Financial Wellbeing research in Australia

Great to see the release of groundbreaking Financial Wellbeing Survey by ANZ bank and Elaine Kempson. Robert was on the Advisory Committee for the research. Given that promoting the wellbeing of customers should be at the core of what banks do, he was asked for some quick thoughts about how they should do it.

The #ANZfinancialwellbeing survey is great leadership from ANZ. It showed the biggest influences on wellbeing are:

  • Active saving & 
  • Not borrowing for everyday spending.

So banks could:

1. Expand great programs like Saverplus that are proven to foster active saving, even for people with little money.

2. Improve bank products to actively encourage saving, eg

  • virtual buckets within your account to separate savings from spending money,
  • monthly reminders (praise) on how your saving is tracking,
  • encourage an automatic transfer to your savings bucket each pay day,
  • ask you to upload a picture of what you are saving for

3. All banks should ditch reward points for spending on credit cards. Reward points actively undermine financial wellbeing. They encourage the delusion that you “benefit” from using your credit card for everyday spending, but they just weaken people’s restrain on spending.  See the research evidence here from Paul Harrison. 

4. Banks should promote a norm that your DEBIT card is for everyday spending, and your CREDIT card is borrowing money to buy an important thing and pay it off quickly. 

 

Financial inclusion in Indonesia

We are assisting Indonesia to promote their new National Strategy for Financial Inclusion, which was launched by President Widodo in November 2016. To complement the supply side initiatives, a consumer communication strategy is needed so consumers understand the new options available, see the potential benefits and are motivated to take action. The project involves the National Strategy secretariat, World Bank and Women's World Banking.

 President Widodo

President Widodo

Keynote presentation on evaluation

It was an honour to give the keynote presentation at the OECD - ADBI - State Bank of Vietnam conference on financial literacy and consumer protection.

The talk focused on how evaluation is essential to delivering programs that actually work. Evaluation is a learning process - it helps us learn where programs are and are not working, and how to improve them to get better results for consumers.

The presentation used 3 examples of programs to show how even simple evaluations can give useful insights into how a program is working.  Evaluation meant that each program's story is about the better outcomes for consumers, not about how busy the program organisers were.  The conference participants (from all over Asia) seemed relieved that evaluation need not be as scary as they had thought!  

A copy of the presentation is available here: https://tinyurl.com/smartsteps-Hanoi

OECD conference logo 2.jpg

National Savings Strategy in the Middle East

We are proud to have helped a major Middle East country to develop a financial education strategy as part of a national savings strategy.

It is easy to list all the supply side initiatives that would increase the availability of savings products, and increase financial incentives. But the demand side is just as important. We outlined the practical steps to change the attitudes to saving within an Islamic culture,  and ways to reach the maximum number of people.

3RD ROUND OF FINANCIAL LITERACY GRANTS IN AUSTRALIA

One of Robert's projects outside SmartSteps is to run the grants program at Financial Literacy Australia (FLA). FLA funded 40 innovative projects so far, with grants totalling $A5 million. Projects are typically innovative pilots with evaluation, or research with practical implications. 

In 2017, FLA expects to allocate $A1.5 million to a new round of projects in Australia.

See www.FinLit.org.au/grants

Building financial literacy in Indonesia

Robert is currently working on several projects with the World Bank and the Financial Services Authority (OJK)  to foster financial literacy in Indonesia.

The Indonesian National Financial Literacy Strategy has a target to increase financial literacy by 2% every year. While 2% might sound a small number, for Indonesia that means 3.5 million people every year!

Indonesia has an innovative law where all financial service providers are required by law to be involved in financial education programs. Robert has reviewed the existing programs and made recommendations about how the regulator can help make the industry programs more effective and accountable.

Other countries might want to have a similar law: this would be good for both financial consumers and national development.

 

 

New grants program for financial literacy

In tough economic times, it is great to see new money becoming available for financial literacy. Financial Literacy Australia has just launched a $5.6 million grants program.  See FinLit.org.au

The money comes from corporate donations as part of legal settlements with ASIC, the financial services regulator. This is similar to the main funding source behind the FINRA Foundation in the USA and the Investor Education Fund in Canada.

Other countries may like to follow this example.  Instead of fines being paid to the government, the money helps the community directly.

Formation of SmartSteps

We are pleased to have formed SmartSteps — an international consultancy specialising in financial literacy strategies and programs.

We will add to the website over time as our projects grow.  We look forward to working with people from a range of countries and sharing our passion and experience.