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Women in Fintech: Kathleen Craig on the Importance of Financial Literacy

As we approach the end of the summer, we reignite our #WomeninFintech series. We recently spoke with Kathleen Craig, CEO, HTMA creators of Banker Jr. and Plinqit about what inspired her to launch fintech software for banks and credit unions to engage their next generation of customers and why she thinks the future of fintech has to become more relationship driven.

Finovate: How did you start your career?

Kathleen Craig: I have more than a decade of banking and customer service experience. Prior to launching HTMA, I served as Vice President of eServices at a Michigan-based community bank. I studied Business Administration at Eastern Michigan University.

Finovate: What sparked your interest in fintech?

Craig: During my time with eServices in 2010 through 2012, I could see the writing on the wall that our community bank was going to need to compete in the digital arena. At the time the large cores were making this really hard to do. I understood that open banking and open API’s were an inevitability and I wanted to be a part of driving our industry forward to a place where only the largest technology companies could use technology and consumer data to serve $1 billion bank customers better.

Finovate: What prompted you to launch HTMA/Banker Jr etc.?

Craig: My motivation to create HTMA came from my passion for technology, children, and financial literacy. Our first product, Banker Jr. for banks and Member Jr. for credit unions, launched in January 2013 to provide financial education to children while giving institutions the opportunity to tap into their up and coming customer base through a branded platform. The solution is now licensed by financial institutions in nineteen states.

Finovate: Why is it important to teach financial literacy to children?

Craig: Financial education is lacking, especially among the youngest generations, and we are seeing the effects in consumer financial behavior and saving habits. In fact, according to GOBankingRates, over half (58 percent) of American adults do not have $1,000 in their savings accounts to cover emergency expenses, and many are struggling to pay down debt. Forbes reported that 38 percent of United States households carry credit card debt. Just under half (43 percent) of individuals with student loans are not making payments. Additionally, one in three Americans have no money saved for retirement.

Meanwhile, only 16.4 percent of United States students are required to take a personal finance course to graduate high school, however, the group where the biggest lack of financial literacy can be seen is Millennials, with only 24 percent demonstrating basic financial knowledge. This is a serious problem.

Finovate: Why is it important for banks to embrace new tech?

Craig: One of the biggest differentiators for community financial institutions is their customer service and ability to help their community members. However, increasingly people are not walking in the doors, so technology is going to be the best way for them to translate that great customer service to a digital experience. To do this, we are going to have to push for it and be creative and innovative.  Digital lends itself to transactions versus relationships, but we believe it can do both.

Finovate: Where do you think the future of fintech is heading?

Craig: It has to be more relationship driven. While it is great that folks can check balances, deposit checks and transfer money, people really need guidance and help with their money. Right now education and guided experience is not happening yet in fintech. There is a lot of talk about AI, chatbots and data driven tech, but measured successful outcomes that demonstrate a customer is better off having used your platform is what fintechs need to be striving for. The future of fintechs needs to be made up of less buzzwords and more customer results.

Finovate: What piece of advice would you give women starting out their career in finance/ fintech?

Craig: First, you need to do what you are passionate about. Secondly, have great mentors and advocates. The wider and more diverse your circle is the more fun you will have and the more success you will be able to achieve by learning from those you surround yourself with.