Debit card and financial education app GoHenry, designed for kids aged 6-18, has a simple mission: make every kid smart with money.
GoHenry says they empower families to do this by providing them with the financial education tools to help their children learn vital pillars of money management.
They launched in 2012 and raised $70 million; Their last round was in December 2020. They raised $40 million in a financing round led by US growth-equity firm Edison Partners, with investment from Revaia (formerly Gaia Capital Partners), Citi Ventures, and Muse Capital.
They now have over 2 million customers across the UK and US
“It is clear that parents want to set their children up with a solid financial understanding. We are here to provide a practical, interactive, and fun tool to help families in this important area of their lives”, explains Allyce Buniak, US PR Manager.”
The lack of financial literacy in schools has become of increasing concern. Money Advice Service conducted research in schools in the UK and found the activities least commonly delivered are teaching learners about where they can get financial advice and when 43% and giving learners experience of planning/budgeting 40%.
After recognizing a need in their own families, Alex Zivoder, Dean Brauer, and Louise Hill founded the company as a group of friends.
“Schools and banks weren’t helping teach kids money, so we set out to create a tool that would allow us to educate our kids while helping them save and spend in an cashless world. Our first transaction was by a British boy named Henry in November 2012 (Voila! GoHenry!)”, Buniak said.
“With access to e-commerce, social media, and other online platforms starting at a younger age, kids are the first point consumers today in ways they have never been before.”
The National Endowment for Financial Education study found that 75% of kids couldn’t apply their financial knowledge to real life. And, according to a study from Cambridge University, children’s financial habits are formed by the age of seven.
By that point, most young people have formed core behaviors they will take into adulthood and affect financial decisions for the rest of their lives.
The urgency and need for GoHenry were amplified during the pandemic, as the world became cashless. In the UK, cash payments continued to decline in 2020, falling by 35% to 6.1 billion, while contactless payments made in the UK increased by 12% to 9.6 billion, according to UK Finance.
“We have seen an increased urgency amongst parents and other relatives to teach the kids in their lives money management skills. We noticed increased flows of money coming into GoHenry accounts from grandparents to their grandchildren due to the pandemic and lockdowns, and this has continued (like many other Covid habits).”
According to GoHenry, 96% of parents say their kids are better at managing money, thanks to them. Their users come from various backgrounds and use GoHenry for different reasons:
- Some use GoHenry because they struggle with financial problems and do not want their kids to make the same mistakes.
- Others have more resources and want their children to understand the value of money – that it has to be earned, spent wisely, and can be used to help others.
- Users also utilize GoHenry to save money by cutting back on additional expenses that can often pop up when using a traditional allowance system or no allowance at all.
As GoHenry expands into a US market, they see strong customer demand across the country in all 50 states — their community is tied together through the desire to help manage their kids grow up confident in their money and finances.
“All children from primary school age deserve a financial education that gives them the skills and knowledge to manage their money effectively in adulthood, regardless of their background. A smart money management app paired with a debit card and content, nudges, and notifications can go a long way in helping kids & teens become financially fit and confident with money,” Buniak explains.
One of the main challenges at the beginning for GoHenry was building trust with parents and kids. While also educating the market on the need for the service, they must demonstrate that they value education as much as parents do.
Another challenge was designing a product for a diverse landscape of parents and kids of different ages, and life stages are more complex than they might appear.
And lastly, Bunaik points to best practices as a challenge ” we had no best practice to follow and no brands that had gone before us to emulate. We launched the concept of a monthly subscription in our space which worked well. Now everyone seems to be adopting this concept, not just others directly in our space but also neo-banks.”
These challenges have lessened over time as awareness of starting financial education young has gained pace.
Another challenge for GoHenry might be the competitive space for financial literacy apps and products.
- Goalsetter – is a goal-based savings and gifting platform for kids. It combines the best of goal-based savings platforms like Digit and Acorns with the best of gift registries like Zola and Honeyfund, and in so doing. It targets the millennial mom with a platform that enables families to contribute to kids’ future goals instead of buying them more consumer goods.
- Poklet – is an app and debit card for the whole family that teaches kids financial skills they easily can understand, practice, and retain. A strong foundation of financial skills helps achieve life goals.
- Quirk– is a financial platform built for Gen-Z, empowering them to build wealth. Quirk is a fully personalized app, using psychology, gamification, and social features, where Gen-Z can learn about, track and grow their money in one place.
- Your Juno – is a financial education platform for women and non-binary people focusing on millennials and Gen Z, which we covered last month.
However, the increase in bespoke products, catering to a wide range of people, and the diversity of societies’ financial needs make the economic literacy space exciting.
For GoHenry, their competitive advantage is combining a physical product and in-app, gamified money lessons. With the introduction and expansion of Money Missions, they are the only financial education app that delivers the theory (the financial education and skills that Money Missions are centered around) and the practice (use of the card and app) in a one-stop- shop package.
Recently they launched Money Missions (Level 2 will be live in the next few weeks), which are in-app, gamified money lessons designed to educate children and promote better financial literacy.
The missions boast a full curriculum aligned with national K-12 personal finance education standards and development with teachers and financial experts. Topics cover: money basics, earning, saving, responsible spending, borrowing, credit, investing, money safety, etc.
Kids can watch animated videos on money topics, take quizzes, and earn XP points and badges while gaining real-world experience with money. As kids grow and complete missions, levels are unlocked and adjusted to their age, skills, and confidence.
“We know that kids learn best by doing — and our customers tell us that our product helps them achieve this. Combining banking features for kids with in-app lessons provides a seamless source for both knowledge and practice,” Buniak says.
Their long-term plan is simple, making every kid smart with money. They want to continue to provide financial education and money management tools to families on both sides of the Atlantic. Therefore a big focus will be on ensuring we continue to deliver a service that caters to our customers’ financial needs.
Fun fact: their cards can be personalized by adding a child’s name and choosing from fun card designs making learning about money something children can be excited about. They have some exciting partners that have helped create limited edition cards with beloved characters. They recently worked with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 to create a range.
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Helen Femi Williams is a freelance journalist and podcaster interested in fintech, politics, economics, and their intersections.
Prior to this role, she worked as an innovation consultant developing insurtech and fintech products and ideas for brands, startups, and major corporations. She studied International Relations at the University of Nottingham (UK and Malaysia).