Special Report: OpenLearning is taking advantage of the work-from-home (WFH) shift to move into professional development. Its first target? Financial services.

OpenLearning (ASX:OLL) is branching out from higher education and into the corporate world, specifically the scandal-hit financial sector which has embarked on an industry-wide upskilling journey.

The company, which provides an online platform on which companies can build and offer engaging short courses, degrees and micro-credentials, is also expanding into professional development at a time when second waves of COVID-19 are keeping employees at home, longer.

“The second wave of COVID-19 infections in Victoria are a reminder that people will be working from home for far longer than expected, but at the same time the difficult economic environment means upskilling has never been so important,” CEO and managing director Adam Brimo said.

“As industry looks to transform their workforce after COVID-19, they will require higher quality online education solutions to stay ahead. OpenLearning is perfectly positioned to fill this gap by leveraging its technology and partnerships with top tier education providers.”

Opening the door to the expansion is Spiro Pappas, an early investor in OpenLearning who has moved from non-executive director to an executive directorship and become an advisor to the company.

Pappas was a former senior executive at NAB and is the chairman of buy-now-pay-later fintech Splitit (ASX:SPT).

He says his role is one of marrying OpenLearning’s online education platform with use cases beyond higher education.

These include a broader array of relevant corporate sectors, financial institutions and governmental organisations both in Australia and selectively internationally.

Listing in December last year, OpenLearning was part of a trend towards better digital education that began before the COVID-19 pandemic forced university students and workers into their homes, and recognised as a potential leader in the field by institutional investors.

Educating the professionals

An expansion into the financial sector was heralded in May, when OpenLearning partnered with Western Sydney University’s School of Business to create a continuing professional development course for financial advisors.

The move came following the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry. OpenLearning saw an immediate opportunity for its platform to provide transformative, outcome-based education to the financial services sector to meet new compliance requirements.

Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority’s (FASEA) new requirements were established from January 2019 as part of the findings from the Royal Commission, and a new Code of Ethics came into effect on January 1 this year.

“The financial services sector is undergoing significant structural reform prompted by both regulatory and digital disruption,” Pappas said.

“These industry headwinds have accelerated the need for higher and more consistently applied professional standards of service. Higher quality relevant online education is pivotal.”

Brimo says the market for financial professional development is much wider than financial advisors, however.

“We are talking to banks and other financial services companies to create and offer online courses that both meet their compliance requirements and deliver skills outcomes,” he said.

“The existing players are not providing a quality product and have yet to adopt best practices in online education. OpenLearning’s purpose-built platform and social constructivist approach to course design works at scale and will be transformative for the industry.”

OpenLearning plans to leverage existing relationships with universities to develop high quality courses for corporates throughout the economy.

Pappas says COVID-19 lockdowns have created an opportunity to apply the OpenLearning platform to commercial use-cases beyond the higher education sector.

“Initially in compliance related industries to enable them to move from box-ticking to deep learning and skills development,” he said.

This story was developed in collaboration with OpenLearning, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.
This story does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.