Global trends in financial capability


Jonathan Hollow, Head of Financial Capability, Strategy and Innovation at the Single Financial Guidance Body reflects on lessons learned at an OECD summit, and the challenges that lie ahead for financial capability globally.

In November 2018 the OECD and the Russian Ministry of Finance gathered together representatives from hundreds of countries that are working to improve the money management skills of their population.

What works in the UK

It is a surreal and exciting experience to be in direct dialogue with representatives of so many countries, with so many diverse cultures and financial systems, yet working on what now appears to be a universal challenge.

It is also humbling when many people you meet say that they admire the work done in the UK as an example of thought leadership that other countries would like to follow. I presented on the headline results from our over £11 million What Works Fund. This seems to be the largest body of impact evaluations on financial capability conducted by any single country at the same time. There was considerable interest in the results and several leading countries have kindly offered to act as peer reviewers for the results of this fund.

Many countries choose to prevent on very specific projects, which is fascinating, but means that it is not always easy to build up a broader picture.

Global trends in financial capability


There is an increasing trend to put a statutory duty to coordinate a national financial capability strategy in law. Only a handful of countries have done this, but the UK is among them, with the establishment of a statutory duty for the Single Financial Guidance Body to coordinate a national strategy.

Targets and evaluation

All countries struggle with the challenge of setting national, population-level targets for change in financial skills. The levers of control are hard to understand and manage; and the macro-economic factors in the economy can easily outpace any modest gains.

For example, in 2011 South Africa set some brave targets for skills in financial control and planning skills. They found after five years that control skills went up, but planning skills dipped. It is not clear why. The general consensus was that difficulties with national targets make dialogue with politicians very challenging, but work should not be devalued as a result.

The key role of employers

Many countries are turning their gaze to the workplace as an important venue for financial education. The Netherlands and several other countries have formed a working group to look at challenges and opportunities. This too is an area where the UK’s Financial Capability Strategy has channelled efforts for several years, and HR directors of the largest businesses are beginning to engage.

Fintech and financial education

There is understandable ongoing fascination with digital technologies, especially apps, as enablers for financial education, but with many false starts. Aflatoun, an enterprise and financial education charity working with young people in many countries, told an interesting and frank story of their stuttering initiatives to turn workbook materials into compelling digital tools.

After some false starts they realised that they were getting increasing numbers of requests from third-party digital producers to use their content. So they changed their strategy to be a content provider enabling other people’s digital expertise, rather than trying to be a digital leader themselves. This seemed to resonate.

Assessment in financial education

Many speakers focused on the financial education of children, but none was more interesting than Veronica Frisancho from the Inter-American Development Bank. She presented the results of a study in Peru of many financial education initiatives in many schools, a truly impressive evidence base.

A key but sobering conclusion was that the higher the stakes that the children had in the educational experience, the more impact it had. She was talking about testing, exams, or other ways of ensuring the education “mattered”. And yet, at least in the UK, much financial education in schools is delivered as a bolt-on to the subjects that are considered “real”, “core” curriculum, and examined. Much needs to change.

The global picture

Hundreds of countries are working on financial capability, nearly 100 have a formal strategy, and a handful have a national strategy set in law. It looks like financial capability is a worldwide movement with considerable momentum. Most countries have been on this journey for less than 15 years. There is a great deal to learn, but there are tremendous opportunities for countries to learn from each others’ experience, data and research.

Learn more about the Financial Capability Strategy for the UK.

How to support couples to talk about money

Huw Thomas, director of policy, information and communications at Relate, reports on For Love and Money, the Talk Money Week event hosted by The Money Advice Service (MAS), the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI) and Relate to explore the links between relationships and money. Watch the debate about how the money guidance, relationship support, and […]

Supportive Council Tax recovery: a win-win outcome

Yvonne Fovargue MP welcomes the Supportive Council Tax Recovery guidance for local authorities. Council Tax arrears are a big problem for all concerned. Be it for those suffering in debt struggling to make ends meet, or local authorities needing to secure their income to fund vital services for their constituents. Too many councils pass debts […]

New research shows schools want to increase their financial education offer

Zoe Renton, policy manager for children and young people at The Money Advice Service (MAS), introduces new research published today on financial education in secondary schools in England. MAS’s previous research has shown that if we want to improve people’s ability to make the most of their money, we need to start young, with financial […]

How big employers can #TalkMoney in a high debt landscape

  Sarah Churchman, chief wellbeing and inclusion officer at PwC, and Jane Portas, insurance partner and financial inclusion leader at PwC discuss why, with household debt set to rise, there’s more reason than ever for employers to #TalkMoney, and how PwC do it. Talking about money, particularly one’s own finances, has often been seen as a bit taboo.  It’s […]

Five ways employers can help young workers #TalkMoney

Nona Buckley-Irvine works with a trade union and has a special focus on young adults. A young employee herself, she shares five ways that employers can support the financial capability of young workers, particularly those struggling with debt.   Listen without judgement There can be a perception of university students going wild with their money […]

Talk Money Week is nearly here – five ways you can get involved

  We’re getting ever nearer to Monday 12 November, meaning Talk Money Week is nearly upon us. At the Money Advice Service, we’re entering the last stage of the build up to the week itself. We’ve been hard at work for months, bringing together organisations and experts, conducting research into the nation’s relationship with money, […]

Money talks but we don’t: 5 reasons to #TalkMoney

A national conversation about money is around the corner. As we approach Talk Money Week, UK Financial Capability Director Sarah Porretta explains why this event has evolved from an annual celebration of financial capability work by organisations, to include a direct focus on helping the consumer get talking. This month we’re working to turn talking […]

The results are in: how we found out what works

Millions of pounds are spent every year on interventions that aim to help people in the UK better manage their money. Even so, relatively little was known about ‘what works’ to improve financial capability – until now. Roxana Prisacaru from The Money Advice Service What Works team shares their experience of building a body of […]

Improving financial capability: learning from the What Works Fund (Opening speech by CEO Charles Counsell)

Opening speech given at the British Library, Knowledge Centre, 23 October 2018 by The Money Advice Service CEO Charles Counsell. Good morning. It is my pleasure to welcome you to an event which represents the culmination of nearly two years’ work by the Money Advice Service and our partners across the sector – many of […]