What Can a Finance Start-Up Teach Us About Learning?

“I like to break things.” That was one of the first things out of Joseph Holberg’s mouth when we sat down to chat at SXSWedu in Austin, Texas this week. It was surprising: I did not expect to hear such a ‘disruptive’ comment from a CEO in the finance industry.

But the SXSWedu conference is full of fresh thinking like this, out-of-the-box ideas, and learner-focused solutions. And Holberg Financial, a start-up business in the education and finance space is no different. Their mission is to reframe financial planning for millennials for a more relevant, practical and pleasurable experience.  

The innovation at the heart of this FinEdTech (financial education technology) company is even demonstrated in Joe’s business cards. The cards are collectables. There’s no contact information written on them. In order to reach Joe, you’re forced to do your own personal digging to locate his information. The cards force activity and interaction and they’re indicative of Joe’s views on financial literacy as a whole. “Financial literacy is one-dimensional,” he says. “We need to transcend the basics.”

It’s a refreshing sentiment and one very much aligned with what I believe about learning. We need to go beyond what is expected of our industry. We need to be fresh thinkers. We need to act on out-of-the-box ideas. We need to think about customization and relevance. The learning industry as a whole needs to consider creating custom-built solutions that take into account the needs of each individual learner whether the learners are a class of elementary school students or an office of mid-career professionals. Learning is ongoing and can occur as part of structured schooling, through personal and emotional development, or in professional training. That’s why one of the very first steps in learning design must be to work with clients to assess the needs of their audience.

There is no doubt education is part of the Holberg Financial mission. But, it’s also clear they have an awareness and understanding that there are other elements that play fundamental roles in achieving learning outcomes and behavioural changes. Joe told me that psychology, relationships, and ease-of-use are all part of the success formula for Holberg clients. I think this is true for all learning and it’s integral to what we do at Learnography. Your finances are not static—neither is your learning journey or career. And the key to success in both is having the right infrastructure in place.

Learning can be achieved through a variety of mediums and it’s necessary for sustaining professional growth. We need to implement dynamic solutions in the learning experiences we create or we risk the alternative—losing the commitment of our learners.  Learning is a fluid and complex entity. Educators and corporate trainers alike must always adapt their curriculum and tools to the ever changing needs of their audience and the varying challenges each individual learner faces.

So if you’re in charge of employee engagement, compensation or satisfaction, you may want to look into solutions customized for segments of your workforce, like Holberg does so effectively for millennials. If you’re in charge of talent and development, think about this approach. When your organization is looking to develop people, ask yourself, how can you customize the experience? How can you make the service more relevant? We make it our mission to help clients answer these questions with custom-built solutions that help meet the needs of a wide-range of learners that don’t fit the mold.

Be a fresh thinker. Do not be afraid of ‘disruptive,’ out-of-the-box ideas. When learning is customized and when learning is relevant, it can be powerful and lasting.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.

Author: Juliana Trichilo Cina

I’m an academic at heart with a love for the practical. My time at the University of Toronto and Queens University were some of the best years of my life. Today, I am deeply involved with my work, family, friends, and insatiable need to learn. While my love for tradition runs deep, as a first generation Canadian, I am eager to usher in new ways of thinking. I love communications, gardening, technology, and folk music—I was once called a bundle of contradictions and I couldn’t agree more. I’m a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, reader, animal lover, and wannabe comedian. I live in Toronto with my husband, son, and pet rabbit.

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