As director of Turin’s Museo del Risparmio, Giovanna Paladino has a clear goal: financial awareness for all. “We are not trying to turn everyone into Nobel Prize economists, just into conscious personal-money managers,” she says of this unique Intesa Sanpaolo-backed institution.
Now, working with the Italian bank and its international subsidiaries, Paladino is delighted to see the reach of this mission widened through an innovative project called the Art of Saving.
Launched to coincide with World Savings Day on October 31, it is helping people of all ages, across 10 countries, to understand and manage their finances better.
We know that savings underpin sound financial planning – good for both individuals and the economy – yet OECD statistics show that people are not putting enough away. Using interactive digital games and videos, as well as school visits and family workshops, all designed in conjunction with the Museo del Risparmio, the programme aims to help change that.
Edutainment – mixing entertainment with learning – is a means of sharing expertise, sparking interest and building confidence in financial planning in a fun way, says Paladino.
“We are not trying to turn everyone into Nobel Prize economists, just into conscious personal-money managers”
Games such as Be Prime Minister, her particular favourite – not, she jokes, “to practise for future appointments” – allow users “to enjoy themselves while experimenting without fear of making mistakes”. The idea is that players begin to see themselves as “true owners of their future when it comes to finance”.
Offering this type of support and education is the duty of a responsible bank, believes Paladino. “In the financial sector we have an informational advantage and we must behave ethically, providing trusted support to our clients.
“If people know some basics they will be able to understand fully the value of what we are doing and in some cases they will be able to defend themselves from bad suggestions coming from others,” she adds. Everyone benefits. “Economics and finance have the power to unveil the true functioning of society.”
Starting young is particularly important, not only to build sound habits, but also to demystify finance. “Children who learn how to manage money at an early age will become financially wise adults.”
They are, she believes, naturally interested and open. Adults, by contrast, often confer complex connotations on money. “I remind them money is a tool. It is neither good nor bad. We can only judge its use.”
Thinking about how to save pocket money for a goal, how to manage allowances for children, the basics of risk, return and diversification are all subjects which can be presented in interactive and engaging ways.
“Technology makes it easier to use financial services and bank products. We hope that via this platform the dialogue will be mutual”
Opening “relaxed” conversations – within families, schools, communities – is vital at a time when the ‘around the family dinner-table’ budgeting of previous generations is falling away.
“Today’s culture is here and now, which makes us lose the long-term dimension at the core of saving decisions that are strategic by nature,” says Paladino. “In recent years most of us have lost the habit of keeping track of our expenses with respect to income flows.”
Slovakia is one of the countries selected for initial Art of Saving roll-out. Chief executive of Intesa Sanpaolo’s Slovakian subsidiary VUB, Alexander Resch is delighted to offer the programme to clients, schools and other groups, building trust and relationships with the bank.
“The population has historically had a strong culture of saving, but constrained household budgets and inflation have recently been barriers,” he says. He hopes that, given the current brighter outlook, this new platform will help clients navigate their growing financial opportunities.
Interactive education in family finance management and the basics of domestic and international economy will “expand general overview and help in real-life decisions when it comes to personal savings, borrowing money or investments”.
Using the latest digital and mobile technology makes sense, particularly in a country such as Slovakia, with high smartphone usage. “Technology makes it easier to use financial services and bank products. We hope that via this platform – open to all ages – the dialogue will be mutual.”
Benefits should also be two way, he points out. As well as giving customers greater power over their futures, the bank gains. “A financially literate client is the best kind of client, a responsible one.”
For Paladino, showing people just how much agency they have is the key. “The challenge,” she says, “is making people understand that saving is an act of freedom that facilitates the realisation of their own projects.”
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