Which direction? A moral compass
By Nicky Sullivan
Moral banking - a contradiction in terms to most people. Or an oxymoron like ‘diet ice-cream’ or ‘temporary tax increase’.
“Nice idea but, come on, let’s get real here,” most people would surely say. But moral banking, or the lack of it, is exactly what inspired CEO Lee Travers to create iamMoney.
When the global economy crashed in 2008, the fall-out hit him hard. But it hit some of his friends even harder. Unable to cope with the stress and stigma of not being able to manage their debts, some took matters into their own hands. Witnessing that tragedy on such a personal level, it struck Lee that the real villain was the path that led his friends into such desperate situations.
That’s why financial education is at the heart of what iamMoney is about and why iamMoney is being engineered to see trouble on the path ahead - even before its customers do - and provide a tailored solution for each one.
“I want to change people’s relationship with money permanently,” Lee says.
“I couldn’t agree more that the love of money to the exclusion of all else is profoundly negative. But getting to grips with money, the real nitty-gritty of it within your own life, is how you achieve autonomy. It’s how you improve your mental health and decision making, your relationships with friends and family, and ultimately, start to build your own freedom.
“All of that, in turn, inevitably feeds back into improving your own financial situation. It literally makes everything better. And that can only be a good thing, a moral thing,” he says.
These are not new ideas. We can go all the way back to the Greek philosophers, Socrates and Plato, or to Spinoza for a moderately more modern view. They believed that all wrong actions come down to intellectual error. But the person who adequately understands his own circumstances has the power to act wisely and even be happy in the face of what would be misfortune and misery to another.
Born out of Lee’s vision, iamMoney is designed to help its clients achieve that understanding, wisdom and happiness.
It does this in a number of ways; the most important of which is education. “The first thing we’re launching is a financial education portal, even before the accounts are open,” says Lee.
This will be front and centre of every client's opening interactions with iamMoney. They can stress-test themselves and also learn how to better manage their finances in a range of ways. But it goes far deeper than that.
Some consider education to be a bit of a bore though and that’s OK. In accordance with the idea that everything in life is a learning opportunity, iamMoney is there to help its customers understand the broader context of the decisions they make when they make them. In this way, every interaction becomes an opportunity to learn.
Nudge Theory is a central tenet of iamMoney’s operation. When a customer is making any kind of financial decision, iamMoney's programmes look ahead to work out whether spending the money today might lead to distress down the road. Through a simple signalling process, iamMoney can warn the client and then provide solutions that may make the decision possible, in less painful ways.
Unlike other financial service businesses, iamMoney is not designed to make a profit out of people’s financial distress. It aims to help them make the best decisions for themselves and stay out of distress, permanently. And it does all this in real-time, without delays or waiting periods. Meanwhile, the customer is learning every step of the way, without even knowing it.
This is just the beginning. iamMoney aims to make clients happier, wealthier and more independent, by expanding their choices and giving them the tools and understanding to make the decisions that are right for them.
That, my friends, is moral banking.