Image provided by Women's World Banking
By: Ryan Newton, Women’s World Banking; Oshala Bandara, Hatton National Bank
Cross-posted on YouthSave.org
Around the world, girls as young as 10 years old accumulate money regularly, manage it actively, and want a safe place to save it. Unfortunately, financial institutions are traditionally oriented towards adults as customers and do not see youth as a viable target market. In an effort to shift the status quo, Women’s World Banking (WWB) joined 12 financial institutions in Sri Lanka last month to ensure that youth have access to comprehensive savings programs during its first international “Innovations in Youth Savings” workshop. Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking, says that, “girls have been left behind in so many ways, including not having a way to build savings in their own name.” To address this issue, Ms. Iskenderian mentioned that, “Women’s World Banking is committed to helping financial institutions design savings products for young women and girls because we know that the development of saving and financial management skills will lead to an increased tendency among girls to pursue higher education, create businesses of their own, marry at a later age, or become property owners – all of which have broader implications for reducing poverty.”
Held from April 23-26, 2012, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, the workshop was organized by WWB with support from the Nike Foundation, and hosted by Hatton National Bank (HNB). More than 30 participants attended, including representatives from financial institutions and youth savings experts. Each of the financial institutions with staff in attendance– five from Sub-Saharan Africa, five from Asia, and two from Latin America and the Caribbean – either already offer youth savings or plan to offer programs in the near future. Industry experts included representatives from the Population Council, who came to discuss their innovative “Safe and Smart Savings Products for Vulnerable Adolescent Girls” programs in Kenya and Uganda, and representatives from the D2D Fund, who were eager to present their financial “edutainment” and prize-linked savings work.
WWB is a non-profit microfinance network organization that works globally to economically empower poor women and their families and provides direct technical assistance to financial institutions on the design, implementation, and evaluation of youth savings programs, ensuring that they remain at the forefront of innovation in the field of youth savings and financial education. Hatton National Bank (HNB), serving as the workshop’s host organization, is the second largest commercial bank in Sri Lanka, with 241 Customer Centers. Youth play an important role in HNB’s product portfolio, which includes two types of children’s accounts, one teen account, one young adult account (as part of an overall youth empowerment initiative), and education loans. The bank is also a pioneer in school banking through the establishment of over 160 Student Banking Centers across the country.
The “Innovations in Youth Savings” workshop highlighted existing youth savings programs at network member and partner institutions while providing a peer-learning opportunity. Participants explored the rationale for launching and supporting youth savings programs; discussed the evolution of youth savings program development; examined different marketing strategies used by participating financial institutions; learned about different financial education strategies, innovations, and delivery channels; and discussed existing program evaluations and impact assessments for youth savings programs. Chandula Abeywickrema, Deputy General Manager of Development Banking at HNB, noted that this workshop gave an, “opportunity to some of the leading microfinance institutions visiting Sri Lanka for the first time to not only discuss new ideas and innovations in youth savings, but also witness and explore some of the pioneering initiatives HNB has taken.”
WWB also unveiled the concept and outline of its upcoming Youth Savings e-publication, to be published this summer. This publication, based on WWB’s own experience providing technical assistance on youth savings programs among its network members, is intended for use by deposit-taking financial institutions in any stage of youth savings product development. It is designed to be useful to a wide range of financial institutions and markets, from small, resource-constrained microfinance institutions in developing countries with low rates of formal financial services penetration to established retail banks in more competitive markets with an interest in the low-income youth market. During a series of exercises, participants at the workshop were given the opportunity to discuss the content of the publication and provide useful feedback on launching youth savings programs. Relevant and helpful materials from the workshop sessions will be integrated into the forthcoming publication in the form of PowerPoint presentations, video recordings, marketing collateral, and more.
The highlight for many participants was a visit to the HNB Galle Customer Center and two Student Banking Centers in Galle (St. Aloysius College and Sacred Heart Convent), where participants spoke with student bankers about their experiences collecting deposits at their schools and promoting youth savings to their peers.
Anna Gincherman, Director of Microfinance Products at WWB, was pleased that the conference allowed for dynamic peer learning, a hallmark of WWB’s network offerings. She remarked that, “participants came together to share their challenges and successes and will return to their institutions with new ways to bring financial education to more girls and increase access to financial services to young people. The outcomes will also be shared with our network and the industry as a way to show that serving young women and girls can be sustainable and socially responsible.”