Our clients are at the heart of the Blackbullion story. Once a year we get together to share ideas, analyse the previous year and map out the next one. This year, we met on Wednesday 12th July in Leeds and here are three things we learned:

Financial education is not a passing fad

Student debt and student loans have been in the press A LOT these last two weeks. It has become a political football more than anything else and it seems the different parties are trying to score points through cheap soundbites and 140-character Tweets about whether there should be fees or not.

The truth and reality is, as is so often the case, more complicated than a single Tweet can convey. But we are going to leave the political convo for other people, because we don’t believe that financial education is a student debt issue – being financially capable is a skill for life and the best time to start learning is yesterday.

As the financial world becomes more complicated, as the future of work becomes more uncertain and as the gig economy/dispersed workplaces become more common, our need to have a grip on our finances moves from optional to crucial.

Our student advisors, and many who are not yet in our community, believe that investing in students’ financial foundations benefits students today and tomorrow, and sets them up for a life of financial control. And we agree.

TAKEAWAY: Students should be exposed to financial education every time they interact with financial matters. Whether it be house-hunting (do they understand their rights and responsibilities and how to split bills fairly?) to careers advice (there are no hardship funds in the workplace so what do you do when it’s been a big-spend month?), there are “teachable moments” across the university ecosystem.


Communication is everything

As universities navigate changing national and political winds there is a growing call for greater collaboration across departments and between academia (as represented by lecturers and professors) and the professional staff in student services.

Collaboration really is key to ensuring students have a complete, well-rounded experience. Outstanding learning and excellent support are essential to making that learning happen.

It should go without saying that students who are financially fit are going to be better able to focus and engage, and so perform better. But there are still individuals (and institutions) who believe that operating in a vacuum is more effective.

We believe that smashing down walls and working together is better. Encouraging people to bring all their points of views, experiences, perspectives and intuitions together, adding a big dose of coffee, a sprinkling of chocolate and wacky-out-of-the-box-blue-sky-thinking will almost certainly create magic!

TAKEAWAY: We are greater than the sum of our parts and alchemy can only happen when different elements are combined. Getting everyone in a room might be hard but communication isn’t just about the tools and meetings, but about a state of mind. If you believe communication is a critical ingredient you will make it a priority.


There is no shortage of creativity

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention and that constraint breeds creativity. Both clichés are true. Despite a seemingly chronic shortage of financial resources, there are great ideas everywhere.

Passion and determination to have an impact are critical factors in creativity and our clients have both in spades. In a 45-minute session at our annual workshop we, collectively, came up with a year’s worth of campaign ideas and each delegate was able to walk away with the start of a strategic and tactical plan for its execution.

TAKEAWAY: Take some time out and set parameters within which to come up with ideas around a single challenge. Whether a campaign idea, new processing method or new forms, the tighter the parameters within which you work the greater the productivity and creativity. Counterintuitive, but true.

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