These Calgary Companies are Making Financial Literacy More Accessible

New ways to teach financial literacy are creating opportunity for those who have been previously excluded.

Illustration by Gust of Wind Studios.

It’s estimated that, by 2028, women will control almost $4 trillion in Canadian financial assets. That’s nearly double what that number would have been 10 years earlier. But, while women rack up financial power, access and education (the other side of the coin) aren’t necessarily keeping pace.

A growing number of organizations are changing the way we learn about money, however, and, in the process, increasing the financial potential of groups who have been overlooked or alienated by traditional financial education. The filling of this knowledge gap means more equal participation in finance.

The non-profit sister organization of The51, a feminist financial investment platform that brings women into venture capitalism, Movement51 emerged in 2021 to target women and gender-diverse early-stage investors and founders. As The51 began attracting investors, it was clear there were plenty of other women who were interested in investing but needed a toolkit to get started.

Movement51 facilitates investing labs in partnership with the University of Calgary. Female investors learn everything from how to decide what to invest in, to negotiating term sheets. The information is developed and delivered by experienced entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and academics. “It’s really about democratizing access to finance and providing programs that have academic rigour and also have a gendered lens,” says Movement51 executive director Danielle Gifford.

That common female-driven view creates a supportive community that underpins everything Movement51 does. “There’s an energy and vibrancy that you can feel. People are excited,” says Gifford. “They want to meet people with similar motivations and learn more. It is a safe space. You don’t have to be worried about asking a question that you might feel is silly. There is inclusivity and accessibility that isn’t that traditional old voice. That’s really important.”

Calgary-founded Flahmingo also sees itself as an alternative to that traditional old voice. The DIY investment app allows Canadians to create their own portfolios by investing in stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). It uses fractionalized stocks, which means investing can happen with as little as $1 and its target audience is millennials and gen-Z members who want to learn, but often feel alienated by legacy banks.

“The majority of our users come to the application knowing nothing or knowing very little about investing,” says Flahmingo’s co-founder and CFO Kunal Seth. “They want to learn from people who look and feel like them. They don’t want to learn from somebody wearing a suit that’s talking in a specific way and using words that they don’t understand.”

Along with its clever pies-and-slices approach to investing, education is a big part of what attracts younger people to the app. Its Flahmingo Central is a collection of videos of experts speaking directly to the camera, explaining concepts or answering questions in three minutes or less. The tone is casual and the content is vetted by trusted and reliable sources — unlike a lot of other investing-related content on social media. Flahmingo is, after all, regulated by the Alberta Securities Commission. The videos, along with the ability to start investing with a smaller amount of money, reduces the barrier to entry and offers hands-on learning to empower new investors.

Financial empowerment facilitator Theodora Warrior Healy developed a series of workshops on financial wellness for Indigenous communities in Treaty 7 territory. Warrior Healy is Blackfoot and her by-Indigenous-for-Indigenous approach was designed to create a supportive space where teaching and learning comes from a shared background — one that includes a difficult relationship with Canada’s banking system.

Indigenous communities tend to be 50 to 60 years behind when it comes to financial literacy, Warrior Healy says. Stack on the harmful myths and stereotypes related to money that Indigenous peoples come up against and it’s no wonder they aren’t comfortable seeking financial advice from the banks. “We’ve been traumatized our whole lives and we’re hypersensitive to any kind of unwelcoming,” she says.

By gaining knowledge of credit products, TFSAs, and other financial tools, Indigenous community members are able to ask questions and advocate for themselves.

“When they have the information, they are more confident in going forward and creating a wealth plan for themselves and their children and grandchildren,” Warrior Healy says. “It ripples out into the community. If everyone has financial wellness, the poverty level goes down and there is less stress. There are so many benefits to financial literacy.”

 

4 Calgary Fintech Startups Solving Everyday Problems

Fillip

This one is for the truck drivers. The digital payment platform allows drivers belonging to a fleet to pay for fuel and maintenance expenses with a secure digital wallet. Real-time spending makes it easier for owners to keep tabs on spending and everyone saves time submitting receipts and reconciling expenses.

fillipfleet.com

 

OneVest

OneVest is Canada’s first Wealth-as-a-Service (WaaS) platform. Financial institutions embed OneVest into their products so customers can seamlessly invest, create personalized portfolios and more. It’s a service that was previously only available to legacy banks. Current users include Calgary-based Neo Financial.

onevest.com

 

Reach

This payment platform makes cross-border e-commerce easier for buyers and sellers. With Reach, transactions can be done in a local currency with localized processing so it’s familiar to a shopper and they don’t get bumped over to a third-party checkout they might not trust. It’s the kind of smooth experience big companies like Amazon can deliver but small- and medium-sized companies have previously found challenging.

withreach.com

 

Zenbase

Zenbase provides its users flexibility with rent payments. It pays rent in full to landlords when it is due and then the renter pays Zenbase back in smaller amounts throughout the month. The flexible schedule can align better with users’ cash flow and, as such, relieve financial stress.

myzenbase.com

Learn more about the people and organizations moving Calgary forward with Avenue's Innovation Newsletter.

This article appears in the May 2023 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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