Everything about how, when and where we work is currently undergoing a seismic shift.  

Disruptive technologies, automation, off shoring and the death of the lock step corporate career are having a ripple effect across the lives of Canadians.  

We can now expect to work longer hours, retire later, function without benefits or the certainty of a clear career path and the traditional perks that came with an “office” job.  

Over the next few months, I’ll regularly be interviewing people around the framing question of: ”œWhat ideas, changes, programs or suggestions do they have for helping the greatest number of Canadians to positively navigate these uncertain times.” 

This week, I’m talking to Andrew Graham, the Co-founder & CEO of Borrowell – a recently launched Canadian ”œmarketplace lender.” This means they bring people looking to borrow some money together with institutions looking to lend it and by doing it all online, make both cheaper and easier.

R: ”œI was keen to talk with you about Borrowell because to me a company looking to disrupt how Canadians both borrow and lend is very much part of the conversation we need to be having on the new world of work –tell me a bit more about what you do?”

A: ”œBorrowell is bringing the sharing economy to finance by connecting borrowers and lenders using technology – which means its also a faster and more seamless experience.  So we bring institutional lenders looking for returns together with consumer borrowers  – and along the way provide both groups with better rates.”

 

R: ”œThe tagline for Borrowell is ”œBetter borrowing for responsible Canadians” – this had me wondering, but aren’t these people that already have all the financial choices?”

A: ”œThere are many people who are very responsible with their finances" in that they pay their bills on time but nonetheless still have stubborn debt that’s often carried on their credit card.

The reality is that many, many of us in Canada spend what we earn and struggle to save, so when a big expense comes around, like an urgent home repair or a wedding, there just isn’t much of a buffer. This can lead to expensive debt – and that’s what we are trying to change.”

R: ”œI know you are involved in the Banff Forum and are a policy guy – so tell me, what’s your take on what we can do to help Canadians navigate a landscape where work becomes more uncertain and debt levels just keep getting higher?”

A: ”œ Yes! I’m proud to be involved with the Banff Forum. It’s a great organization.

Well, given how the world of work is changing, we should all be taking on less debt, not more, so that we can respond to the unexpected.

That said, life is expensive and debt is cheap right now. Home prices in many parts of Canada are at record highs and interest rates are at record lows. So it’s no surprise that Canadians are increasingly indebted.

The policy discourse has become stridently anti-debt. This makes sense on the one hand, but on the other, it isn’t actually very helpful to people who are already carrying it. What we are doing with Borrowell is giving people who are carrying high-cost debt better options.”

R: ”œI’ll be honest, I’m being a bit side tracked by your office space – I love this place! It just exudes an incredible vibe of the best of the new world of work: all start-up possibility and energy! Where are we and how long have you been here?”

A: ”œWe’re in OneEleven, a co-working space sponsored by OMERS Ventures, (one of Canada’s leading venture capital firms). There are about a dozen companies here, each at a similar stage: with some investment raised and some customer traction, it’s about proving the business can scale.

It’s exhilarating and helpful to be around other businesses like ours. We have many of the same challenges and can often help one another. Just the other day, the head of marketing of one of the other companies here referred a potential hire to us.”

R: ”œI feel weirdly guilty saying this but the Canadian conversation on how to create more innovation and entrepreneurs often feels tired to me – like we’ve been hearing it for so long. As someone actually living it, what would you say would help encourage more of a start up culture here? And who are the actors that should lead this?”

A: ”œFrom what I see"and I believe the data bears this out"there’s actually no shortage of entrepreneurship in Canada. We have more than our share of smart people with good ideas. Where we’re challenged is in scaling up fledgling businesses.

Growth capital can be hard to find, and the lure of either moving a fast-growing business south or else selling at the first opportunity are both powerful.

The entrepreneurial ecosystem in Toronto is strong and growing stronger every day, so I think it’s just a matter of time before we have more companies that win big.”

R: Last question, as a Dad what’s the number one piece of financial advice you are going to give your daughter as preparation for the career and economic landscape ahead?

A: ”œThat the data shows that, once basic needs are met, income doesn’t correlate very well with happiness. This is counter-intuitive for many of us. I’ve often felt, for example, that if I just earned a bit more or had a nicer car, I’d be happier. But then I get the raise or get the car and it really doesn’t make much difference.

So now I try to remember that other things are much more important. Like great relationships with my family and building a business that I’m proud of.

So the advice for my daughter is: don’t think that earning more or spending more will make you happier. If you internalize that, then living within your means becomes much easier.”

R: That’s so zen, I completely agree. 

In case you missed it, here’s my last interview with Rana Sarkar.

Have a suggestion for someone I should talk to?  Contact me on Twitter: @RevaSeth