are all other examples of externalising banking functions for added agility.