OECD Financial literacy conference in Toronto

I am attending the OCDE financial literacy conference in Toronto today and tomorrow. Great to meet other people (banks, governmental agencies, content providers, school teachers, consultant, a few NGOs) involved in financial education too: 400 delegates from 40 countries!

First impressions: more and more people are interested in boosting financial education- that’s great. The Provincial Government of Ontario has integrated financial education into the Grades 4 to 8 mandatory school curriculum.

Measurement is the buzz word of the conference, with several panel discussions on it. Most people try to measure three areas: financial knowledge, behaviour/attitude, and awareness/use of financial products. I asked the question about indicators… going the wrong way: our Hong Kong partner, Enrich, ran several pre and post-course evaluations and the number of participants doing budgets for instance was going down- why? Simply because before the training, they didn’t know… that they didn’t know (they didn’t know what a budget was for example) but after the training they answered with more accuracy because they now knew what a budget was. Several delegates nodded and said they had the same experience; to avoid that bias, they run the evaluation right after the training by asking participants to self-evaluate what they knew before the training and what they know now. In terms of measures, the OCDE has launched a standard set of measures. more later once I have looked at their website. The areas measured are “keeping track”, “making ends meet”, “choosing products”, “staying informed” and “planning ahead”.

I then attended two panel discussions: one on technology and financial inclusion (use of mobile phone for example to transfer and save money), and one on Training the Trainers. They talked about the M-Pesa experience in Kenya where the mobile phone company there has enabled millions of people to store their money other than in cash at home. Saying that, while they recognised the huge potential for technology to help financial inclusion, the three specialists recognised that only 2 areas out of 4 are addressed by technology:

  • distance between customer/bank: addressed
  • cost efficiency (for the bank- it’s expensive to have branches every where): addressed
  • financial literacy of customers: technology does not address it- there are a few attempts like in Kenya, after customers do a transfer on the mobile phones, the phone company sends a short SMS on the importance of saving, but it is really limited.
  • adequate financial products for low income: not addressed either; banks haven’t yet designed products specifically addressing poor people’s needs and at the same time being financially sustainable for them. As the Indian speaker from the Bank of India put it: “no exploitation neither subsidisation of the poor.”

On the Training the Trainers, that was heartwarming to hear the three panelists’ views- because this is what we have been trying to do for years:

  • Training trainers who have a thorough understanding of the people they work with is the most efficient way of delivering financial education. So to all the social and community workers and trainers we have trained since 2007: BELIEVE IN YOURSELF– only you can find the right words and ways to convey important messages to the low income communities you serve. WELL DONE!
  • other message… which goes in the same direction: one training is not enough and trainers need on-going support and encouragement to keep the momentum. This is what we have been doing through emails, surveys, Skype one-to-one coaching, online library, very soon online training. We’ll keep doing more for you.

The day ended with very interesting data on the gender gap on financial literacy- it is widespread in most countries: women score lower than men on financial literacy questions. BUT there are many questions marks… economists who have organised the researches have found out that if the question does not involve maths or financial jargon, the gap is much narrower. Besides, there is a big proportion of women answering “I don’t know” and it might not mean that they don’t know… or men know! It might be a more prudent attitude of women preferring acknowledging they are not fully sure, while men leave less room for doubts and take more risks. I asked, but no studies have been done on the impact of women’s being the breadwinner vs “homestay mothers” on financial literacy. In any case, it would be interesting to offer family training catering men AND women and their different approach to money.

Stay tune! Please do send your remarks and questions!

2 thoughts on “OECD Financial literacy conference in Toronto

  1. Sun Reply

    One puzzle for me is that the trainees did not applied the financial literacy leaned in the training courses in their life. The training curriculum matters. But differentiate needs of customers may be one crux of the matter.

  2. Sophie Paine Reply

    Taking new habits always takes time. I fully agree the curriculum needs to be adapted to the particular target audience; this way, participants can better feel what is taught is relevant to them and their money issues and they are more likely to apply it. But it takes more than one training session to change spending habits for example. The second day of the conference gave us an interesting light on how we take decisions, and this applies to changing habits too.

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