Ask any parent about teaching their child financial literacy and it’s likely they’ll have an amusing tale or two about shopping trips involving tins or piggy banks brimming with cash and coins. Thankfully, it’s getting easier to educate youngsters about the value of money and how best to use it. That’s because innovators are using digital technology to empower children to earn and spend money under parental supervision.
One such innovator is Osper*, the ‘mobile app and prepaid debit card that turns pocket money into life lessons.’ But this exciting business is taking its managed money concept beyond youngsters to support use cases across different demographics. Marqeta caught up with Ester Piubeni, Osper’s* Head of Operations, to learn about the business’ journey so far and what the year ahead holds.**
Tell us a bit about how Osper came about and how it has developed?
Osper was founded in 2012 by a former teacher, Alick Varma, whose parents were accountants. With this background, managing money was second nature to him but he could see that the children in his class could benefit from support in learning about how to handle finances. And thus Osper was born. Over the years, the proposition has evolved greatly, particularly since 2019 when it came under new ownership, with new layers of functionality added.
Nowadays, there are many financial literacy propositions in the UK. Part of our response to this is to expand into overseas markets, offering our expertise to other innovators. Last year we launched our ‘Prosper’ product, which is essentially Osper in a box. It was built with the purpose of allowing any brand or financial institution to launch its own youth financial services product with a focus on a financial literacy product for young people. Taking a white-label approach, partners have access to a range of payments technology modules via our API platform, allowing them to pick and choose the components they need to build out a product in a single place. It’s a B2B service, and we call it a ‘youth bank in a box’. We only launched the product a few months back and it is already generating huge interest. Such products not only support financial literacy but also aid many governments in their national initiatives around financial inclusion and ensuring young people do not end up being excluded.
How has Osper influenced the behaviour of its target audience, children, to support financial literacy?
Parents who use Osper tell us it has changed the way children value money. We’ve learnt that youngsters, whose only experience of spending was via their mum’s or dad’s card, often risked racking up large bills. This is because they didn’t have any concept of how larger purchases could affect one’s overall finances. But as soon as the children were given their own card with their own money, they began to see the value and the impact of spending habits on their own financial health.
Osper’s functionality has also played a key part in the learning process. For instance, children are able to set up savings goals to put money aside for different spending objectives. The app is accessible to both children and parents, although parents have greater controls to ensure security and oversight. The aim of joint controls is to spark conversations among families about spending habits and promote financial wellbeing from an early age. We’ve also partnered with Nickelodeon so kids can have cards featuring their favourite TV characters, giving them the opportunity to personalise the experience in a way that’s relevant to their life.
We hear you’re also heading up operations at Cleva*, a new proposition from Osper. Can you tell us more about this, please?
Not long after we launched Osper, we were asked by customers if they could use the card for elderly relatives, because they needed support and help with finances too. There were also adults caring for those with learning disabilities who identified ways in which Osper could be helpful. To address this problem, we built and launched Cleva*. The first phase of Cleva is a B2B proposition built to solve the problem of managing payments on behalf of vulnerable service users within the care industry.
This is of particular interest in domiciliary care, where care agencies are deploying multiple carers who often need to spend on behalf of multiple service users. Cleva equips carers with a payment card. Each of the carer’s clients or service users is assigned a virtual wallet, which is linked to the carer’s card. When they go shopping on behalf of the client, the carer goes into the app and selects the relevant wallet in order to make the purchase. They can also switch to another client’s wallet in the same shop and make another purchase, doing all the groceries for multiple clients at once. This massively frees up time because it removes the need for carers to go to each client’s house and pick up money to go shopping on their behalf. It also simplifies reconciliation processes because the app and management portal provide all the purchase data for the client to view. Additionally by removing cash, you are mitigating against any allegations of misusing the clients money.
What was the development process for Cleva?
Osper has a sister company called Crunch Payments* and we’ve essentially used elements of Osper’s technology and Crunch’s*, which allowed us to start from a very strong position. The ability to build as quickly and seamlessly as possible is becoming ever more important. A few years ago, it was perhaps less of a consideration but as markets become more competitive and demanding, anything you can do to simplify the process is welcome.
What have been the key learnings from building all of these different propositions?
We’ve learnt a great deal along the journey and I’d split this into two areas. The first is people: if you have a close knit team of like-minded individuals and a good selection process, everything falls into place. It’s also important to work with people who are flexible and ready to change the way they do things if that’s what the business requires.
The second area of learning relates to the technology itself. Try to avoid falling into the trap of building the most complete product in the world. Instead, step back and ask what the majority of your customers are going to value and focus on that. It probably won’t benefit your business if you spend lots of time building a feature that only 10% of your customers are likely to use. And remember, end users often aren’t fintech aficionados so they won’t necessarily have the same enthusiastic view of technology that we do. From that perspective, a simple app often delivers a better user journey than a complicated one.
So, where next for Osper in 2022?
We’re really excited about the suite of products we now offer to B2C and B2B audiences. The focus now is on driving take-up of Cleva in the UK and Osper overseas. We are also working on a consumer version of Cleva for families to use with their beloved ones, their carers, babysitters or housekeepers. It’s a really exciting year ahead for our team, which has taken the expertise it’s gained in one market and translated it into meaningful products for a variety of use cases. It feels like a game-changing moment for the business.