The Other View: Smarter Finance, Not Financial Education
In the U.S., we waste over $670 million a year on financial literacy programs. However, studies after studies after studies have shown that financial education programs just don’t work. Yet we blame the poor financial health of the millennials on their lack of financial literacy.
Financial literacy is not the problem — antiquated financial products are the problem.
Many of the financial products that we use today have changed little since the advent of the modern bank. Throughout history, banking was a very manual process. Consumers had limited access to financial information and products. People were dependent on financial experts and bankers to manage financial complexity. These intermediaries extracted high tolls from the financial transaction.
The result? Consumers paid high cost to outsource financial complexity.
Digitization of Finance
Recent decades have seen an increased digitization of financial products. This eliminated many of the manual record keeping and processes. The internet has democratized financial data and products, making them widely accessible. Consumers have been able to cut out the intermediaries from many financial transaction.
The result? Consumers pay pennies, but are now exposed to new financial complexities.
Consumer-Centric Products Solve Complexities
In most other sectors, we’ve seen technology eliminating or hiding the complexity from the consumer. The products become more consumer friendly and accessible.
An example of this is the modern automobile. Early automobiles were complicated and difficult to operate machines. Starting the engine required a nine step process involving understanding the weather condition and adjusting the choke appropriately. Modern fuel injection and engine technology has eliminated all of this complexity and made it as easy as pushing the button intuitively labeled “Start.”
Google’s Self-Driving Car
The next generation won’t even need to learn how to operate a car. Instead, they will be directing self-driving cars from the ease of their mobile phones. Just tell it where you want to go and it automatically takes you there.
By looking at the evolution of the modern automobile, we can see how technology and product design has made the modern car much simpler and more accessible.
Unlike the automobile, which conformed to the needs of the user, financial products expects the consumer to conform to the needs of the financial product.
The future of finance is consumer-centric. The future of finance is in Smart Financial Tools.
Using Smart Financial Tools
Smart Financial Tools must first understand the consumer, anticipating needs as they come along. The tool will need to become a trusted assistant rather than the sales relationship with existing banks.
Secondly, Smart Financial Tools must embody the wealth of best practices and knowledge for personal finance. Rather than educate the consumer, the Tool should abstract away the complexity to simple decisions for the consumer.
Smart Financial Tools must automate routine financial chores. The consumer should not need to manually perform rote tasks.
The gist of all of this is that Smart Financial Tools should let the consumer decide WHAT they want without having to figure HOW to do it.
It is because of this vision of Smarter Financial Tools that I took the leap from Google Wallet to start a fintech company, SmartFi (Smart Finance). We are building the Smart Financial Tools that I’ve described above to help consumers improve their financial health effortlessly.
As SmartFi, we’re building a team of techies, former Googlers, and Wall Street professionals, combining our experience in consumer products and financial expertise, to reinvent the consumer’s relationship with financial products.
As we build out the products, I will be writing more about Smart Finance and how we are going to achieve it.
(This article is the author’s view. The author has no commercial ties with CentSai.)