Opening remarks by Vice-Governor Luís Máximo dos Santos at the AFI-BdP Virtual Member Training on Designing National Strategy for Financial Education and its Implementation and Monitoring
Dear Dr. Alfred Hannig, Executive Director of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning, good afternoon or good evening (depending on where you are) and welcome to this Virtual Training on Designing, Implementing and Monitoring a National Strategy for Financial Education.
I am very pleased to see so many delegates of central banks and other financial authorities coming from different countries across the world.
Banco de Portugal is honoured to co-host this event with AFI and we would be delighted to welcome you in Lisbon. Unfortunately, this is not possible due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
These are, indeed, especially challenging times. Our countries have been severely impacted by the outbreak of coronavirus, which started as a health crises but rapidly evolved into a dramatic economic downturn. National authorities have been trying to “weather the storm” with support measures to mitigate the sharp reduction in income of households and small businesses.
These measures, however, will hardly be enough if households and small businesses lack financial resilience from the outset. And figures are not optimistic.
The results from a recent OECD survey on the financial literacy of adults show that, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 50 percent of adults in the 25 participating countries could not cover their living expenses for more than one month, should they lose their main source of income.
The importance of financial literacy has never been clearer. Many (like us) have long considered financial literacy has an essential tool for individuals to manage their financial affairs wisely and to be prepared for the unexpected. But following the outbreak of Covid-19, financial literacy became a survival skill which everyone needs to build greater resilience and to navigate a sea of uncertainty. If there is one thing that we have learned from this year is that the world is fundamentally unpredictable.
So this training could not have come at a better time. Over the next three days, we will be discussing the importance of having financial literacy at the top of the policy agenda and how to design, implement and evaluate a national strategy for financial education.
Having a national strategy is essential to create a coordinated, sustainable and effective nation-wide approach to financial education. Promoting financial literacy of a country’s population is always a long-term endeavour which typically entails aligning the expectations, the agenda and the modus operandi of different actors. Having a national strategy in place helps to achieve greater coordination and a lasting commitment from relevant stakeholders.
Last but not least, as we move into the Digital Age a special focus should be given in the national strategy to digital financial literacy. In the last few years, digitalization has been reshaping the financial services industry, with bank customers increasingly using digital channels, such as mobile apps and online platforms, for making payments or taking out credit in a fast and convenient way. When using these digital channels, however, they are exposed to cybersecurity risks, such as online fraud and scams, which may lead to money or identity theft.
The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the digitalization trend and exacerbated the risks arising from the use of digital channels. Bank customers who were already using digital channels typically increased their use, while those less familiar with new technologies were compelled to enter the digital age, often ill-prepared to do so. Not surprisingly, cybercrime rose to record highs in 2020, hand-in-hand with the sharp increase in the number of bank customers going online.
So while it is still unclear what the world will look like in post-Covid times, digital financial literacy is very likely to become an increasingly important skill to participate in this new digital economy.
Banco de Portugal has been following all these trends very closely for more than a decade.
We see financial education as an essential complement to consumer protection under our banking conduct supervision mandate. Banco de Portugal is a founding member of the OECD International Network on Financial Education and we launched our bank customer website in 2008. Ten years ago, in 2010, we conducted our first national survey on financial literacy and one year later launched our national strategy for financial education, together with the other two Portuguese financial supervisors: The Securities Market Commission and the Insurance and Pension Funds Supervisory Authority. In 2016, we designed our Digital Financial Literacy Strategy as part of the central banks’ strategic plan and we incorporated digital financial literacy in the national strategy for financial education.
Our collaboration with AFI started in 2017 when a group of seven central banks of the Portuguese speaking countries, including Banco de Portugal, signed a memorandum of technical cooperation in the field of financial inclusion and education with AFI.
Since then, Banco de Portugal has had the opportunity and privilege to work with AFI in many joint-projects, including several training courses targeted at central bank experts, but also participation in conferences, workshops and seminars and, more recently, webinars and online events.
Dr. Alfred Hannig, ladies and gentlemen,
Let me conclude by saying that, as a monetary authority and financial supervisor, Banco de Portugal has a clear mandate to promote financial stability, which is key for sustainable economic growth. But to ensure financial stability is also need that bank customers are able to take wise financial decisions. As such, for many years we have been advocating that financial literacy should be on the top of the policy agenda. Still, we could not imagine how critical it would turned out to be, until we were hit by a global pandemic in 2020.
I wish you all an inspiring and fruitful training.
Thank you very much for your attention.