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Keep the branding out of financial education

Tessa Norman Peach 250x255

Last week I reported on the influence of corporate companies on financial education in schools.

I’m not suggesting these companies are promoting products, but if advertising is all about brand recognition then we should be concerned about banks and large corporates getting their names in front of school children.

If children are using worksheets with a company’s name on, or interacting with a pseudo Nationwide branch (as part of an initiative the building society runs for 12 to 14 year olds) there is a good chance that by the end of their schooling they will be more familiar with that lender than others.

So when they come to open their first bank or building society account they may be more likely to choose that brand over another they have not heard of.

And given the low levels of current account switching, that could be the bank or building society they stay with for life – a potentially lucrative outcome for the lender.

It is of course welcome that big brands are keen to help improve financial education as part of their corporate social responsibility – particularly given the Government has done little to help schools in providing resources, and few other organisations have pockets deep enough to do so.

But given how influential they are in the way schools are approaching the topic – Royal Bank of Scotland’s MoneySense programme is used by over half of schools in the UK and Ireland – some safeguards are needed.

The most important of these is neutral branding. Nationwide’s programme is called Nationwide Education, which it says is independent of its products and services, so why does it need its name plastered all over its resources?

If corporates are getting involved in financial education for the right reasons, they should have no problem in leaving their brands out of it.

There should also be room for a more representative spread of the industry to get involved in financial education, including advisers.

Unsurprisingly, it is harder for individual advisers to get a foot in the door than it is for corporates which can produce entire schemes of work.

Given their independence, knowledge, and expertise in explaining complex issues, many advisers would be ideally placed to play a role and it seems a great shame that schools are missing out on this.

A logical way forward would be for a trade or professional body to take the lead on the issue, but with the Institute of Financial Planning saying it does not have the resources, partnering with an organisation which already delivers sessions is another option for advisers.

Financial education charity MyBnk, for instance, offers opportunities for organisations to become a delivery partner in schools.

By making a few changes, the industry could do a lot more to ensure financial education is balanced, high quality, and free from the influence of brands.

Tessa Norman is regulation reporter at Money Marketing

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