Olga Miler – Founder of SmartPurse

For this week’s edition of FinanciElle “Statements”, I had the opportunity to talk with Olga Miler, Founder of SmartPurse.

Prior to her latest entrepreneurial venture, Olga spent a decade working at UBS where she co-created a worldwide change program designed for women, to help them reach their financial goals.

“I want women to know where they stand financially, help them to have a sense of financial security. And I want to accelerate the closure of the stubborn economic gender gap” – Olga

Paolina: While you were at UBS you co-founded the UBS Wealth Management global change program (UBS Unique), designed specifically to educate and help women achieve their financial goals. Now, you are building a start-up focusing on financial education. Why do you think financial education is so important, especially for women?

Olga:

Being good with money provides freedom, safety, and new opportunities. Most importantly, money is a very powerful tool to influence what is happening in your life and in the world. To be financially confident you do not need to be a financial expert; but, I do think that it is vital that we all have the tools at hand to feel comfortable that we make the right financial choices.

Unfortunately, the financial services industry still has a long way to go to earn people’s trust and financial education is not something that we teach at schools or on a broader scale. Most people get passed on values about money from their parents and rely on insights from friends they trust. A lot of the great knowledge about money is hidden behind complex processes, acronyms and confusing language. So what we have set out to do with SmartPurse is to translate financial knowledge into an easy to understand, practical toolkit that allows you to make the most of your money in a time-saving way.

Women in particular traditionally have been involved in household budgeting and the daily money tasks; yet, far less so in long term financial planning. Given our dynamic life paths, persistent gender pay gaps, involvement in non-paid care or emotional labour, part time work, and the fact that we live longer puts us into a situation of financial disadvantage – research suggests that women in the UK could end up 5 times poorer than men at the age of retirement. So having a good understanding about financial planning for the long term is vital to avoid these risks.

Even more than improving one’s personal situation, women are catalysts of change – we teach our children, we want to make a difference – 8 out of 10 women do care about if their money is invested in a responsible and sustainable way – imagine the capital it would unlock if all of us would feel confident enough to actually do it. The global financial literacy survey suggests that most people can benefit from financial education – but it is us, the women, who can make a huge impact for generations if we feel confident enough to talk about and be good with money and invest it in ways that make a difference.

Paolina: On your entrepreneurial journey what has been your hardest financial lesson and what have you learned from it?

Olga:

My hardest financial lesson was with my second start-up: it was not a great success because I expanded it too quickly and underestimated the money it would take for marketing. Because I was so in love with the solution, I was blind-sided to the facts that the business plan really showed.

I learned from it a great deal about business planning but also that you do not need to be an expert in everything. It is ok to rely on advice from people who have specialist knowledge and you can trust. So for our new venture, SmartPurse, we have a great CFO. It’s Very interesting that once someone explains things around finance in an easy way and has patience to answer your questions – I discovered how interesting it can be to be good with figures; all of a sudden they have meaning and it is not just a blur of abbreviations and spreadsheets.

My recommendation to women who want to learn more about money is:  learn from practice – speak to start-up founders and what they learned, try to invest in a small venture yourself if you have the means. Apply what you know on smaller chunks of money and test things out. As with everything, there is no magic course that turns you into an expert; but, you also do no need to invest all you have at once. Learn, try and become better and better step by step.

Paolina: I love your TED talk “How Your Money Can Change the World While You Sleep”, for someone who wants to invest for social impact, what’s one tool you could recommend and one piece of advice you could provide?

Olga:

The most important thing is to ask the question: how is my money invested today? Is this in line with my values and in line with what I believe in? Ask your bank that question and then decide if you want to make some changes. Select a bank or provider that has signed the Principles for Responsible Investing (PRI). Have a closer look into how your pension money is invested and ask your bank if there are sustainable options available that would provide similar risk – return as you have already selected. Another way to get started is to select sustainable exchange trade funds (ETFs).

Paolina: What are your FinanciElle Faves right now?

For parents with children, love Go Henry , it teaches kids good money skills and provides them with a credit card.

  • Favourite piece of media – TED talk, podcast..?

My favorite TED talks is Lynne Twists “Freedom from the money culture” talk: A very inspiring 15 minutes that makes you see money differently.

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