13 Nov 2017 | Posted In Thought leadership

David Haigh is the Money Advice Service’s Director of Financial Capability, responsible for developing a strategy to harness collective impact and drive improvements in the way people manage their money. At the MALG Conference on 27 November 2017, David will sit on the ‘Fincap Future’ panel, which will consider how to overcome the big challenges to improving financial capability over the next 10-20 years.

The theme for this year’s Financial Capability (Fincap) Week 2017, 13 – 19 November, is Talk Money. Working on the principle that the more people discuss money the better they will manage it, we will be starting a nationwide conversation across workplaces, communities, retail venues, social media and conference sessions (including at the Talk Money Conference on 16 November).

This is a key plank of the Financial Capability Strategy for the UK, which aims to improve fincap nationwide. It was launched in 2015 to combat the country’s worryingly low levels of financial understanding and stewardship. Some 40% of adults have lost control of their finances, a fifth cannot read bank statements and four in ten have savings of less than £500.

But we know that getting people to talk about their personal finances is a big task which there are ingrained cultural barriers to. The #TalkMoney campaign will aim to empower anyone, whatever their background or circumstances, to be part of the conversation about how to better manage their money. We want to drive to raise awareness of the need for everyone to have fully developed fiscal skills, change their money mindset, and see to it that the financial system is accessible and inclusive to all.

During Financial Capability Week, professional advisers will stage events to promote improved financial capability, while practitioners who boost the public’s financial capability will meet up to share learning, practical tips and best practice. We have also enlisted policy makers and academics to present their latest research on how to help people handle money better. Charities and major consumer brands will encourage their customers to #TalkMoney and local authorities will reach out to their residents – who will be signposted to agencies and service providers that can help boost their financial literacy. Meanwhile, employers, employer organisations and trade associations will communicate with workers on how they can ensure the best possible financial health. In order to bring fresh impetus to the earliest form of grassroots engagement, teachers and schools will discuss, share and implement strategies to deliver effective financial education.

There are lots of interventions that exist to help improve levels of financial capability in the UK and all of this activity during Financial Capability Week will go some way to help in the short, medium and longer term. But if we’re really honest with ourselves, we don’t yet really know which interventions work. The financial capability strategy is an attempt to bring a greater level of coordination, collaboration and impact to our efforts. Through the ‘What Works Fund’ and other initiatives, we’re in the midst of seeing a transformation to the sector, to one that is driven by evidence of what works to change outcomes. Over the next 12 months we will have a real body of evidence about the impact of a wide range of different interventions. And at that point we can start to influence funders so that we are funding and delivering interventions that work. And doing that at scale. It seems likely, to me, to be a mixed channel answer, using new fintech to engage people via platforms that they already use but how that is most effectively implemented remains to be seen.

The ‘FinCap Future’ panel at the MALG Conference will be a great opportunity to discuss this further.