We know everyone keeps saying it, but 2020 really has been a year quite unlike any other we have lived through.
The word “unprecedented” got bandied around an awful lot. Yet in many ways it hasn’t just been an unprecedented year, but also a year where time has been simultaneously accelerated and absent (who among us hasn’t lost track of what day it is at some point?!)
Now as we reflect on 2020 and look hopefully towards 2021, here’s what this year has meant for us at Blackbullion and for our unwavering mission to make the world money smarter, one student at a time.
All eyes turned to financial education
Financial education is (finally) coming out of the shadows to centre stage. This is partly a result of the covid health crisis, partly the coming economic crisis, and partly the growing understanding that wealth inequality and financial wellbeing are intimately connected.
On an institutional level, there is an ever increasing commitment to improving disadvantaged students’ outcomes and broadening the range of “life skills” students gain while on campus to prepare them for the future of work.
As the economic climate worsens, improving money management skills is crucial for all and we are proud of the impact we are having, while recognising there is much still to be done.
Students engaged with their financial wellbeing
Earning the attention, curiosity, interest and passion of students towards their personal financial wellbeing drives much of what we do and this year tens of thousands of students have engaged with the Blackbullion platform.
On average, 3 lessons have been completed every minute in our platform since January.
During our November UniBattle fortnight alone:
- 27,000 financial education lessons were completed by students
- 31,000+ questions were answered correctly
We’ve been delighted to see students actively engaging with foundational learning around budgeting and debt, as well as more aspirational subjects like investing and pensions.
Our global community grew
We are delighted to now be partnered with 40+ clients across the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Our community is more than 30% bigger than it was this time last year!
While some of our partners are in their fifth year of working with us and some have just joined our community, together we are all building a bigger, better and more vocal community. A community that is championing and working hard to improve the financial wellbeing of students.
In other exciting news, our global reach is also expanding, which has huge benefits for both our staff and student communities.
Increasing the global exposure of Blackbullion enables us to expand our expertise, further demystify finance and support the financial wellbeing of even more students.
Additionally, having a broader geographic reach means we can share lessons, benchmarks and practices from different countries with student support staff.
Our Funding Tool eased pressure on support funds
“When the pandemic happened, we had to transition to that remote, work from home environment pretty quickly. The next day I was doing student assessments from my mum’s kitchen table, like I was still in the office. The transition was seamless and there’s been no disruption to the student experience.”
Remote support has never been more important and it was serendipitous timing that we released our Funding Tool in time for the most complex enrollment period in recent memory.
The Funding Tool is an online funds management system that enables universities to digitise their process and improve access to funding for all students. In the coming months, we will continue to roll out new features to make the tool the most impactful, intuitive and accessible solution for the sector.
Blackbullion partners are already using the Funding Tool
pieces of evidence processed every two weeks
average application processing time, reduced from 2-4 weeks
“A lot of the time when I fill out a form, I find it really difficult, especially being dyslexic. But the Blackbullion application form is easy to read and really straightforward. I prefer it to my university’s previous process.”
We held online financial wellbeing events for staff and students
Covid forced us to be more creative in the ways we support both our student and staff communities.
We experimented with live financial education to complement the asynchronous learning within the Blackbullion platform and welcomed 1,500 students to a range of live webinars.
Thematically, we explored how students might prepare for recession, how to conduct a financial MOT and the final session of the year was a joint event with the Bank of England, with whom we look forward to holding quarterly online student briefings.
We wanted to provide an opportunity for our staff community to continue learning and networking, so we ran fortnightly online events with a range of guest speakers. See a summary of what we’ve learned from this term’s speakers.
- Susan Mueller from Stand Alone, who spoke passionately of the need to support estranged students.
- Jim Dickinson, Associate Editor at Wonkhe and Former Director at the National Union of Students, who gave a wide range synopsis of the state of higher education.
- Pete Quinn, who highlighted the latest research regarding the impact of financial concerns on both student and staff wellbeing.
Staff across the sector (not just Blackbullion partners) with an interest in student support and outcomes are invited to attend these events. Sign up to our staff newsletter to be the first to hear about the sessions we have planned for 2021.
We delivered another successful National Student Money Week with NASMA
National Student Money Week (NSMW) is the UK’s largest financial awareness initiative for students, run annually by NASMA.
This year, we were NASMA’s campaign delivery partners for a third time, with the theme “spend healthy, live healthy”. In total:
- 90 universities rose to the challenge
- 70,000 students got involved throughout the week
- 15,000 times our “Sustainable Money Guide” was downloaded
We’re thrilled to be supporting NSMW again in February 2021, for the 10th anniversary of the campaign. The theme is ‘Expect the unexpected: Financial planning for a rainy day’. Find out more about the campaign.
We were selected for the JISC step up programme
The JISC step up programme is building a community of innovators supporting long-term change in UK education. We’ve been selected as part of cohort one – a small handful of edtech innovators.
This means we have been assessed by Jisc and have met the criteria to be deemed ready for procurement and implementation within universities and colleges.
It has been exciting to see the initiative gain momentum this year at several events with organisations including Universities UK. We hope the programme gives more universities the confidence and comfort to work with startups like us and are proud to, once again, be at the forefront of bringing technology innovation to the sector.
We got a fresh new look
We got a gorgeous makeover this year to make all of our values, ambitions and goals a part of our visual identity.
From the beginning, our brand was unique. Now, our new logo and visuals represent the new stage we’re entering and better reflect who we are as a company, our global presence, our commitment to innovation and impact, and the journey we are on to improve financial education and wellbeing with financial technology.
We held “learning weeks” for the Blackbullion team
In line with our “growth mindset” values and belief that knowledge is power, we held a learning week every quarter where the Blackbullion team were encouraged to request books, enrol on courses, or undertake any other learning about a subject or theme of their choice.
Topics have ranged from accessibility, instructional design, morals of politics, and of course, fintech and financial wellbeing. It’s always an important week in our diaries and as we expand, we will keep learning.
We won awards!
We don’t spend a lot of time on the vanity stuff – we prefer to focus on building the best solution, supporting our community and ensuring the greatest impact for our partners and students.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy a pat on the back every once in a while and its been a good year for pats!
So that was 2020 (well some of our highlights anyway!) and as we say goodbye to the strangest year, we do so in anticipation of an awesome 2021. From my team to yours, a very Merry Christmas / happy holiday period. We can’t wait to see you next year.
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