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My bank is not going to be my son’s bank

July 18, 2016

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In a recent blog post, Colin quoted a stat that caught my eye:

"Forty-six percent of adults say they either could not cover an emergency expense costing $400 or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money (emphasis added)".

More than 40 years ago, that was my parents. In truth, their limit was a quarter of that. I am from Kenya. My parents, an economist and a teacher, left their jobs and families to immigrate to the U.S. to provide a better life for me and my sisters. In their 40’s, my parents had to restart their professional lives and reconstruct a financial future starting with no more than $100, a consequence of the currency restrictions in place at the time.

Not surprisingly, as a result, my parents were very open about discussing finances and stressed the importance of managing money.  My sisters and I saw first-hand how important it was to save and have financial goals.  In fact, my parents helped me establish my own bank account at Citibank when I got my first job as a math tutor.

I am still banking with Citi today. I live in a small town in the Bay Area. The folks at my branch, Norma and Brian, have gotten to know my children since they were little.  Following in my parents’ footsteps, I opened accounts for my children at our branch.  Years later, when my son graduated from college, he applied for his first credit card solely in his name. Even though he had a job, a good job, he was turned down. Not enough credit history.

I took my son to our Citi branch. They opened up the accounts he needed. My son may not have had credit history, but Norma, Brian and I had personal history. Our connection was the currency that enabled my son to access the financial products and personalized service he needed, without having to pay a lot of money to do so. However, the experience made me think about the millions of other parents and their kids who may not have the benefit of a long-term relationship with their bank and how they start out.  Are they given the tools and guidance needed to set them on the path toward a healthy financial future?

It now seems fated, but about a month later I met Colin Walsh. I was impressed by his vision for banking and how to help those who have been let down by the current system “meet their financial goals.”  I could hear in Colin’s words the start of a solution to a very personal problem. I was thinking of my own son and his peers. My son is a consultant so he is often on the road and rarely in one place for long.  I noticed that he and his friends want to be able to access all of their information (financial included) at any time and from anywhere on their phones.  They also want information that is relevant to them immediately. They want to focus on what they consider valuable in the moment. However, they don’t want to be tied to Brian and Norma, or a branch, or even a computer.

Banks are changing with generations

Our kids are increasingly less rooted to a specific time, or place, or community. This is completely appropriate and expected and good. But this transient lifestyle makes it difficult to help with both the principles we hope they learn and the practical realities they will encounter. How do I help my son open a bank account if I can’t take him into my branch or if he does not want to go? Broadly, how do we help develop good financial behaviors and values for a generation of kids that are far removed from the sources of relationships and trusted advice that can help them. I think the answer is we can’t. What we can do is help them develop and sort out these financial issues for themselves. Above all, this is what I heard in Colin’s words. I heard a means for bringing financial literacy, competence, and independence to the next generation no matter where they are in the world or whose kids they are. So I joined up!

I am the General Counsel at Varo and I am thrilled to be part of a team that is changing the future of banking and helping the next generation meet their financial goals.

If you would like to learn more or sign up for early access, please visit us at

Image credit: Joshua Earle

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