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Photo: Lawrence Teo

Daniel Liang is incredibly humble about the impact and importance of his work as the founder of Get. “I’ve seen the business leaders you’ve featured in past issues,” he shares before this interview, “and I’m not sure if I’ve reached that level of success yet.”

Perhaps I could have explained myself better when I proposed to feature Liang this month. Unlike the previous leaders I’ve featured, Liang was chosen not solely for what he has done but for his product’s impactful and meaningful possibilities. While on the surface, we can all agree that Get is a fintech product, at its core, it transcends financial or technological — it’s about empowerment.

“Imagine a 14-year-old having an amazing mobile banking experience today to gain that experience in the real world, in a safe environment,” Liang shares in explaining what Get is about. How it works is that the teenager will be issued a prepaid VISA card alongside an app that they can use to track their spending in real-time, organise their savings, and set up ‘jars’ with different financial goals.

Parents can then use the app to deposit pocket money up to $1,000, block unsafe transactions, and monitor their children’s spending behaviours.

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A screengrab from the Get app. (Photo: Get)

“Get is offering these young individuals a platform that helps them be better with money at an early age. By the time this generation is ready to manage their finances independently, they’ll be doing it with a more confident, solid foundation of habits, hopefully, thanks to the real-world lessons and adjustments they’ve experienced through Get.”

A generation excluded

The idea of Get is straightforward and familiar (for adults, that is). Still, its strength lies in its granularity and the ability to have flexible controls for each parent-child relationship. “It’s something traditional banks are less focused on as a market or by technical capacity within the short-term,” says Liang. “A significant segment of the youth was virtually excluded from the financial system since banking services were originally built for adults.”

It’s a market ripe for the taking as the use of mobile phones amongst this group becomes more widespread. A survey conducted by Today between March and April 2021 found that out of the 5,732 secondary school students aged 13 to 17 from six schools polled, 95.2 per cent owned their smartphones. 

Our goal is to help them build a healthy sense of self that transcends monetary values.

Liang understands intrinsically how such online familiarity can be a boon — and a bane. “Kids and teens are at a stage where they’re easily influenced and, unfortunately, often targeted by companies that exploit their insecurities for profit. These practices not only affect their self-image but also their relationship with money.”

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Photo: Lawrence Teo

For him, Get is a way to reinforce the idea that they are enough as they are and, at the same time, fundamentally change how they view money. It also encourages them to protect and manage their finances wisely. “Our goal is not just to educate them about financial literacy but also to help them build a healthy sense of self that transcends monetary values.”

A fundamental mental model

Much of what drives the spirit of Get can be found in Liang’s early years. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, to a Chinese family, the 30-year-old recalls a childhood where high value was placed on hard work, responsibility, and self-reliance, which translated across when it came to money.

The essence of what we’re aiming for is about cultivating a psychology where financial responsibility and feeling exist.

“I remember my father would ask me to make a weekly budget, including a breakdown allocation of how I would spend my pocket money,” Liang recalls fondly. “Unlike many of my peers, I didn’t receive pocket money just for the sake of it; my parents believed in earning it. It’s a principle deeply rooted in Chinese culture, emphasising stability, hard work, and the importance of saving rather than unnecessarily spending.”

Today, when asked to describe his relationship with money, Liang shares that it is “pretty straightforward and uncomplicated”. He employs a fundamental mental model and tools that make perceiving and separating “needs” and “wants” easier. “It might mean being aware and upholding one’s responsibilities first, as well as the lifestyle quality they want.”

This intentionality is something Liang embeds seamlessly into the principles that govern Get. “The essence of what we’re aiming for, for the next generation, is this instilled mindfulness rather than pushing a practice. It’s about cultivating a psychology where financial responsibility and feeling exist.”

On connectedness

Still, for all the practical benefits Get offers for teenagers, parents, and a future of responsible spending, Liang reminds me: “Where money goes is a reflection of the treasures of our heart.”

He recalls a sharing by a 43-year-old medical doctor and a mother of two teenagers aged 14 and 16. “What stood out to her most was a seemingly simple moment: Receiving a push notification that her daughter had spent $14 at a McDonald’s.” The mom explained how the moment was revelatory not because of the financial aspect per se but because it offered a unique channel to glimpse into her children’s lives, desires, and preferences that she felt she had been recently “losing touch with”.

“For her, Get transcended its face-value function as a financial literacy or banking tool; rather, it became a window into the unseen. A glimpse into the desires and choices of her children that go unnoticed in the hustle of daily life.”

It is this spirit of connectedness that ultimately drives the innovation at Get. And Liang is not just stopping at parent-child relationships. “We’re also discerning demand from parents using Get to create accounts for their helpers or older family members above the banking age who might suffer from dementia.”

Liang’s vision extends beyond immediate applications, seeing these innovations as a microcosm of larger societal transformations. He believes that society’s behavioural shifts typically follow the growing rate of technological breakthroughs.

“It creates new opportunities and spaces to empower humanity to be their best through new products and services. Being in a position to use technology to benefit others, especially those beyond my reach, aligns with my sense of purpose.”