Why NatWest is investing in the next generation
- 13 June 2019
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One in three UK schools now draw on financial education resources from NatWest. Caroline Edwards, financial capability lead at NatWest, tells us how they have expanded the reach of their MoneySense programme and what they plan to do next
At the CIM Marketing Excellence Awards earlier this year, NatWest took home the Best Corporate Social Responsibility award for its financial education programme for five to 18-year-olds. MoneySense, launched 25 years ago, is the longest-running bank-led scheme in the UK but it continues to face – and surmount – new challenges all the time.
Last year, a study by University College London and the University of Cambridge found adults in England and Northern Ireland performed worse on everyday financial numeracy tasks than adults in many other developed countries – even when using a calculator. As the report noted, “There’s a direct link between basic financial literacy and being able to make big financial decisions.” The link is confirmed by debt charity StepChange, which reported a record 620,000 people asking for its support in 2017.
With the case for improving the UK’s financial literacy rates more obvious than ever, NatWest has responded to the pressure. “Research shows that crucial money management skills such as the ability to prioritize our needs over our wants are established by the age of seven,” says Caroline Edwards, financial capability lead at NatWest: “That’s why we start young and have extended the programme to include primary school children of all ages.”
However, starting young means accessing a demographic that is traditionally hard – and controversial – for brands to reach. “It requires tenacity,” says Edwards, “and we don’t approach children directly.” NatWest goes to teachers instead, but it can be difficult to engage them too. “Timetable pressure means they can’t always find space. That’s why we try to find crossover with the curriculum, so that our resources also help with mathematics, say, or comprehension.”
Breaking down barriers
Those resources now include a new website. “It’s a big beast,” says Edwards. With around 770 learning resources on the site, keeping it up to date is indeed a big job, but the payoff has been significant. MoneySense’s target was to reach one million young people by the end of 2018. To quantify how it was getting on, it needed teachers to register and report numbers, but registration was a barrier to teachers signing up to the initiative in the first place. “On the new website we’ve made some of the resources available pre-registration. They’re in front of the wall as a sort of ‘try before you buy’ and they’ve really improved our sign-up rates.”
NatWest has also just launched MoneySense on social media channels including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest. The latter might be surprising but, as Edwards explains, it hosts a lively community of teachers. “They use it to share teaching resources, so it’s actually a great way for us to raise awareness of our initiative.”
With more than 32,000 teachers now registered, online channels have increased the reach of MoneySense. Meanwhile, its offline execution has been to the benefit of everyone involved. Almost 6,500 NatWest staff volunteer to go into local schools and support teachers in delivering an average of 13 workshops around the country for every school day. Stories about those workshops feature regularly in NatWest’s internal communications, which Edwards believes contributes to rebuilding pride among employees. “After the banking crisis, RBS was a posterchild for all of the sector’s ills. MoneySense has shown our staff how we make a positive difference in our communities. It’s very much been an employee engagement piece.”
A perhaps unexpected outcome is that it has been an engagement tool for prospective employees, too. “It’s well known that Millennial and Gen Z workers value organizations with a purpose,” says Edwards. “MoneySense has helped NatWest build its brand in communities generally – and clear up confusion around how it fits into RBS – but also given a significant boost to our employer brand.”
Thinking ahead, there’s another cohort that NatWest wants to reach. “We want MoneySense to start conversations in family homes around the country,” reveals Edwards. “It’s been shown that ‘shoulder to shoulder’ conversations between parents and children about household budgets can help the parents too with financial planning, so it’s a potential win-win.”
MoneySense is a long-term strategy for NatWest and it still has some way to go with its in-school activities. “It’s been shown recently that, surprisingly perhaps, online frauds and scams put digital natives more at risk than anyone else, so financial skills are more important than ever for young people. By that, we mean all young people, which is why we’ve created lessons for those with special educational needs and disabilities.”
As Edwards is quick to remind us whenever we mention the c-word, “This isn’t a campaign – it’s a programme. It’s been going for 25 years and, so long as we’re not in 100% of schools and not reaching 100% of children, there will always be more to do.”
The real impact of MoneySense
- More than two million young people have participated in a MoneySense lesson since 2015
- 9/10 teachers thought its resources and website increased their students’ knowledge and understanding of financial education
- 9/10 teachers would recommend its workshops to other teachers and educators
- 85% of staff volunteers said it had improved their perception of the company.
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