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Fintech Fridays EP42: Insights into the Teen Banking Sector and Improving the Financial Well-being of Families

NCFA Canada | Oct 2, 2020


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EP42:  Insights into the Teen Banking Sector and Improving the Financial Well-being of Families

GUEST: RIM CHARKANI, Co-Founder and CEO, WALO (Linkedin)

BIO (FR):  Rim Charkani est la cofondatrice et CEO de WALO, Fintech dont la mission est d'assurer la santé financière des générations futures à travers une éducation financière pratique pour les jeunes. Avant de créer WALO, Rim a travaillé au sein de l'équipe Stratégie du Mouvement Desjardins, et avant cela, elle a été directrice en Stratégie chez KPMG Canada, et directrice en Numérique chez KPMG Australie. Rim détient un MBA en Gestion des Technologie de l'Information de l'Université Laval, et une Maitrise en Management de l'EDHEC Business School (France).

BIO (EN):  Rim Charkani is the co-founder and CEO of WALO, a fintech on a mission to ensure the financial health of future generations. Rim has over 8 years of experience in corporate strategy in the financial services sector. She has worked with senior executives to define, plan and execute on their customer and growth strategies, in North America, Africa, Europe, and Australia. Prior to founding WALO, Rim has held multiple key roles such as senior corporate strategy advisor at the Desjardins Group, Strategy Consulting manager at KPMG Canada, and Digital Consulting manager at KPMG Australia. Rim holds an MBA in Information Technology Management from Laval University and a Master's degree in Management from EDHEC Business School (France).




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About this episode: 

Rim Charkani, the Co-Founder & CEO of WALO connects with NCFA Founder, Craig Asano, to discuss why Teen Banking is a growing opportunity for banks, and why financial wellness education is more crucial than ever for both kids and families. Did you know women in Canada weren't allowed to open a bank account without a man's signature until 1965? They navigate the history, psychology, cultural differences, and the need to improve Canada's financial literacy gaps and personal finances in every day life.


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Transcription of Interview

Intro: Welcome to fintech Friday's a weekly podcast brought to you by the National Crowdfunding and Fintech Association of Canada and partners.  Covering all things fintech, blockchain, AI and alternative finance.


Craig Asano: [00:00:00] Hello, everyone, it's Craig Asano, the founder and CEO of NCFA, a Canada welcoming you to Episode 42 to a Fintech Friday's a weekly podcast brought to you by NCFA and Partners, where we sit down with incredible people in the fintech and funny community talk about everything under the sun, product innovation, developments, challenges. We get deep down to personal with the founders that are changing the future of financial services in Canada and around the globe. We're super excited to welcome our guests today, Rim Charkani, the CEO and co-founder of WALO to the show. Welcome.


Rim Charkani: [00:00:36] Thanks, Craig. Thanks. Happy to be here.


Craig Asano: [00:00:39] So let's get started. I think the plan this afternoon, which is becoming a bit of a framework here, is let's first talk a little bit about your entrepreneurial journey. Then we're going to dig into WALO itself and the emerging trends in the financial education space. And then we're going to finish with a round of speed questions for some fun. So how does that sound like for for a plan for the next forty five minutes or so?


Rim Charkani: [00:01:05] Sounds like a great plan. Let's get started.


Craig Asano: [00:01:08] Ok, so let's just can you first tell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey just to open up the connection with listeners. Let's let's learn a little bit about Rim Charkani.


Rim Charkani: [00:01:24] Yeah. So born and raised in Morocco, I come from an entrepreneurial family. Both my parents, grandparents were all entrepreneurs. So I kind of always knew I had to I wanted to become an entrepreneur someday. Left Morocco, when I was 18, went to study in France, studied math, business and immigrated to Canada after my masters I went to consulting. So I wasn't feeling ready to start my entrepreneurial journey after I started my studies but I thought consulting was a great way to learn and be ready to to succeed in business.  Spent four or five years working at KPMG and strategy consulting here in Canada. I went to Australia as well as KPMG Australia, where I was more working on the digital consulting side.  So I always had this deep interest in technology, new tech and customer experience in general. I've consulted for a lot of clients and financial services as well, which brought me to my next job, which was working in strategy at Desjardins, which is one of the key financial institutions here in Quebec. And again, I was just curious to know what was well, how does it work from the inside? Like how does it bank work from the inside, through the operations look like what's the the have they actually executed on the strategies the consultants tell you to do? So that was all like during all these years I was having multiple ideas, businesses I could start but never really got to do something, something about it until one day I just decided to take the leap and solve a problem that that was dear to me and that I personally experienced growing up.  And so, yeah, that's how well over a year ago now, I started WALO with with my co-founders and one year and so in the venture like a pretty, pretty happy with the decision to kind of leave corporate and start my own business. That was something that I always wanted to do. And so far it's been a great, great ride.


Craig Asano: [00:04:02] It's amazing. We sort of started to hear the similar stories, you know, strategy, management, consulting firms, very bright folks working for the largest companies that are advising companies. But as an entrepreneur, someone coming from an entrepreneur family with all that international experience, what jumped out when when you were talking and then you talked about going to school in France, you've been in Australia. What what do you think is it that did do you think there's there's an affinity for anyone who has had more exposure, for example, international I just want to get more into, you know, how you made the decision or was it everybody at Jesjardins or, you know, do you envision everyone at a consulting firm thinking, you know, boy, I'd love to to actually launch our own company?  And then, you know, further to that, how did you handle the risk internally and make that decision? Or was a very simple thing for you?


Rim Charkani: [00:05:06] So, yeah, I don't think it's it's for everybody for sure. I think it's it's both a personality trait.  It's something that that was, you know, very natural for me. And at the same time, in terms of risk, you mentioned risk. Some people are more risk averse than others. And I see myself rather as a risk taker. I think that nothing comes to you in life if you don't take some risks.  In my case, it was it was you know, for sure it was a risk because I was leaving well-paying job stability and and going into some adventure that that didn't have any, you know, have any revenue for for a long time.  And it was it was certainly a risk, but it was a calculated risk. I kind of knew how much I needed to be able to survive, to be able to live during a certain period of time. And I said to myself, some objective and some deadlines. I also think that it's the earlier you take the risk, it's probably the easiest, the easier it is. I know that I have some friends who are a little bit more advanced in their careers, who are, for example, partners at consulting firms and and who have, you know, when you have a mortgage for like millions of dollars for a house, you can just say, OK, I'm going to leave my job and and, you know, who's going to pay the mortgage. So I think there is there is it was a step in my life where I still didn't have too much to lose in terms of of of stability. But at the same time, I knew that I had to do it now or otherwise might be just too late. So in terms of risk, it's a calculation, I think.  And in terms of personality, it's it's just readiness and you know, what you really want in life and what kind of life you're looking to have, what what kind of impact you're looking to achieve.


Craig Asano: [00:07:29] You know, it's interesting. We often hear on the show and among startup circles that let's let's take the risk. There's a sweet spot in your life. When you have less to lose, you can live off ramen noodles, for example, which brought up the other day. But I have read a number of articles that talked about that that's a fallacy that there's it's only for youthful entrepreneurs that have this extra runway in their life that they can have a couple of failures in the likelihood that their first entrepreneurial venture isn't successful. What about and I think the report was saying, on average, the most successful entrepreneurs were over forty five. I think the sweet spot was around 47-46. What do you think about older entrepreneurs and what they can offer? Do you do you think that there's there's something there that entrepreneurship is for everyone, including older entrepreneurs potentially as they reassess their life and particularly with this new covid environment? Or is it really best suited, as you say, the risk to take that calculated risk when you're younger? What do you think?


Rim Charkani: [00:08:43] I'm not surprised with what you say with read, because I don't think I don't think age is a single factor here and I don't think there's a like a clear correlation between age and success. I think it's just what what step in your life you are at and what are your circumstances at that specific moment that allow you are not to take to make the leap? You know, so I'm sure that are lots of entrepreneurs who are a little bit more a little bit older and who have more experience under their belt. So probably that does help to have more experience. A larger network. That's probably a plus on your on your own, your entrepreneurial skill set, let's say.  However, in my case, based on my life plans and where I see myself in ten years, I just couldn't wait anymore. I was there. It was the right time for me, and I felt it. And I just followed my intuition.


Craig Asano: [00:09:53] Yeah, and so you're a year into the the WALO venture, which is that your first startup and what was the story behind the creation of it? How did you come about the idea you had said earlier that the idea was with you for a while before you took the leap. Can you talk a little bit about the story behind the creation of WALO and what's been happening in that that last year?


Rim Charkani: [00:10:24] Yeah, well, I'll actually go back a little bit further and I'll just the last year, but it's more like it comes down to my life journey and and my values as a person was something that that's really dear to me, you know, as as as a woman who grew up, you know, in Morocco, surrounded by very conservative, let's be honest, this was a misogynistic society, Morocco, although I always felt like I could accomplish anything as a women. And I thought that there was lots of boundaries that were set by society to us women and I thought that I just had to move to a developed country and there's no gender gap out there. So I was obviously being idealistic. So when I moved to France, Canada, you know, I realized that as a woman, you're carrying an invisible burden to always kind of try to work harder, to prove yourself more, you know, deal with unconscious bias. And as the core of the problem, I think for me, I believe that one of the things that played a significant role in reinforcing this gender gap and perpetuating it is really about financial power and money.  So I think not only from the fact that I believe that we need to do more to narrow the gender gap and to offer equal opportunity to anyone, really, so that I had to do something about it. And from my personal experience as well, I didn't have any financial education growing up. So I had to learn the hard way. And so it was a problem that I've experienced and that I've seen from from both my troubles, my reasons that it is it has an impact on the gender gap, actually. And again, when we started our WALO journey, something we came across quite early was when we were looking at market data. It showed the same thing. You know, in Canadians in Canada, there was a financial literacy test that that that was performed to a group of people. And you could see that males succeeded more in that test. I think it was like 60 percent of males succeeded versus 50 percent of women. So something like that. And you can see that the gender gap is even there in Canada. And from the financial literacy perspective, you know, it wasn't until, you know, it wasn't until 1965 that Canadian women were allowed to open a bank account without their husband's signature. That's crazy when you think about it. So, yes, it has reduced significantly relative to the past. But there were there are lots of areas when work can be done to ensure greater will be in greater financial help for women. And I think that Fintechs have the opportunity to empower women and have the opportunity to bridge that gap in investment, retirement economic status overall. So for me, it's a way to work on something that I'm passionate about while also knowing that I can have or at least aim to have an impact on a matter that's dear to me.


Craig Asano: [00:14:20] Did you say in nineteen sixty five, up until 1965 that women couldn't even open a bank account without a male signature in Canada?


Rim Charkani: [00:14:29] Yes, that's in Canada.


Craig Asano: [00:14:31] That is ridiculous. I've not come across that stat before. We're going to have to quote that one out. That's that's just unheard of and has the gender gap which we all are aware to varying degrees and, you know, some talk about, well, you know, men are more gravitate towards more towards stem related jobs and women more caring, supportive, communicated communication type jobs...when it comes to the gender gap let's try to focus on Canada and our local experiences, but will apply globally. You know, are we, I see a lot of groups and government support but when I see the data, and I think there was a recent report that might have come from EY I believe. It doesn't the needle doesn't seem to be moving that much. I think we've made great strides in the last decade or so. But can you talk about the gender gap a little bit more and how we can tackle it as a as a Founder, as a change maker? Is it is it really just information? And helping women access more money will give them more power? What what can we do?


Rim Charkani: [00:15:53] So I think we can do many things at multiple levels, and I think we have to tackle this at multiple levels and in different ways. So coming back to just the basics of financial education for kids, you know, so there was a study, I think it was a UK study though, but I couldn't find any like I was trying to find something in Canada or North America, there wasn't anything similar but the UK study shows that the average boy makes twice more allowance per week than the average girl and that most young girls complete chores daily relative to occasional tasks for boys and boys are many times paid for personal hygiene tasks that women are not provided financial rewards for. So I think at the family level, at the educational level, we tend to reinforce those gender biases.  And that's where the importance of a gender neutral financial education importance to empower little girls to, you know, to let them believe in themselves and pay them help give them an equal allowance, as you would give a boy for doing a chore. That's just as basic as this. And I think it's it's unconscious. We need to make people aware of those kind of things and act on it. So that's that's a very basic educational family level.  Then when thinking about, you know, Fintechs, for example, you're very, very much aware that there are not many women in Fintech. I think, one, I think I read like an article recently that said that only nine percent of the Fintech in Canada have at least one female founder or C-level executive. And then in terms of capital, that it's even worse in terms of, you know, raising money. There's another study that showed that only three percent of the capital invested in Fintechs went to firms with female founders. So it's quite rigid for you to see those figures. And it's not a surprise when you see that there are so, so many women in fintech when you think of the predominance of male leadership in the financial world, the predominance of male leadership in tech and the predominance of male leadership in investors, it's hard for women to see themselves in those fields and to find, you know, people to look up to to find mentors who will help them navigate the course. And that's personally a challenge I had myself just find in finding female mentors who went through the same or a similar journey, you know, raising money for a Canadian fintech those kind of leadership figures. It's a challenge. So I think we are people are more and more aware of these issues for now, from time to time you read blogs, articles about this issue. There seems to be growing awareness and people trying to spread the message about the importance of diversity and the importance of empowering women in those areas. However, it's still I think it's still not enough.  It's still a lot of visibility and a lot of, you know, trying to make people aware of this versus actually taking some concrete, practical actions of putting money on the table for women or, you know, having more concrete measures that can be that can actually be measured and have an impact either on the having more capital allocated to female founded fintechs or just having more women interested in fintech. I think we have we are making progress for sure that we have lots of lots to do, lots of challenges ahead.


Craig Asano: [00:20:40] Yeah, well, in my experience, women are much better than men at many, many areas, not just marketing and a whole host of skill sets. This this multitasking in a very busy life these days. And a lot of the online fintech models are, quite frankly, better suited to being run by anyone. Doesn't matter what gender anyone that that's able to handle some of those cases and the workload and communicate effectively and and connect in an EQ way with their staff and provide the vision for the future of a company and build a tremendous amount of value in doing so. You know, and of course, there's the diversity point. If everyone is in the boys club and they're analyzing charts and trying to make a decision, but the information in their own biased experiences are the same. They're going to come up with the same answer, time and time again are becoming more common. I know in New York at the ARK Investments, they recently published an interview and they were saying, well, how did you outperform, let's say, 90 percent of the ETFs in North America and really came down to diversity. Is there large message? And they have a varied group of individuals all focusing on their areas. They're surely experts, but they're bringing that diversity of thought and that's translating decisions. And it's very empowering when you quantify and measure and they're winning. So I'd love to hear it. Yeah, it in the families and homes and anyone who is providing and supporting greater allowance for boys for ridiculous tasks that they should be doing should eradicate gender biases immediately. You've got to treat your kids fairly, which I myself, I've got two kids. I try to do my best. It's always a challenge, but absolutely hear you. So this leads into the segway around sort of financial education to me with with the WALO, the creation of the WALO app. I mean, you're you're obviously very passionate about solving this this gap in and it's around financial literacy and what has happened. And I'll tell you one short anecdote, because I mentioned that I have two kids. I got my son. He's in public school here in Ontario, and they don't even in the curriculum, have kids memorize. This is not financial literacy, but it's a very simple example, rudimentary example. They don't have kids memorize the Times tables anymore. You know, one times one is one, one times two is two, one times three is three. And what that's actually done is when you go to the cashier and check out and you need simple math to calculate how much change my getting back or, you know, they're all relying in the cash register and they're using their fingers because they have not been required by the curriculum. When we went to school we at least had to remember the Times table. And, you know, if this is a message to anyone in the Ministry of Finance here in Ontario, Stephen Lecce or Premier Ford, you've got to put the Times table memorization, probably not just 12 by 12, go all the way up to 14 by 14 on the curriculum.  Because if I see my son counting one more time on his hands for a simple math problem in our daily life, it's it's just mind boggling. So where is financial literacy? And I'm talking small business, financial literacy. I'm talking personal finance literacy, wherever you want to focus. Where are we in Canada? I'm waiting to hear the tsunami of gap. What is going on? Can you illuminate can you educate us on this?


Rim Charkani: [00:24:42] Yeah, that's a very fun anecdote. I am very surprised that they don't teach those tables anymore. Oh, although I think that I think I've heard a couple of months ago that Ontario Premier has there was some change in policy in the education curriculum and now they're going to have financial education, I think, in school. So that's that's good news for Ontario, because you know that until now, until that announcement, there's was no financial education at school at all in Canada, and there is still none outside of Ontario. And I think right now well, I think there are two things. There is first and the first thing is why is it important? Why is financial education important? Well, you just have to look at the financial health of Canadians right now and the fact that they are very, very leveraged. If you think of the debt to income ratio, Canadians owe an average $1.78 for each dollar of net income. So income after tax affects. So it's a very high ratio when you compare it to other countries, even to US to countries in Europe. It's a very high ratio. And I'm going to tell you a story because when I came to when I moved to Canada, it was. I had the cultural shock about that because I was seeing that my Canadian friends were where we're using credit cards basically to buy. To buy everything they were using credit cards and the beginning I didn't understand why are you using money that you don't have and then paying a bill at the end of the month, why don't you just use the money you have in your in your bank account? Obviously, coming from Morocco, European background, credit cards are not a thing. Their credit cards are viewed as as the devil. You know, Debt is viewed as the devil consumption that more particular. So we are back in France, you know, or your Visa and MasterCard, our debit cards, you know. So initially I didn't understand. I was like obviously some of them were like, oh, I get I get points for my for my purchases. So why not just use a credit card and then other as well, I understood that you kind of have to have a credit card to build your credit score if you want to eventually buy a house or, you know, invest. So it was like this cultural shock made me think of, you know, why there is such a disparity of indebtedness between between Canada and U.S. in general and the rest of the world, rest of Europe, where I was coming from. And it comes down to our attitude towards money, you know, our attitude towards consumption and our attitudes towards saving, risk taking and investing, and those attitudes vary by geography. You can tell that in France, for example, people tend to save a lot of money because they're quite risk averse and they don't invest it. They just put it in like very low interest savings account, but they don't invest. So that's that's an issue in France. Some fintechs, by the way are trying to tackle...versus in Canada, you can see that people don't save enough. For example, they don't save enough for retirement and they take on debt to they take on maybe a little bit too much debt for consumption versus versus, let's say, healthy debt to buy it, to buy a house or to invest let's say So, all these attitudes all come down to the habits we build when growing up, the culture of setting and also our financial literacy and our financial literacy, financial literacy. For me, it's defined just like actually the government of Canada has a different a definition of financial literacy. And it's not financial literacy is not only knowing what our audiences are, knowing what our what is investing, and what our stocks, etc. It's not just the knowledge, it's the knowledge, but also the skills to be able to apply that knowledge. And then the third component, which sometimes is forgotten, is the confidence to actually take that knowledge. Use your skills and make the right decisions to influence positively your your financial health. So when you don't have these three components, knowledge, skills and confidence, you're not on the right track to making the best decisions to optimize your financial health. And I think those three components, you can't just say they're not let's say they're not natural to just learn. They're not natural to acquire. Someone has to teach you. And if no one teaches you, either you end up learning the hard way or you end up doing the same mistakes over and over again until you hit a wall. That's why I think it's a very long explanation of why financial education is important. But I think it's really important to kind of understand what's behind it and why it's each component of it is necessary for each individual to optimize his financial health and be able to take to make the right decisions and advance and that's in life. So. Yeah, you wanted to say something?


Craig Asano: [00:31:25] No, I'm taking some notes here, you know, it's interesting. I'll let you finish that point, then I'm going to come back at you.


Rim Charkani: [00:31:32] So just this I'm going to finish on this very last thing. Basically, what we are putting on the table with WALO is that. We need to bring financial literacy early in people's lives because those habits, that knowledge, skills and confidence are can be gained early, or if you miss the train, your end up making mistakes because you can't, you know, change your habits. It's easier to  get the right habits from day one versus trying to change your habits later when you're 30 or when you're 40 and or when you're closer to retirement. Might as well get that education early on and be ready to face life, face your financial life.


Craig Asano: [00:32:28] It's a scary life, so I yeah, I mean, the pitch is if you want to be happy and once you get married and kids and have a financially sound life, a happy life, you got to do those four things and that's got to boost your confidence. And, you know, with the WALO app, you're going to learn it from very early on. But the one thing I want to come back to you on was you mentioned consumption, savings, risk taking and investing, which are sort of four tenets to, I guess, the foundation. If you had those things in check to the opportunity to have the confidence to make the right decision.  In Canada, let's say, could we have to compare and contrast with a country that I guess America, because we're probably a lot more similar to the American behaviour than, let's say, Moroccan or. You know, my original heritage, Japanese, which I know they're great savers, may be way better than... which from consumption. Let's go through those four. Is Canada better or worse, like consumption? Who's consuming more, Canada or Americans? And where's the right balance?


Rim Charkani: [00:33:40] Well, that's a that's a good question to which I'm not sure I have I have an answer, but honestly, I think when it comes down to I'm going to come back to the debt to income ratio, I believe the Canadians are I have a higher ratio. So at least in terms of. consumption debt, I what I tend to say based on that ratio is that Canadians have a higher ratio. So compared to Americans, they're either either Canadians are taking more debt to buy more houses or they're taking more debt to buy more stuff. So I can't I can't say for sure, but that's that's the only fact I have on that on this question.


Craig Asano: [00:34:31] So so, for example, you hear about because it covid the road to recovery. I know Ray Dalio had an article the other day that American consumption is a big reason why it's a world power and it's very powerful. But if they're unable to consume at the same rate and their productivity is declining, it's a negative impact to the economy. But I guess what will simplify the question in Canada, do you think we should consume more, consume less?


Rim Charkani: [00:35:02] So that's that's a great question for economists, which I'm not, but I think from I'll take it down to an individual perspective, you know, for a persona, consumption, I think needs to be taken down into basic level, which is wants versus needs, you know, so we tend to say you consume first for your for your needs and before consuming for your wants and before consuming at all. You save you pay yourself first. That's the kind of one of the the key rules, let's say, that we're trying to teach kids, for example, when we're teaching them about about financial literacy. So going back to your question, should we consume more or less? We probably should consume less of things we want but don't need and save that money or invest it.


Craig Asano: [00:36:06] Yeah, it's a it's a formula, really. They're not independent, those four tenets and I see I see where you're going with that.


Rim Charkani: [00:36:16] Maybe if I may add, one of the things that the pandemic has shown us is, is that lots of people were living...lots of people in Canada were living paycheck to paycheck. And that's an indication that they didn't have an emergency fund, they didn't have an extra cushion, which means they didn't save it, which means they probably consumed that money instead of saving it. So it's another way to see it. But there are some basic financial literacy rules or let's say some basic financial soundness rules. And they're not a hundred of them. They're probably if you try to put them on the list, maybe 10 rules or something like that. And that can that to that you can take today as a Canadian and make your financial health better. And those step include, for example, have an emergency fund, you know, or or at least, you know, saving some money to that, saving at least some money early on, you know, starting early, etc..


Craig Asano: [00:37:26] Absolutely. Instead is looking at all those covid mask posters. We need some financial get your finances in order posters.. Right? Everywhere that people will start to get the message.


Rim Charkani: [00:37:38] Well, actually, it's a pandemic. Is it? Well, I was going to say is a great opportunity, but I mean, in every bad thing, there's something good. So let's take take the opportunity to pause and have a look, you know, take a picture of our finances and say, what can I do better? You know, how can I prepare for the next, you know, for the next hardship? So, yeah, I just let you move on to your next question. I feel like I'm going way over with you.


Craig Asano: [00:38:05] Well, I think it's interesting. It's at the core of the psychology and I guess and day to day life there are gaps. People have a busy life. They get on and you if you don't map it out and plan for it, everybody's in for a rude awakening when they retire. And it's not certainly what they might have expected. And life throws a lot of curveballs. So the help of an app like WALO. So let's let's get into the app. Let's get into the vision for WALO and this this idea that who is your target market and how does the app work? How is it available right now for download?


Rim Charkani: [00:38:45] Yeah, so right now, it's available in the app stores and the App Store and Google Play, it's even beta. In terms of our of our target market, it's basically we talk to parents, we talk to parents and tell them, use this, don't change your habits and teach your kids about money on the go, you know, using allowances and in terms of our vision and how we're seeing this going in the future, it's really around financial wellness for families. And this goes hand in hand with the kids education, you know, educating kids to talk to about financial services and getting them to actually understand that money does not grow on trees, understand the basic concepts of saving, spending and earning your own money, and then all of the economic environment around us. What are the tools that exist that we can use to improve our situation, etcetera? And the way we're thinking about this is it's really an app that we're making available for anyone. It's on a freemium model. The app is free. And and the way we're thinking about it as well in terms of our business model is that we're looking to partner with financial institutions to distribute it even to larger masses and have it available to to their customers, you know.


Craig Asano: [00:40:33] I know that I went into an RBC branch this a physical brick and mortar, and this is when my kids were much younger and guy runs out and he's like, oh, great, you have kids, and he immediately handed over an RBC piggy bank with their brand and your app's basically, those banks want to connect and to early customers, they're teenagers or in our case, kids. And I mean, is this a whole growing sector, this centennial millennial? Is it I think some might call it teen banking sector.  Is it is it growing? Is there a name for it or is this mostly around family financial literacy or is it really the empowerment of teens to help them save and learn about their risk profile and understand how the trade-offs between that consumption and investing could work for for them today as well as by the time they retire?


Rim Charkani: [00:41:32] Yeah, it's actually you're right. It's actually I think it's it's a market that we can call some people, call it "Teen Banking". And it's it's really a growing market. It's a growing market. And you can look at it right now. Actually, the market, like the biggest player in this market, is in the US and has just raised around at $1.2 billion valuation. So there's clearly something going on there. It's actually a clear case study you could see in business school about market maturity life-cycle, where in the growing stage, you know, there's growing competition, increase number of years. Last time I checked, I think they're over approximately like forty startups, forty Fintechs around the world working on this, on this, on this problem. And some of them are in the scaling stage. There's no clear winners yet. No, we're not at the profitability stage yet. You can tell clearly that Europe, US are the leaders there, like I'd say, probably one third of the companies worldwide are in the US, another third are Europe and the rest a little bit all over the world, some in Asia Pacific, etc.. And however, in Canada, we're a little bit (behind) earlier, as usual, in terms of market maturity. So let's say there are a couple of players entering the market in Canada. And I think in Canada it's a win it all market. I think it's going to be one market leader. Hopefully it's going to be us just like, you know, the fact that Canada is quite a small market compared to the US or other areas in Europe where you could obviously actually players in Europe could distribute their product everywhere because of the regulation that allows them to do that. Although it's not it's not the case here. Obviously in Canada, I think in terms of the market, the way... The reason why it's growing market, it's just because there's a huge opportunity, you know. Twenty 25% of North America, if you look just here where we are in the world, are under twenty years old. And those people's needs are are unmet. Those are actually young people are you know, they are under-banked usually, you know, and in particular, when you look at Gen-Z, they are a very demanding generation. They have very high expectations. They're used to the the I want it now, the uberization they're used to they're born with with a smartphone in their hands. So they have a lot of traits and needs that simply are not currently met by incumbent financial institutions. That's why there's a place to take in the market. And you can see so many players popping up around the world. And it's it's actually a good thing because growing competition for us is a good sign, means there's a need.


Craig Asano: [00:45:08] Why aren't the banks in the office doing more for this very early stage incubating type customer? And is it the underbanked? Where are the underbanked gaps in Canada that you're you're talking about?


Rim Charkani: [00:45:24] So I think from what I've seen in Canada, there are there are two categories that that can be considered under-banked, at least from what I've seen. You know, there's the youth, the youth segment. And then there's also the the immigrant segment or the newcomers segment. And it happens that those two under-banked categories, as a matter of fact, are almost the only growing segments in personal banking for the next couple of years. And I think banks know that. I mean, they're not that they know that there are growth potentials, voting newcomers and a new segment. But I think having worked at a bank, I know how there are  lots of priorities to tackle at once. In fact, there are lots of table stakes that are still not there in banking. Some financial institutions are still, let's say, trying to catch up in terms of their customer experience. Just let's take the most basic example, opening a bank account online like a couple, like a year ago, it wasn't it probably wasn't possible in any bank like doing it from an online a year ago. It wasn't possible in any event. Right now, you can see that a couple of banks are allowing that, covid has certainly helped accelerate that. So I think banks have so many priorities to tackle. They have so many things on their plate that, for example, if we think specifically about the youth segment, yes, it's a priority, but we are not going to see your ROI on investing in the youth segment right away, because they're not the ones that that have let's say they're going to make you the most money. They're not the one buying houses and making a lot of investments. So it's a long term game. I think that's that's my view on why banks are not at, you know, very active or very well involved in in this in this area.


Craig Asano: [00:47:49] Well, it's going to be good for you. They're going to have to buy it off of you or partner with you for a bunch of money. So but we've heard that story time and time again, the incumbents, if they de-prioritize some areas and I can think in the small business innovation for capital markets side, on some of the other opportunities, we've always advocated that some of these new innovative funding models should be backed by government and incumbents and more support partnerships. And because that they're strengthening the feeder systems and plugging early stage gaps. And overall, it makes the economy from jobs to economic GDP better, stronger. And so I think what you're doing is filling in a need which is obvious, whether it's youth, immigrants or families that are a bit off the rails. And there's this partnership opportunity with government. And those banks should be the first one there. And I can think of a whole number of innovative credit unions that are popping up that would probably be open to talking about let's take an app like this and try it, and test it out, and let's see what the results are and create some measured indexes. And I'd be very happy to make those introductions. So what would what do you think is is next for WALO?  You're in the App Store. This is a growing area. You've got to you know, in the US, you've got a unicorn overnight in this enormous area. It's incredibly important during covid times. What are the biggest opportunities for WALO and how are you going after them?


Rim Charkani: [00:49:34] So the way we have thought of our go to market is really different from what we've seen our competitors do, trying really to grow B2C, truly B2C in Canada. It's quite hard. Cost of customer acquisition on the B2C side is quite high. You need a lot of funding to do so. Fintechs are early stage fintechs are easy to fund, sorry are hard to fund in Canada. So basically our go to market really focuses on piggybacking onto existing consumer bases, which are financial institutions. So really our next months for us are really focused on business development with those financial institutions and closing agreements and partnerships with them in order to distribute our solution. And I think in terms of opportunity, it's not only about the financial literacy, wow app really it's the whole adjacent product and adjacent value proposition that that can get added and can become complementary to what we put on the table. And I'm thinking about the whole financial wellness environment for families and getting into and getting this product WALO app product into a family is just the first step to kind of spark the money conversation and bring financial literacy to the family environments and empower families to take responsibility for their finances. So I think it's really around building that ecosystem of financial wellness for families. That's where for me the opportunity lies in the future.


Craig Asano: [00:51:43] That's great. I mean, who doesn't need a financial wellness AI assistant on there saying... Don't do it, save your money. This is how your life will be impacted by point seven if you do it. So, you know, you've got to get to talk to the Google assist teams or Alexa teams. It's a fascinating area. I'd love to continue to track it, but I just looked at the time, we have a it's it's basically we burned through our time here. So what I'm going to do to end this, we're going to jump right to the speed round of questions where I ask some short questions, and we're looking for quick witted responses. You can pass if you want.. want to end things on a on a fun, fun manner. So if you're up for that, are you are you ready to to get into speed round questions?


Rim Charkani: [00:52:39] Yes. Let's do it.


Craig Asano: [00:52:41] So OK, let's go. Tick tock. Tick tock. First one, are you more of a hunter or gatherer?


Rim Charkani: [00:52:50] Oh, I'm definitely a gatherer. I like to to to kind of analyze my environment and take take the low hanging fruit and eventually grow on that, and go on a step by step basis to build something, you know.


Craig Asano: [00:53:11] Ok, so next question. What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?


Rim Charkani: [00:53:19] Funniest thing. Oh, not very funny, but, yeah, I was I was supposed to move to Montreal like this month, but things are just cancelled because of the new restrictions. So I had to postpone that. Not very funny, but yeah.


Craig Asano: [00:53:38] That's funny in an awkward way. So next question. If you met a genie in a bottle, who's going to grant you, let's say, one, two, three wishes? What would or grant you one wish? What would that one wish be?


Rim Charkani: [00:53:57] It would be a really about empowering women back in my country. So you kind of take their life into control and get more education and, you know, get out of the male dominant society back in Morocco. So it's really empowering women in a place where in a place where they really do need it.


Craig Asano: [00:54:26] So you surely have changed a lot since you've taken the leap to entrepreneurship. Is there any advice that you'd give yourself, looking back, let's say, as far as when you were living back in Morocco or when you were a consultant at Desjardins?


Rim Charkani: [00:54:44] So I would really say, just don't wait. Just make the leap early, I'd say really I should have started earlier and failed faster and failed earlier so that, you know, I could have probably learned a lot and not have waited until now to kind of get started in this probably just, you know, make the leap without necessarily leaving your job or just take that extra time, extra free time and, you know.  Become an entrepreneur, a part time entrepreneur.


Craig Asano: [00:55:21] Part time entrepreneurship is like spinning wheels in some way. OK, speed round question. You have a 30 second pitch to a leading VC on why the opportunity is unique. What is it?


Rim Charkani: [00:55:37] I'll just change it, not to VC, but to a financial institution. I'd say it's really time to change family banking and bring real value to families beyond just the financial products you're offering them.  Bring them something they really care about. And what do you think parents care about? If not their kids, their kids future and their kids success. Give parents the power to help their kids become successful.


Craig Asano: [00:56:15] Absolutely. OK, well, there you have it. We're going to move to to wrap up the podcast here, but just want to give you an opportunity to see any last parting messages that you'd like to offer the Fintech Fridays listening audience.


Rim Charkani: [00:56:31] Well, I just wanted to to thank you for this, Craig, and I wish everyone has a great weekend and stay safe.


Craig Asano: [00:56:39] That's right. OK, everyone. Well, that's a wrap, folks, on behalf of the Fintech Friday's podcast. We'd like to thank Rim Charkani for joining us on the show. I had a great time. I learned a ton about this related model of a financial healthy future. And let's be honest, we all should have started earlier. So if we haven't started yet, our kids haven't started yet. Let's recommend them to download the app. And any feedback, any ideas, any partnerships, get them over to the Rim and let's develop and define and hope for a better future. So before you go, Rim, can you tell the audience how to get in touch with you? If they want to learn more or introduce you to a financial institution or simply connect with you and support you in your journey.


Rim Charkani: [00:57:33] Just to reach out to me on LinkedIn, it's the best way to get a hold of me.


Craig Asano: [00:57:39] Right?  Ok, well, we're going to have your LinkedIn link on the show notes. And if anyone has any questions about WALO, want to connect with Rim, check her LinkedIn profile and the information on the show notes. So thanks very much for joining us for EP42 with RIM CHARKANI, the CEO and co-founder of WALO. If you're new to FinTech Fridays, please check out some of the incredible past episodes on the site. You'll be surprised what you find. We look forward to seeing you next Friday for another episode of FinTech Fridays. Have a great weekend, everyone. Thank you.


Rim Charkani: [00:58:12] Thanks.


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