National coordinator’s report: Banks the most active promoters of financial literacy

Finnish banks are putting in a substantial amount of voluntary work to improve the financial literacy of Finns, as acknowledged in a report recently published by the Bank of Finland, the coordinator of the project to draw up a national strategy on financial literacy. The report mapped out the actors in the field and found that financial sector entities had worked on the largest number of financial literacy projects in Finland.

Mapping out the actors in the field of financial literacy and reviewing ongoing activities and projects is one phase of the Bank of Finland’s coordination project to improve national financial literacy. Bank of Finland, the central bank and national monetary authority, was officially tasked with this project by the Ministry of Justice and other key authorities. The aim of the project is to draw up a plan for a national strategy on financial literacy. Similar national strategies already exist in many other OECD countries.

“If customers manage their personal finances sensibly, it’s good for all of us: the individuals, the society, and the financial companies. Good financial literacy directly benefits the national economy”, says Jussi Karhunen, adviser on financial literacy at Finance Finland.

“Working on financial literacy is a very natural and concrete way for the financial sector to take responsibility. There is even some competition inside the sector on who gets to cooperate on which projects. Companies want to demonstrate their social responsibility in as many ways as possible”, Karhunen continues.

Financial sector companies organise hands-on digital training for seniors, who can practise the use of tools and services such as online and mobile banking in a safe environment. For the younger audience, banks have financed many workshops in schools on the topic of personal finances. They have also launched many different cooperative programmes that encourage entrepreneurship. Banks’ volunteers also help people in financial distress through their work in the Deaconess Foundation. The reach of these projects is tens of thousands of Finns every year.

Typical for these projects is the cooperation between banks and third-sector organisations, such as Junior Achievement Finland, Economy and Youth TAT, the Martha Organisation and the Deaconess Foundation.

The national financial literacy strategy is eagerly anticipated

There is an obvious need for a national strategy on financial literacy. From the financial sector’s perspective, the fact that the Bank of Finland is currently working on a plan for the strategy is an excellent thing.

“The national strategy could give better long-term focus and overall clarity to the work to promote financial literacy. Regular surveys on the skill levels of different age groups would also make progress easier to monitor”, Karhunen envisions. “Having an official coordinator for the work makes things a lot clearer. But to maintain a good overall picture also in the future, it would be important to conduct regular assessment of the level of financial literacy in Finland.”

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