The Personal Finance Academy is the solution to money education for all and allows people of all ages to take their financial future into their own hands.
Founder and CEO Dan Britton entered into our Digital Accelerator programme to help develop and refrine this brand. We caught up with him to discuss his background and the importance of young people gaining a better understanding of finance...
How did you get your start in this sector and what led did you create the Personal Finance Academy?
My first job was working for a high street bank where I became a management trainee. This gave me broad experience of the sector including share dealing and investment advice. After around 5 years the banking sector was changing in a more sales-orientated direction and I took the decision to retrain as a secondary school teacher. I taught a range of business subjects for many years and eventually became a specialist in enterprise and personal finance. I have also written a series of children’s books, 'The Financial Fairy Tales' which are an early introduction to money for younger readers.
What gap in the market did you observe that you felt you could be filled with the Personal Finance Academy?
It’s a combination of factors which have come together at this point. Personal finance has been included in the National Curriculum in England for the first time this year so that created a demand from schools. The global financial crisis, I think, highlighted people’s vulnerability and need to be more self-reliant and financially aware. Plus a wider social issue of poverty, debt and financial exclusion which is in many ways being exploited by payday lenders and other such companies. Creating an online product means that it can quickly be scalable and reach a national and international audience.
What are the major financial issues faced by young people today?
I like to talk about prevention and possibility. Young people need to be aware of the financial dangers of expensive loans, generating out of control debts and not having the tools to manage their money. But on the other side, they should be encouraged to take control of income generation, look to build assets and learn how to utilise their skills and talents to make money.
How does the Personal Finance Academy work to engage directly with young people?
We provide an online course which is easy to understand and set in a context that young people can relate to. Be that living independently for the first time, understanding a payslip or buying a car. Our product can be accessed directly, perhaps a student at university or via their parents or school. It’s fantastic to see and hear about people watching the videos on the bus or at home on their iPads.
Your service targets teachers, students and parents too - how does your approach to each these differ?
The learning content is very similar. Teaching about debt, money management and how to make money grow for example. Essentially there are more barriers to entry when dealing with schools. Although part of the curriculum, it hasn’t really hit home yet that financial education needs to be delivered. Therefore we decided to trial the first version of the course to parents, where there is a much shorter buying cycle. The schools' version will be part of a more sophisticated learning system to include testing and reporting as it is important to generate good evidence of participation and what was learned. This will require a bigger team and larger investment to deliver what we envision.
Have you encountered any particular problems in launching a finance focused business?
It was important for us to be non-judgemental or ‘preachy’. It would be a mistake for example to make blanket statements such as all debt is bad, when things like mortgages and business loans can be good debt. There are a lot of emotions tied to money for both adults and young people plus great diversity in current knowledge and financial position.
What did you take away from your time on our Digital Accelerator?
We had some really valuable input into refining and honing our product offer, deciding who our target market was and how we could reach them. The one to one sessions with mentors and introductions to people who could help were priceless and I really enjoyed learning from the other members of the group.
What did it allow you to achieve?
The seed capital was very helpful in building the first version of our product. It was also instrumental in refining exactly what our offer was and to whom.
Where would you like to take the Personal Finance Academy in 2015?
We have an exciting year ahead. Getting our product out to as many young people as possible is a priority as there is such a need for engaging financial education. We will also be developing the schools programme and raising capital through investors and sponsors to build something amazing.
Learn more about the Personal Finance Academy by visiting their website.
To find out more about our Dorset Accelerator teams and their products, click here.