iTHINK | Innovating financial education in the new normal

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I recently attended Ayala Group’s Spark Innovation Summit and the key takeaway for me is how one of the main resource speakers defined innovation. He said that innovation is something different that creates value. Makes a lot of sense to me.

This time of Covid-19 has proven that innovation is an absolute necessity.

2020 is undeniably one of the most challenging years in recent history. Many companies and industries ground to a halt, and efforts to contain the coronavirus caused a surge in layoffs.

According to the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, jobless rates for the month of September stood at 39.5 percent, which is equivalent to around 23.7 million Filipino adults. The survey also revealed that 14 percent or approximately 9.2 million Filipinos had lost their jobs during the pandemic.

The outbreak has exposed the need for us to protect our physical health as much as our financial well-being.

When I was appointed as the executive director of the BPI Foundation earlier this year, one of the first things I pushed for was a recalibration and refinement of our vision and mission or purpose. With the board’s support, we agreed to help create and propagate a culture of financial wellness and be agents of positive change for underserved communities, focusing on three advocacies: Financial Wellness, Sustainable Positive Change, and Bayanihan.

Part of our Financial Wellness advocacy is a customized financial education program called “FinEd Unboxed.” This aims to improve the financial capability of Filipinos, such as migrant workers and their families, uniformed personnel in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Department of Education (DepEd) personnel, and local government units.

Previously, we visited various provinces and cities around the country to provide enablement sessions for our identified beneficiaries. However, due to the health crisis, we had to recalibrate and think of new ways on how we can continue empowering our fellow Filipinos through financial education.

While Covid-19 brought us confusion and much difficulty, it also opened many opportunities for us to reinforce our mission and innovate. As digitalization became part the new normal, our usual face-to-face seminars were translated into digital media that allowed us expand and scale our reach like never before.

In partnership with Atikha, a non-government organization that provides economic and social services to OFWs and their families in the Philippines, we also initiated financial education digital learning sessions for OFWs titled “PinoyWise iTV”. Thousands of migrant workers and other viewers around the world have tuned in to our weekly learning sessions on Facebook.

Since its first broadcast in June, the audience learned about agribusiness opportunities, impact of remittance on the lives of OFW families, challenges and chances for returning OFWs, and more. To help more Filipinos abroad in adjusting to a rapidly changing economy, we will be providing these learning sessions until December this year.

We are also working hand in hand within the Ayala Group to empower our uniformed men and women through “Saludo sa Serbisyo”, a cohesive, needs-based and sustainable program for the welfare of the PNP, AFP, and BFP.

Albeit virtually, we want to continue giving back to our everyday heroes by providing FinEd Unboxed enablement sessions for the men and women in uniform, and a Technical-Vocational (TechVoc) livelihood training program for their unemployed spouses. Since the program’s inception in 2016, we have already touched the lives of more than 4,000 beneficiaries nationwide.

We joined the shift to digital platforms to roll out a financial wellness webinar series titled “Stronger from Home” in collaboration with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Department of Education (DepEd). Almost 8,000 Facebook viewers and Zoom session participants nationwide joined our three-part webinar series where they learned the basics of saving and budgeting, credit management, fundamentals of investing, and avoidance of fraud and scams.

We are also maximizing the use of multimedia for synchronous and asynchronous learning. FinEd Unboxed explainer videos which will feature stories of imaginary characters that our audiences can easily relate to are currently being produced. Another project I’m particularly excited about is our FinEd mobile app game. What better way to teach people about money than through something fun and engaging?

Understanding how money really works is essential. Trying something different and ensuring that it creates real value are key.

Including these two principles in the strategy for our way forward is essential to building back a better Philippines.

The author is the vice president and head of corporate affairs & communications of BPI and is concurrently the executive director of BPI Foundation

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