Founder Tom Romanowski about financial platform Kandoor
As long as the government is still providing generous support to the millions of Dutch affected by the crisis, financial platform Kandoor has not seen a rise in work pressure yet. But it will not take long for that to change, is the opinion of founder Tom Romanowski.
The nails of the crisis are already scratching on your front door, you fear for your income, you could really use some help and you enter “Help with... In the top five of the lists of suggestions within your search engine, the keywords “low income”, “losing weight”, “debts”, “depression” and “divorce” are competing for the top position. Comforting to know you are not the only one with worries. But what to do now? The ads of financial consultancy offices are forcing their way in, while you are only looking for someone who thinks along selflessly about the loss of income, so you are able to continue.
Ability to continue
Ability to continue - Kan door! That is exactly what business expert Tom Romanowski (38) thought five years ago when pension provider APG asked him to think about a platform providing people with an answer to their financial questions. There already were plenty of questionable forums with desperate people and fortune hunters, and foreign companies were very eager to shake up the market completely. But APG was looking for something different. “Not a system with perverse incentives where others are making money out of your problem”, Romanowski says. “APG wants to contribute to a healthy financial system, a humane economy, based on helping each other. The so-called sharing economy, assisted by technology and the independent commitment of people who understand their business. It is all about trust. When you are indebted to the hilt, you do not talk about it until you really see no way out anymore and start looking for a smart uncle or friend. Someone who makes you feel safe, with whom you are able to discuss the issue after which you are able to continue.”
A lot of stress
When will I get my holiday allowance? How much money will I be paid exactly? Can I get an advance payment? Is my employer allowed to withhold that amount? “Many questions can be answered quite easily, but every question can be asked in twenty-five different ways or more”, says Romanowski. “There are users who ask a question in a few words, other users need half a page to explain their issue. That already shows how people sometimes struggle when it comes to financial matters. They also wait as long as possible, allowing the stress to rise abnormally high. The government also extends more and more responsibility to us. The communal facilities have been cut back in the past years, the labor market became more flexible and the retirement age moved up. People underestimate the financial consequences these measures have for them.”
Of the meanwhile fifty thousand questions Kandoor receives every month, 98 percent is handled automatically by a chatbot. Questions that are too complicated or more personal are transferred by the “Kanbot”, as they call the chatbot at Kandoor, to one of the hundreds of guides. “We call our volunteers guides. Guides are experts. They include the chairs of pension funds, financial advisors, mortgage advisors and account managers. There are also many APG professionals among them. And they answer the questions in their spare time because they want to help people and at the same time to stay informed about what's going on in their field.‘
A moderator monitors if an independent consultant is not trying to get some business from the platform but that has not happened yet, according to Romanowski. “Guides also check each other’s answers to prevent people from being assisted incorrectly. It is a way for them to keep up to date with everything that is going on in their profession. A user commented: Kandoor is an online neighbor in my pocket. I was really happy with that comment as that is exactly what I was aiming to make. Someone else said: But what is the catch? There is no catch but people find that hard to believe.”
Increase in concerns about income
The success of Kandoor illustrates the importance of independent information, especially during the crisis at hand. Romanowski notices this from the questions asked. While three-quarters of the questions previously related to pension and taxes, he now sees more questions from sole-practitioners and employees with expiring contracts. But there is no big rush yet. “A lot of the questions are currently related to the entitlement to holiday allowance. I have witnessed an increase in concerns about income, but I do not see the sentiments on our platform like the ones on a forum such as Radar. Possibly because we do not feel the full pain yet because of the support provided by the government. But that pain will surely come.”
Kandoor is confronted with some harrowing cases though, but that has always been the case. “People who slip through the safety net, are not entitled to any form of support and who have reached rock-bottom. They are sent back and forth and eventually end up with us, feeling devastated. Despite the fact that we are not always able to help them practically, they appreciate being able to tell their story. We have experimented with a hotline to the Social Insurance Bank, but things have been made so complicated in the Netherlands that there is no person ultimately responsible for every problem.”
The engagement must be increased
Finances: it is not something we are enthused about. But Romanowski refuses to give up the fight. He aims to do more than just offering ad hoc first line support, he wants to be ahead of distress and help people structurally to get their financial planning in order. Even more so: he wants to make finances more fun.
“Or maybe not fun but engaging. The engagement must be increased. The health care industry has already succeeded pretty well with apps and suchlike. Checking out the pedometer every day, we are already more proactive than we used to be. Having people monitor their financial health will be a lot more difficult, but wouldn’t it be great if everybody starts monitoring his/her financial life-planning as of the age of eighteen? Of course, you have a lot less influence on your income, pension and investments than on daily exercise and the composition of your meal, but if we make it extremely accessible and reduce the process to small steps, maybe, just maybe you will enjoy it someday. This crisis could potentially be the time to add some discipline to your financial life.”
Great deal of knowledge
The guides of Kandoor are meanwhile doing what they do best: helping people move forward. They may be facing some busy times, especially if they are well versed in dismissal law and debt rescheduling. “They have not joined us to handle monotonous questions. They have a great deal of knowledge and experience and want to use this to help the people who need it the most. Well, this will be their time to shine.”
Any questions about financial matters? Pay a visit to www.kandoor.nl