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Visa Europe

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Spending valuable time on financial education

More by Visa Europe - Back to the Autumn 2015 issue

case study

Research by the Money Advice Service maintains that adult habits around money can be formed as early as the age of seven. And in this fast evolving technical age, where the whole, traditional transaction of purchase is often unseen (just look at iTunes and Uber), Visa Europe believes that teaching young people money management is more essential than ever.

For the international payments giant, the focus is very much on digital money skills. A light bulb moment for Nick Jones, head of digital communications & corporate responsibility, was when he heard a presentation given by a child psychologist who said that children these days are more likely to engage more with plastic toy money during their kindergarten days than with actual hard cash when they grow up. With contactless and digital payments being the way forward, it’s difficult for young people to learn the true value of money when they don’t physically see or touch the money involved in the transaction, he believes.

Liza Tait, CR and communications manager, highlights a common problem she’s come across with children and gaming: “When gaming, children of all ages are often enticed within the game itself to buy ‘coins’or tokens, with payments taken invisibly to the child from their parent’s credit or debit cards. It’s difficult to translate what they do in a game to real money going out of someone’s purse.”
But as a payments business, why is Visa Europe so bothered by the issue as digital spending surely means people using their cards even more? “It’s important because an economy where people know how to manage their money thrives better than one where people don’t,” says Jones.

“Visa’s has always had a long term interest in managing payments. Back in the Fifties, there was the issue of trust. How do you persuade people to take your card? That trust is still key today.”

Indeed, Jones maintains that the business benefits of educating young people about money are three-fold: as the entrepreneurs of the future, young people with that knowledge will have a greater financial capability, which stands the economy in greater stead; secondly, as Visa Europe works collectively with its member banks, this kind of CR programme helps gel its working model, bringing stakeholders together; and finally there’s the bonus of building employee engagement. Last year, 15% of employees took part in volunteering activity and Tait only sees that number growing. “Employee volunteers are more engaged that those that haven’t and 98% of employee volunteers this year say that it helps them feel proud to work for Visa Europe.”

The idea for a company-wide approach to the issue germinated in Turkey in 2009 when, together with member banks there Visa launched the ‘I Can Manage My Money’ programme in local schools. Using peer-to-peer education, it showed young people how to budget and make wise choices regarding their finances. Jones was impressed with the videos and seeing how children were taking what they had learned in the classroom out into the wider community.

With Visa Europe working in over 30 countries, Jones recognised that different markets would have different needs so put together case studies and a tool kit to share materials and learning to engage new colleagues around the idea of financial education. “There are various approaches, as with most CSR programmes, one size never fits all,” adds Tait. “The programme is aligned to the theme of equipping young people with delivery nuanced to suit local requirements. All activity fits the overall cohesive vision.”

For example in the UK, they go into primary and secondary schools and universities, while in Romania training takes place in high schools and local libraries as well as online. Activity in Turkey started out with face to face training elsewhere it could commence with an online programme. Some markets major on entrepreneurial skillssome on financial education, and some do both. “There’s flex in our approach,” emphasises Tait.

It was also important to find the right delivery partner. Jones was introduced to Junior Achievement Europe through a contact on the ground in Romania, where they were helping to run a MoneyIQ programme as well as a consumer facing educational programme on e-commerce, Money on the Net, which provides an online guide to electronic commerce for Romanians, young and old. This guide to e-commerce aims to remove the mystery of digital transactions and build awareness and trust of this increasingly popular way to pay for goods and services.

One of the biggest challenges for the company has been that despite the global size of the brand, Visa Europe is operationally only 1700 across Europe. “So our footprint is quite small,” says Jones. “That’s why having a partner like Junior Achievement was so important because it had existing networks within schools, and their trust.”

Visa Europe is now running educational activity in 11 of its markets. As well as providing volunteer experts who go into schools and universities, spreading the financial education message, the company also works with Junior Achievement to help support its work at pan European level with its work with the EE-Hub, the European Entrepreneurship Education Network. Visa Europe sees the ability to manage money as a fundamental to successful entrepreneurship. The two go hand in hand.

Currently 18 months into a three-year cycle, the programme is still in the ‘test and learn’ phase and will begin measuring outcomes in the coming months. From an investment of a little over EUR1m Visa has delivered financial education and entrepreneurial education activity in 520 cities across 11 countries reaching 322,939 beneficiaries directly. A further 462,203 beneficiaries have been reached through online training.

Visa Europe’s involvement in the promotion of financial education goes even further. It sponsors awards such as the, My Money Week and a signature award for innovation at the Junior Achievement National Start Up Challenge.

My Money Week is an annual competition which this year involved 4,000 schools where teams have to design a set of top trumps style cards – The Spender, The Saver and The Giver. “It provides a fantastic opportunity for young people to gain the skills, knowledge and confidence in money matters to thrive in our society,” says Jones.

For the Junior Achievement National Start Up Challenge, Visa Europe was a principle financial sponsor but it also was involved more directly with mentoring some of the contestants. “In the UK, the winning team was coached by members of our procurement team to get ready for the final,” says Jones.

As a payments business, it is vital that Visa Europe keeps pace with the speed of change in all the new ways to pay and be paid, as well as new digital business models. The rate of change is a challenge for the education programme too. “Lives and technology are changing rapidly,” says Jones. “As the technology evolves, we may change. We may innovate with new solutions for digital education, as well as extend the programme into more countries.” 

more about Visa Europe

Visa Europe is a payments technology business owned and operated by member banks and other payment service providers from 37 countries.

The company is at the heart of the payments ecosystem providing the services and infrastructure to enable millions of European consumers, businesses and governments to make electronic payments.

Visa Europe is also the largest transaction processor in Europe, responsible for processing more than 16 bn transactions annually – at a rate of 1,622 transactions per second at peak times.

Since 2004, Visa Europe has been independent of Visa Inc. and incorporated in the UK, with an exclusive, irrevocable and perpetual licence in Europe. Both companies work in partnership to enable global Visa payments in more than 200 countries and territories.

For more information, see and @VisaEuropeNews 

IBE comment

Adapting to a fast changing technical age can be difficult from many points of view and this brings about a number of risks that companies have increasingly committed to address. However, many initiatives are focused on providing older generations with appropriate skills to deal with new technologies, while little is done to support younger people. The strength of Visa Europe’s project is that it appreciates that new technologies can present potential risks also for the so-called ‘digital born’. Working with young people to raise awareness on these issues is particularly important as it will help create more responsible citizens tomorrow.

Points to Note:
• Thanks to fruitful collaborations with other organisations, the programme could reach 322,939 beneficiaries in 520 cities across 11 countries directly. A further 462,203 young people have been reached through online training.
• Taking into account cultural differences is important to deliver an effective programme. Visa Europe tailored its approach to the varying needs of different markets, in order to suit local requirements.
• The project has had a positive impact on employee engagement: 98% of employee volunteers reported that it helped them feel proud to work for Visa Europe.

Guendalina Donde, Researcher, Institute of Business Ethics

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