Meet the MBE alumna who’s teaching kids to manage their money


The day after Lily Lapenna graduated from SOAS with a degree in International Development she hopped over to Bangladesh to work in microfinance. Working with women borrowers and savers, she was hugely inspired by their “incredible ability” to manage their finances.

“Although they hadn’t had anywhere near the same in-depth education that a lot of my friends had, they were so much savvier with the way they spent and made their money. When I returned to the UK, so many of my friends from uni were in debt, they didn’t know what an API was and the main feeling I found was ‘how did I get myself into this situation?’”

Seeing the financial plight of so many of her close friends, as well as realising that her own awareness of financial budgeting up to this point had been wholly insufficient, Lily came up with the idea of setting up MyBnk – a labour of love that has kept her busy for the past 10 years.

“That’s one of the things I Iearned whilst at SOAS – what’s the point of doing things without measuring the impact it’s having?”

Lily Lapenna, MyBNK with some young learners
Lily Lapenna, MyBNK with some young learners

“The work I’ve been doing is around the intersection of financial inclusion and education. It’s basically giving young people from the age of 7-25 the skills, knowledge and confidence to manage their money, whether that be for the future or during a time of crisis.”

“We don’t get taught about money at school. Before the credit crunch, it was so easy to access credit. There was this vicious cycle of borrowing money through credits cards, higher purchases and loans – and not really realising actually how money could be an enabler for us. How if we planned ahead, saved a bit then all of us could have a slightly better quality of life.”

Her work with MyBnk has had such an impact that she was recently made a MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2017 for services to ‘financial services and young people’.

“That’s one of the things I Iearned whilst at SOAS – what’s the point of doing things without measuring the impact it’s having?”

So what advice does she have for the students of today who are facing rising tuition fees and higher living costs? Above and beyond getting their lunch from the Hare Krishna man…

“The fact is the majority of students are going to leave university in debt, the key is leaving with manageable debt. There’s a whole host of tailored content online that is really helpful:

MyBnk is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Check their website for job opportunities, paid internships or if you just have an interest in their work. Their offices are just around the corner from SOAS near King’s Cross.

Or bring MyBnk to a school you know, please contact

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