Upon observing the use of paper as currency during the Yuan Dynasty, Marco Polo could not hide his surprise at what he clearly saw as an absurdity:
“… for wheresoever a person may go throughout the Great Kaan's dominions he shall find these pieces of paper current, and shall be able to transact all sales and purchases of goods by means of them just as well as if they were coins of pure gold. And all the while they are so light that ten bezants' worth does not weigh one golden bezant.”
And while the veracity of Polo’s writings is often questioned, his observation in this instance provides an interesting anecdote on our understanding of value. For Polo, the value of currency lay in the weight of the coins in his pocket and the concept of accepting mere paper was incomprehensible.
This is only one of the steps in the evolution of money. Throughout history, our concept of currency has evolved, becoming increasingly removed from the items that carry actual value to the extent that the abstraction of numbers on a screen today serve as indication of our financial wellbeing.
The intangible nature of money in the modern context has created a challenge for parents who aim to teach their children about value, money and savings. Whereas the weight of piggy banks previously told children that their savings were growing, this teaching is becoming more difficult to relay in a cashless society.
Since 1964, Kashin, the ASB moneybox, has been an inhabitant of countless Kiwi homes, serving as a tool used by parents to teach their kids about the value of money. However, at a time when coins have become something of a rarity, Kashin was becoming a largely unused anachronism—a white elephant, if you will.
So, in response, ASB and Saatchi & Saatchi have given Kashin a digital makeover and introduced a new moneybox called Clever Kash.
“[This is] an innovative solution to the challenges that children and their parents face when learning about the real value of money in our cashless society,” said ASB chief executive Barbara Chapman during a press event hosted at ASB’s Wynyard Quarter headquarters.
“It’s a new generation of moneybox for a new generation of kids … [Kashin] had a digital makeover, so there’s no real money in there. Instead, Clever Kash will interact with ASB’s banking app, and what’s in your [designated] banking app will display on the screen on his tummy.”
After Chapman spoke, James Bergin, the chief architect at the ASB innovation lab, took to the stage and provided a demonstration on how the Clever Kash works.
“Clever Kash connects with the ASB Mobile banking app via a secure and encrypted Bluetooth connection,” Bergin says. "Parents can be safe in the knowledge that Clever Kash displays the account balance only and kids have no transactional ability.”
Parents can help children set savings goals and a progress bar indicates how close they are to achieving these.
Bergin explains that the project is still in its prototype phase at this stage, and that the bank now aims to improve the product based on customer feedback (parents keen to be involved can register their interest through the ASB mobile app).
“This is a pre-release prototype, what we call a beta. It’s a highly functioning one, but it is a prototype none the less. And that’s partly because we’re so excited about this idea and what we think it can do in terms of teaching kids about money and saving, but it’s also because we want to enter this beta phase and get feedback from our kids and parents before we scale out.”
The response from kids has already played a major role in getting the product this far. During the early testing phase children were shown three different designs, and the product that ASB revealed was the prototype that the children responded to best.
“Instead of being a group of adults in a room trying to decide what’s adorable or cute, we asked kids,” says Saatchi & Saatchi chief executive Nicky Bell.
Bergin explains that this project is the latest example of ASB extending beyond the remit of banking into something that more closely resembles a tech startup.
“Here at ASB, we’re increasingly starting to think about ourselves as more than just a bank. We’re trying to think about being a tech company that’s licenced and trusted to provide financial services. And we’ve tried to approach this problem, and in fact this whole product launch, as an innovative product company would.”
Saatchi & Saatchi business director Teresa Davis mirrored these sentiments in describing the collaborative process that led to the creation of the new product.
“Sometimes the bank has protocols about how it approaches things. This time, [ASB general manager of marketing] Shane [Evans] and I worked together, and decided that we couldn’t follow those protocols,” Davis says.
“We had to act like a tech company to actually get this to market. And that involved bringing in a number of specialists and working with our trusted partners to bring this to life. The ASB lab team was involved, the Saatchi & Saatchi innovation team, Assembly, Kamahi Electronics and 4Design.”
These various partners have been tinkering away at the project for over 12 months, and Saatchi chief executive Nicky Bell says it has only got this far because of the trust ASB has in the agency.
“I think there’s a high level of trust between us and ASB,” she says. “Often these little ideas pop up, and they don’t get taken seriously because no one believes that we can do it. But these guys were open and their eyes lit up from the first moment we spoke about it.“
Evans says that the team at ASB was eager to bring the project to fruition because it added another layer to the financial literacy programmes, such as GetWise, that ASB has been running until now.
“Kiwi families are our core target audience, and for us, we’re looking for ways to make them more commercially successful,” Evans says.
“Parents want to educate their children on financial literacy. This is just a natural fit for us. It’s not something that we had to sell into the bank, because it’s just our natural homeland in a way … It’s really where we want to be. Our role in society is to help solve societal problems around money, and this is a step toward doing that.”
So, after working tirelessly for a year to bring this project to life, what does Evans aim to do next?
“Sleep,” he jokes.
Saatchi & Saatchi
Business Director: Teresa Davis
Senior Account Manager: Alexis Mousse
Account Executive: Vinay Naran
Executive Creative Director: Guy Roberts
Executive Creative Director: Corey Chalmers
Creative: Neill McAlpine
Creative: Nicole Sykes
Head of content: Producer: Jane Oak
Digital producer: Brendan Haddock
Editor: Tomas Cottle
Designer: Rob Flynn
Studio Manager: Tias Somers
Studio: Shane Kelly
Studio: Abigail Kerr
Planning Director: Murray Streets
Head of Innovation/Senior Strategist: Ian Hulme
Head of Communications: Isobel Kerr-Newell
Social creative: Jess Reihana
Technical Director: Matt Skinner
Developer: Dmitry Shumkov
Developer: Vincent Tellier
Developer: Steve Ashby
Industrial designers: 4Design - Will Grant
Electronics engineers: Kamahi
Edwin Neiman - Director
Max Farr – Electronics Engineer
Developer: Regen - Daniel Too
Damon Duncan - Director
Jonny Kofoed - Director
Matt von Trott - Director
Rhys Dippie – Technical Director
Amanda Chambers – Executive Producer
Helen Naulls – Producer
Joshua Fourt Wells – Character Design
Geoff Kirk Smith – 3D Artist
Craig Speakman – 3D Artist
Marketing & Communications
Roger Beaumont – EGM Marketing & Communications
Shane Evans - GM Marketing
Mark Graham – HO Community & Sponsorship
Emma Lynch – Brand Manager
Ali Duncan – Acting HO Digital Marketing
Emma-Rose Forrester – Assistant Brand Manager
Technology & Innovation
Russell Jones – EGM Technology & Innovation
James Bergin – Chief Architect
Fiona Colgan – GM Digital
Stephen Bennett – Innovation Lab
Cathy Scherp – Innovation Lab
Tim Huffam – Innovation Lab
Ray Chan – Innovation Lab
Phil Middlebrook – Innovation Lab
Shane Hughes – Innovation Lab
Laura Fear – ASB Mobile
Michael Gulavin – ASB Mobile
Rob Leese – Programme Director
Maxine Barber – Project Manager
Micheal Maclean – HO Digital Delivery
Balvant Magan – Security Consultant
Matt Casey – Software Consultant
Damien Leng – HO Customer Segments
Anita Parag – Segment Manager Starting Out Portfolio
Geraldine Hamilton – Legal Council
Lowry Gladwell – Legal Council