Meet the Fintech Entrepreneur Who Wants to Prevent a Student Loan Crisis

Kelly Peeler of NextGenVest believes that young people need to get better educated about money, fast. Her company aims to be Generation Z's advisor on student loans.

By Christina Kelly

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Kelly I believe that the next financial crisis is rooted in the student loan market. A lot of families right now don't really do the calculation of, “Does this make actual economic sense as a consumer, to spend $200,000 on a four-year college education, without the guarantee of a job?”

TEXT Kelly Peeler – Founder + CEO – NextGenVest – New York, N.Y.

Kelly NexGenVest is the money mentor for every student, the personal financial assistant for Gen Z. A student can text in to our service anytime, and get connected to what we call a money mentor, which is a
trained college student who can help them with any kind of financial questions.

TEXT Kelly studied history and economics at Harvard.

Kelly I was in college during the last financial crisis in 2008. I studied financial institutions and how they've been built, why they didn't work throughout history, how they led to different crises. I really honed in on John Pierpont Morgan and the creation of J.P. Morgan.

TEXT After graduating in 2010, Kelly went to work for the bank she had studied.

Kelly I wanted to actually go live and work within a financial institution. I worked within the investment bank, also switched over into asset management. That’s really where I got to see both this, how the nuts and bolts of financial institutions, banks, broker dealers, actually worked.

TEXT Kelly left J.P. Morgan in 2013.

TEXT She wanted to figure out how financial service companies could work with young people coming of age -- Gen Z.

Kelly I’m a Millennial. What I find really interesting and really exciting about Gen Z is that they're easily the most fickle consumer ever. They have zero brand loyalty. They have a totally different debt profile than even Millennials, they have a totally different attention span, they've grown up on Snapchat and messenger-based platforms, so that the way that they communicate is also totally different.

TEXT Gen Z is carrying huge amounts of college debt.

Kelly I think a lot of people misunderstand how completely unprepared the next generation is to actually deal with their student loans. 30% of students who take out loans end up dropping out of college, which is just easily one of the worst dents to your financial identity across your whole life. So it’s a really tough situation to get yourself out of as a, you know, 19- or 20-year-old.

TEXT In 2014 Kelly teamed up with Will Falcon, a computational scientist.

TEXT Together they launched NextGenVest to teach students financial literacy.

Kelly We initially started by selling online financial literacy curricula into high schools, and then started to see that one particular type of user, a low- to middle-income student, would ask for personalized and customized advice. And so, we decided to go all-in on that user, students who otherwise would not be able to afford help.

TEXT Falcon designed software that students and mentors use to communicate via text.

SOT Have you been getting any student loan questions, like specifically in the past hour? Yeah, that looks like one. So you helped this student get financial aid?
-That’s great.

Kelly Students leave $2.7 billion of free federal aid unclaimed every year because they do not fill out the right forms. So we help students fill out those right forms. And that can help them reduce their overall student loan amount because that’s money they wouldn’t have to pay back.

TEXT NextGenVest has raised seed funding from a small pool of investors.

TEXT The company has six employees and more than 200 student mentors.

TEXT They have helped tens of thousands of students.

Kelly Helping Gen Z optimize their student loan portfolio will determine every future financial decision there afterwards. It will affect where they live, how many kids they have, if they own a house, if they own a car, how they think about the careers that they choose.

Kelly We're really thinking about, what does it look like to build the next 100-year-old brand for the next financial institution. And we really want to be the trusted adviser to be able to help Gen Z navigate any future financial decisions.


Posted: January 15, 2018

Christina KellyMeet the Fintech Entrepreneur Who Wants to Prevent a Student Loan Crisis