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Cicero Group was pleased to welcome Helen White, Head of Financial Capability & Strategic Alliances at the Money Advice Service (MAS) for a roundtable discussion on the future of financial capability.

Financial capability, defined by MAS as improving people’s ability to manage money well and improving their ability to handle periods of financial difficulty, needs to be improved by understanding and changing people’s pre-existing behaviour with money, which is learned from the age of seven, Ms White noted. She said in order to influence the way people make decisions organisations need to engage with them on an emotional and psychological level.

She noted the importance of helping people feel empowered about their financial capability, leading to them making better decisions and being able to know what to expect from services they are purchasing. When people are being given incentives and it is made easier for them to make good money decisions over bad ones, they will ultimately save more and be more satisfied with services they are receiving. In encouraging this type of behaviour, she said it was important to gain insight from research into what is affecting the attitudes of consumers and learning what tangible steps improve people’s behaviours. She says it tends to be positive messaging that works best, rather than campaigns intended to shock people, as this can frighten and cause them to disengage instead of enthusing them about the financial and lifestyle benefits that could occur from better financial capability.

Ms White also discussed the need for an approach to financial capability that works across multiple sectors and across the country. While technology and digital innovation can make it easier for digitally savvy consumers to receive better information, parts of the population lack the means, understanding or confidence to make use of technological advances and could be left worse off as the result of digitalisation.

Ms White recognised Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands as fellow international leaders in financial capability, with each of these countries regularly engaging with MAS to share their views and research. There is a “big opportunity” for the UK to be a leader in financial capability, she noted, given the country’s active participation in these international fora.

This event was chaired by Cicero’s Head of Digital Policy, Luke Seaman.

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