INTERVIEW: Holly Holland and Laura Pomfret, Financielle founders

Financelle

There’s a £1.65 trillion ’savings gap’ in the UK and men wind up with an average of £100,000 more in their pension fund than women. Why is this, and what are Holly Holland and Laura Pomfret, the founders of Financielle, doing about it? Here, we ask them…

An interview with Holly Holland and Laura Pomfret, the founders of Financielle – the first female-focussed finance app.

What was your relationship like with money, growing up?

You could say our relationship with money was typical of a middle class family growing up in North West England. Our parents very much came from a working class background and Laura and I were the first in the family to go to university.

Our parents worked their way up in their respective careers, we lived in a detached house in a family friendly cul-de-sac, we were taken on amazing holidays, had the best Christmases and never went without anything.

We had an extremely happy childhood but as every young millennial knows financial education and managing money is not taught in school and not generally around the family table so when you enter university and get given your student loan for the first time it’s like a right of passage to spend it on anything and everything.

Memorably Laura spent her first student loan on a ski trip to Italy and Holly, a designer handbag. When we were eligible for our first credit card sent through the post from Barclays Bank of course we gladly accepted the £500 limit and went to town spending it.

Arguably credit cards have been positioned to our generation as a way of building up our credit score so that we can come to own a home but we have seen the devastation and years of financial distress caused by debt. There needs to be more education around credit being offered to young people who aren’t financially literate.

What led you and Laura to think about launching a finance app for women?

As we moved into our mid twenties we entered the world of work and Laura’s favourite line is that she lived a Champagne lifestyle but with a Prosecco budget, she started her career as a lawyer and felt compelled to keep up with the affluent lifestyle of her peers but funded it through credit.

When she became pregnant with her daughter at 23 she recognised that she wouldn’t have the means to build strong financial foundations or provide for her daughter if she carried on in this way so embarked on a money journey, researching the many ways in which she could become financially well.

Throughout her journey she recognised the huge overwhelm when it came to money content, you were either interested in being uber frugal which isn’t sustainable or appealing for most people or content was focussed on get rich schemes or high brow investing initiatives.

The content didn’t speak to her personally and Laura felt compelled to get in on the action herself and launched the Financielle Instagram page back in 2018.

The organic community grew and saw Financielle talk about money directly. Laura decided to codify everything she had learnt over the last 10 years and created The Financielle Playbook; a step-by-step guide to getting your money shit together.

We often refer to ourselves as reluctant entrepreneurs in that we never set out to build an app and global tech company but we recognised a need that nobody was addressing and that was all the ways in which women were behind when it came to finance including pay, literacy and wealth. Budgeting apps and banks weren’t focussing on creating content or developing tools to help close the many financial gaps females face. Many talked about it but non offered solutions that would make a change.

Women control 85% of the world’s spending (not wealth) meaning everyday women face the majority of the household’s financial decisions no matter how big or small. A number of people commented that our product is niche but we like to point out that creating a product for 50% of the population is not a niche.

We launched our MVP (minimal viable product) during lockdown which was a PDF download of The Financielle Playbook and saw over 600 people purchase and put the plan into action. Many lives were changed and the feedback we received was phenomenal. We were always passionate about technology enabling our product to scale and grow thus helping more people become financially well.

We bootstrapped and built our app on the back of sales generated from selling our MVP and received sponsorship and marketing from some financial products that want to help women close the gap.

We launched the first female-focussed finance app back in October 2021 with no equity or investment.

What work were you each doing prior to launching the app?

Laura was an in-house lawyer for a global travel franchise and Holly worked within the global sponsorship team – both in the travel industry and at Manchester United.

You’ve said there’s a £1.65 trillion ’savings gap’ in the UK – why does this exist?

There are lots of contributing factors. From as young as eight, females aren’t given as much financial independence as their male counterparts, with girls receiving less pocket money.

As we move through life we start to experience other financial gaps such as the Gender Pay Gap, which currently stands at 15.4% in the UK.

Women who go on to have children don’t usually have the financial means to continue paying into their pension when receiving SMP (statutory maternity pay) and then due to the spiralling cost of childcare, feel pressured to reduce their working hours to care for children meaning there’s less going into their pension pot compared to their male counterpart.

It’s also more likely that women will retire early to care for elderly relatives. All these societal norms and pressures mean an average female will have £100k less in her retirement compared to her male counterpart.

It’s not one singular thing that leads to this almighty gap, it’s a chain of events that start in childhood.

How does Financielle help to reduce the savings gap, the gender pay gap and the so-called ‘motherhood penalty’?

Financielle creates blogs, articles and downloadables highlighting the gaps that women face and practical tips to help overcome them.

Our budgeting tools and net worth tracker also help users put the plan into action. We do things differently to our competitors in that we don’t report on what you spent your money on but we help you decide in advance how you’re going to make your money work for you.

We also have a community area for women to ask, share and explore money in a non-judgemental setting. We’ve found that we often become redundant here as the community take on an ambassador role and answer ahead of us as they become more confident throughout their money journey.

How is business going, so far?

We’re really enjoying building Financielle, what started out as a passion project has grown into a global community of nearly 50,00 people wanting to take back control of their money and live a financially well life.

We feel fortunate that we get to wake up everyday knowing we’re making a change to not only women’s lives but their partners, their children, their friends and – in turn – their communities.

We’ve won a number of impressive awards including The Women in Innovation Fund, Entrepreneurs of the year at The Inspiring Women Awards and Fintech of the year at the National Startup Awards so I’d say we’re doing ok, there’s always so much more we’d like to achieve and are constantly thinking bigger! We’re not great at recognising our achievements, we inevitably move onto the next challenge.

What challenges do you face, as two female founders?

I think people have a tendency to underestimate us until they meet us. We’re both competent and commercially astute business owners who have experience working in fast-paced, competitive and successful global businesses. We enjoy a challenge and if we don’t know something we’ll be sure to do our research and speak to people in-the-know. We’ve built an incredible circle of mentors, advisers and friends that are onboard with our mission.

Many women in our position struggle with raising equity with some abhorrent stats to showcase just how difficult it is in the current landscape. At the start of our journey we came across some advisors that just didn’t understand the need for a female-focussed app. They didn’t appreciate the barriers women come up against everyday to get ahead in life. We recognised early on the types of people we did and didn’t want to surround ourselves with which has served us well.

Have you secured investment?

We secured pre-seed funding and were oversubscribed, we brought onboard a range of inspiring, motivational and supportive investors to help take Financielle to the next level. They recognised the passion and drive in us to help as many women as possible.

What is the dream, for your business?

We are building the brand that females think of when they think of money.

We’re looking to create generational change meaning our method will be passed onto future generations.

The Financielle App is available to download on Apple and Android here
Follow us on Instagram:  @financielle

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Author: Contributing writer