Gamifying financial education or training can make it more engaging and motivational for the participants. Michelle Katics is the Co-Founder and CEO of PortfolioQuest – a start-up that provides financial training simulation platform for financial institutions. She is excited to share on her entrepreneurship journey on how gamification improves learning and the lessons she learns along the way.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m a former banker who became an entrepreneur to solve her own problem. As a risk executive, I stumbled upon numerical simulation as a powerful gamification tool for teaching complex portfolio management topics. I saw the appeal and the impact and later founded BankersLab, our first company.
What is your business venture about?
Our first company, BankersLab, uses a SaaS simulation platform to teach bankers in a gamified classroom setting. Our second company was a natural spin-off, the fully digital version (PortfolioQuest) which can be accessed anytime, anywhere.
What is your mission at the outset?
Our mission is to move the needle on conduct and competence in the financial sector. At the outset, this was delivered through “gamified training” which drove high engagement levels. I suppose this was the “carrot”. Later we realized that you also need a “stick” to ensure scalable and sustainable change. We now leverage the simulation outcome data for individual skill accountability. The solution is evolving from gamified training to a compliance solution for conduct and competence risk.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
I was conducting simulation-based training a Standard Chartered Bank across the region, using a macro-driven spreadsheet which was both simple and effective. I contacted the designer, Dr. Neil Seitz, then the Dean of the Business School at St. Louis University. I asked him if we could build out the simulation in a scalable and configurable way and he agreed!
What is unique about your business?
If we think about the financial industry as the combination of Products, Process and People, each new FinTech and RegTech tackles a part of this. We don’t find many others working to transform the ‘people’ piece. If we don’t tackle it now, who is going to program and monitor those bots in the future?
Who do you sell to and how do you get customers?
Our customers are multinational and local banks around the world, FinTech lenders, and non-bank retail and consumer lenders. We are a standard B2B operation, always building those relationships.
Why will customers stay or do repeat business with you?
There is a famous quote, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel” which is often attributed to Maya Angelou. In our simulation workshops, people work in teams and get very competitive. Years later, they will recall the experience and the success and failures of their team, which is what we think brings them back and causes them to recommend our courses. In PortfolioQuest, the fully digital version we continue to add gamification elements to the user interface to deliver a gamified experience.
What have been the biggest obstacles?
Ironically, training budgets are the first to get cut when times are tough, although people are the key resource to turn things around. We focus on delivering business, rather than training outcomes for our clients which mitigates the challenge.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Every time you get knocked down, just come back up swinging!
Do you have any final thoughts?
Harness the power of the ecosystem. Now matter how hot is your start-up, or how big and powerful is your bank, you cannot innovate alone. Collaborate and help others.
Who is your biggest inspiration or drive to do what you are doing?
You cannot underestimate the human suffering which results from mis-steps in the financial sector. People lose jobs and homes, and the social fabric is torn up. I believe we can do better.
What’s next for you and for PortfolioQuest?
PortfolioQuest went live in October 2016 and has gone live in 7 countries so far. We hope to be in 20 countries very soon.
Hock Lai has 18 years of experience in the financial industry, having performed roles in both business and technology. He graduated from the National University of Singapore (Real Estate), Nanyang Technological University (Infocomm Technology) and Nanyang Polytechnic (Fund Management & Administration).
He is also a Fellow of the Singapore University of Social Science, advisor to FinTech Startups and mentor to student FinTech projects.
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