If I consider my personal experience as a financial advisor and, more generally, the provision of investment services to citizens, I can envisage two concepts for the future of our professional activity: investor protection and financial education. On the one hand, investor protection underpins trust in the financial system as a whole; in this sense, the rules applying to our activity play a key role, especially if we consider the incoming entry into force of MiFID II (January 3rd 2018). On the other hand, education means fostering financial literacy and making citizens feel engaged in their investment decisions. This is particularly true for the young, i.e. tomorrow’s savers.
Financial advice has both an economic and a social value. Financial education, being pivotal in delivering this social value, can be described as a process which enables the citizen to enhance her/his knowledge of financial concepts and products, understand the risk-return trade-off and find the most suitable solutions.
I believe that all relevant stakeholders (European and national authorities, investment firms, financial advisors and their associations) should give great prominence to the need to improve financial literacy among investors. I consider that this issue can be developed along three complementary lines. Firstly, it is important to recognize the role of all the initiatives on financial education that are promoted in each European State by private associations and parties. Financial literacy may be also enhanced by recognizing the role of financial advisors in building long-term relationships with their clients. Finally, financial education shall encompass the benefits of new technologies: online tools can be used to collect information about the investors and enable them to understand their need for investment advice, i.e. human interaction with an advisor.
With regard to the role of private initiatives on financial education, Italy provides some positive examples. Since 2009, ANASF and PROGeTICA have been organising Economic@mente® – Metti in conto il tuo futuro, a financial education programme for high school students, whose results are a source of great personal satisfaction. Economic@mente® aims to provide students with a set of skills, based on their personal experiences, in order to teach them how to manage their future savings throughout their life by means of simulations, practical classes and tests.
The programme consists of courses held at school by ANASF associates who are specifically trained and qualified as teachers for the project. Since 2009 and 2011 I have been, respectively, a teacher and a regional manager for Economic@mente® in my region, Emilia Romagna, for a total of six courses in 13 classes. To this day, at national level, Economic@mente® is active in 302 schools, 1,251 classes in 81 provinces and 19 regions.
Considering my personal experience, I believe that European and national institutions should acknowledge the value of these initiatives and support their implementation. I am confident of this possibility. In Italy a first step in this direction has already happened: a Committee on financial education has been recently created by the Government, aiming at programming and coordinating all the initiatives in this field.
Written by: Vania Franceschelli, FECIF Board Member and Regional Manager of the ANASF financial education programme