I attended the 2012 Financial Education Summit of Citibank and Financial Times at the Makati Shangri-la last week. Through ANC anchor Coco Alcuaz, I was invited to attend as a media person by virtue of my PhilStar.com columns Raising Children with High FQ and Mommy Diaries. I was happy to learn that there are a lot of initiatives on improving the financial literacy of people around the world both by the private and public sectors. In fact, it was the 9th run of this annual summit and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) was very happy to have the Philippines as the host country this year.
Some interesting things happened during these three days. I met Jessica Safra during the Media Briefing and I told her that I read her column to which she replied, “Really? I don’t!” In the next couple of days I got the chance to really exchange stories and insights with Randell Tiongson (one of our top financial advocates whose heart is really set to help our OFWs, with his signature jolly antics oftentimes making fun of his weight), Salve Duplito (now a TV sensation with her show On The Money), Doris Dumlao (a respected business writer who wrote a really great article on my husband that up to now he still gets good remarks about it from different people, even those he just met for the first time). I also met several people from other countries who shared what they’re doing in their respective hometowns.
A funny thing happened to me on the opening day of the summit. I was seated at table no. 12 for Media and my seatmates were reporters covering BSP as their beat. I saw them taking down notes straight into their laptops so I also brought out mine to do the same, instead of using my notebook covered with red Florentine leather with Fleur de lis design. The opening address was delivered by no less than the BSP governor Amando Tetangco, Jr. Right after his speech, he left the venue and my tablemates all stood up, almost in unison, to follow the governor. Somehow, I automatically stood up and found myself outside the ballroom and among the crowd of TV cameramen and reporters surrounding the governor with their handheld recorders and cellphones outstretched to him to record his replies to their questions, “What do you think of the continued strengthening of the peso? Will BSP intervene in the near future?” Even if I understood everything being discussed I felt a little strange, “Will I be caught in tonight’s news? Media na ba talaga ako?” Then when the governor turned his face to me, I couldn’t throw any question because what was in my mind was, “Gov. Say Tetangco, thank you very much for the message you sent for my husband’s birthday which my sons included in his video presentation, he really liked it!” But conscious of the camera beside me, I just smiled at him.
Well, feeling media or not, the topic of financial literacy is close to my heart so during the talks, I was comfortable asking questions and sharing what I know. Michael Zink, the Head of ASEAN and Country Officer of Citi Singapore, even asked me, “What are the ages of your three sons?” and when he found out that they’re the same ages as his three daughters, he said, “Let me make an arrangement for them to meet my daughters!” Well, fine with me for he looks a bit like actor Mark Harmon turned banker!
We should be happy to note that there is really a growing awareness in Financial Literacy in the world and our country is also showing some positive improvements. In the most recent Citibank Fin-Q survey (an annual survey designed to measure the Financial Quotient or financial well being of consumers with either a bank account or credit card), Filipinos scored an all-time high of 52.6%. This might still be low but it’s the first time we breached the 50-point mark. Moreover, 94% reported to have attempted to have monthly budgets, the highest number across all countries in the survey. Now I hope they’re all meeting their budgets.
Zink reported that 2.5 billion of the world population has no access to financial instruments and that is why the theme of the summit is Financial Inclusion. However, more than accessibility of financial services, there is the greater need to teach people about money. We have witnessed in the recent financial meltdown that a country’s development is not directly correlated to its FQ. Many first world countries are still in the process of recovery up to now. But one thing is for sure and this is the summit’s slogan: Financial Capability is an essential skill in the 21st century! Those who have it are more empowered and are less vulnerable.
I will share some stories that I gathered during the summit on an installment basis. One thing that was also reiterated during the conference was the danger of information overload when teaching financial literacy. So the interesting stories on money, children, school, women, technology and other factors will be discussed in the next installments.
For the meantime I wish to bring your attention back to the thought mentioned earlier: FQ is an essential skill in the 21st century. And if I may add, having a high FQ is our Best Economic Defense. Before we get lost in the frenzy of Christmas shopping during this highly commercialized season, let’s reflect if we’re acting as if we possess this essential skill or not.
(To be continued)