Back in 2018, while at a Sunday night family dinner, I found myself seated next to my 16-year-old nephew, who I respect dearly. We got to talking about the usual; EDM, the latest sneakers and his dream of someday buying a Tesla. I encouraged him to save up for the car, that it would someday be an attainable goal if he worked hard and focused. But there was a problem. He felt helpless when it came to money and his future. He explained the struggles, complexities, and confusion of the financial world from his point of view. College loans, obtaining a credit card, setting up a savings account, building a credit score; these were all concepts that he was aware of but never taught in school. He felt overwhelmed. Following our discussion, I began to reflect on my own experience at that age. I didn’t know how my credit score was calculated. Annual and variable interest rates were foreign concepts. Loans, equity, debt to income ratio, taxes, these were all topics that I had minimal knowledge of growing up.
I was curious. What options for learning did my nephew have? How were schools, banks, even families preparing future generations to become financially successful? I did what I always do when trying to solve a problem. I called my co-founder Stefan Berglund, who had been thinking about this problem for a while. Stefan and I have been business partners in the EdTech space for the past 13 years. We spoke with my father, an educator, and mentor that dedicated 20 years of his life to teaching, shaping and molding young minds. We looked into the resources and opportunities available for teens to engage, learn and develop a strong financial framework. There wasn’t much at all. And what did exist wasn’t capturing the speed that this generation moves. None of these educational offerings had a strong grasp of the core needs that teens have in accessing the digital economy. There was also a massive messaging gap from traditional financial institutions to the younger generations.
Teens are vastly underserved educationally but, equally as alarming, underserved by traditional banking and financial establishments. These financial powerhouses primarily market to individuals eighteen and older in accordance with banking policies and look at teen’s current potential spending power and lack of credit history as a deterrent. How did we, as a society, overlook preparing future generations for financial success in an environment fueled by information and access? We knew there had to be a way to promote financial literacy while simultaneously providing a fun, practical, engaging experience. This led us to create Copper.
Copper is an all-digital bank, built specifically for teenagers, that aims to teach financial topics in an easy and engaging way. Having previously been the co-founder and CPO of Snap! Raise, we built our digital fundraising platform with the guiding mantra of “empowering the leaders of tomorrow”. This same mantra is the core of Copper. We give teens the resources, platform, and education to learn to “do money right” in a banking environment that was designed for them and WITH them. With ongoing quantitative and qualitative research we have built a brand that breaks down complex financial topics into bite-size pieces. And rewards teens for making smart financial decisions.
Generation Z is powerful
This generation is large and powerful. There are roughly 30M teens in the US boasting an overall spending power of almost $143 B. This number doesn’t reflect the indirect influence they have on family spending and household purchases. Nearly 52% of today’s parents say their child influences the products they buy. In 2019, Gen Z surpassed millennials in population, now making up 33% of the world’s population. This generation is gearing up to be the largest driver of financial spending power that the world has ever seen.
But here’s the best part.
This generation wants to be educated and they want the corporate environment to give them the access and resources to do so. Over 70% of this generation believes that brands and corporations should help them achieve their personal aspirations and goals. Growing up with services like Uber and Spotify, they place a higher value on access over ownership. Rather than having the burden of purchasing a song or a car, this generation values the flexibility these services provide.
Since we started this incredible journey we have connected with thousands of teens to gain their thoughts, habits, fears, and aspirations. We’ve spent countless hours with focus groups collecting feedback and data. This is the single most important part of what we do and you will see it in the simplicity of the solution we provide.
Here is what we learned that drives everything we do at Copper:
Teens simply get it: They are incredibly hyper-aware of the missteps taken by their generational predecessors financially and want to learn, grow and implement concepts to avoid these. Student loan debt, the housing crisis, credit card horror stories; they are conscious of the financial pasts of their parents, friends, and society overall. And they are looking for ways to make their future better and brighter.
Teens are optimistic and entrepreneurial: They have an optimism toward their future that is almost poetic. They look to the success of startups, the success of Zuckerberg, Cuban, Dorsey and envision those paths as not only achievable but within reach if they work hard and focus.
Teens value authenticity: Teens know when they are being talked down to. They know when something is forced. And they know when brands actually understand them. They know all of this and they vote with their dollar (and to a certain degree, with their parent’s dollar.) We value this which is why we go directly to the teen. This is not to say that the relationship of the parents, educators, and mentors is not important but creating an approachable direct relationship is the key to our success.
Why are these insights important? Because we want to give them the resources to achieve their dreams. To become a BO$$.
Our strategy is simple. Instead of talking to teens through boring online learning modules, let’s integrate moments of education directly into the product experience. Let’s make it contextual. Let’s speak their language. Let’s work with educators and money experts to develop financial literacy tracks to help drive real results. Let’s give teens the tools, resources, and incentives that empower them to learn by doing and not just having. Let’s embrace the digital worlds that they are accustomed to by implementing gamification, socialization, and localization. And let’s drive our core mission of financial literacy and empowerment further all while creating an app that teens want to use, want to share, and want to embrace as their own.
So, why the name Copper?
Because financial literacy begins with the smallest unit of financial measurement which, in USD, equates to a single penny. For us, having a lot of money is great but learning and being smart with your money is even better. We reward on the basis of individual user advancement which we believe will generate loyalty as we grow with our teens through the series of financial firsts.
Our waitlist continues to grow and we plan to roll out beta user groups in the very near future. If you haven’t already, “Join the waitlist” and learn more about the exciting features that we plan to roll out.
Stefan and I have assembled a team of industry leaders that are all intimately connected to our mission and are ready to take this opportunity on at scale.
Our success rides on the success of a generation. We look forward to going on this journey with them. Welcome to the New Hustle.
Growing up in a financially struggling home, for instance, a teen or young adult might develop behaviors related to overworking out of the fear of going broke. Money disorders may also come in the form of anxiety or extreme concern about the financial impact of recent events, which many of America’s teens are going through today. If you suspect that your teen has a money disorder, the first step to helping them is recognizing the signs.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words: 5 Money Mistakes You Should Stop Doing
When it comes to teaching kids positive financial habits, actions speak far louder than words. It's important to not only talk to your kids about financial topics but to see these topics enacted in your everyday life. Practice what you preach and don't let your kids catch you making these money mistakes.