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Financial education 04 Jul 2019

"Digitization can contribute to financial well-being"

Flore-Anne Messy, the Head of the Insurance, Private Pensions and Financial Markets Division at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), views digitization as a source of opportunity and the best guide for financial institutions to design products that are increasingly customized and adapted to the needs of consumers and businesses. Messy is one of the most respected voices in the world for financial education. She will participate in the 2019 EduFin Summit, the financial education summit BBVA will hold in Madrid on July 11th and 12th.

At the event, this OECD expert will discuss a topic she is passionate about: the relationship between digitization and financial health, “Digitization has the potential to make financial services more accessible, convenient and safe, which has a positive impact on the financial well-being of consumers and businesses.” In fact, together with the greater level of personalization of products and services, she feels that digitization will have an increasingly relevant role that will be further reinforced by the emergence of these new tools: “Applications to manage personal finances create opportunities to incorporate behavioral elements in customer experience and provide financial education, at relevant moments, that benefit consumers.”

A real revolution

There is no question that the financial world has been revolutionized by the arrival of technology, which Messy maintains has had a dual impact: “First of all, new technologies have shaped the evolution on the supply side. Think of developments like distributed ledger technology (blockchain) or the analytical possibilities that big data offer.”

Second of all, the innovative applications that digital technology offers are changing users’ relationship with financial services providers: “Consumers interact with financial services providers digitally and will do so more and more, whether it’s on smartphones or on the Internet.” The arrival of tools to manage personal finances is also a big help to people as “they can improve understanding of financial products and of people’s financial situation.”

In this context of digital revolution, new skills are needed to make the most of it: “For example, consumers should know whether the online provider is authorized by relevant financial authorities and understand the information and the contracts – even when provided in digital format. They should also manage their digital footprint appropriately, understand the consequences of sharing their personal information and be educated about how to detect and avoid online fraud.”

Flore-Anne Messy also sees very clear opportunities in digitization for people without regular access to financial services, but she also warns: “Policymakers should ensure that the increasing digital financial inclusion of the population takes places within an appropriate framework of financial protection and that consumers are fully aware of the risks and benefits.”

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Flore-Anne Messy participated in a panel about the PISA report during the EduFin Summit 2017, in Mexico City.

Monitoring, evaluation and improvement

Through committees and working groups, the OECD does a remarkable job of monitoring the impact of digitization and evaluating the changes that technology has brought to the financial landscape in order to determine which policies are the most appropriate. It works to improve the infrastructure of digital financial services, with a focus on people: “We are exploring consumers’ willingness to adapt to the change and the benefits of the digitization of financial services. We also examine best practices in terms of the design and implementation of financial education programs in digital financial services.”

The diversity in approaches makes it difficult to decide which countries have the best financial education: “Each country has different national priorities and institutional environments.” For Messy, advancing in financial education means “having an effective institutional agreement under the leadership of the public sector, but with the participation of the private sector and the non-profit sector, with adequate and sustainable financial resources.” This expert does not overlook the importance of research: “It’s important to adopt an evidence based approach in both the diagnostic and the implementation stages through an evaluation of the impact financial education programs have on target groups.” Throughout this entire process it’s important to keep the digital revolution in mind in order to check whether the existing financial education initiatives “equip consumers with the right skills.”

In the case of Spain, Messy feels the country is “an important member of the OECD’s International Network on Financial Education” and stresses its active participation in initiatives to measure financial education and the implementation of programs in public schools. The collaboration promises to remain fruitful in the future: “We will continue supporting Spanish authorities in the implementation of their national strategy, we will explore synergies with the private sector, and we hope to be able to measure the progress.”

Flore-Anne Messy will be part of a select panel of experts participating in the 2019 EduFin Summit, the financial education summit organized by BBVA’s Center for Financial Education and Capability. She will speak on Digitization and financial health, which will take place on July 11th at 9:45AM after José Manuel González Páramo, BBVA’s Executive Member of the Board and the Head of Global Economics, Regulation and Public Affairs, gives the opening remarks.

In her presentation, she will discuss issues such as the impact new technologies have on the financial industry and digitization as the key to strong financial health and access to the best opportunities.

Those interested in registering for the event can do so here.

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