Education improves financial literacy of SA's people

Foreword

Access to education can empower society to be secure. And ultimately, the security of society is also the security of our institutions.

Foreword

In difficult times, SA’s national calling is sounding loud and clear for equal access to opportunity. A huge part of our population is still not participating fully in the markets and still trying to navigate the basics of managing their finances. This is a complex issue of legacy and of education. Those who know have not enabled, and those who don’t know have not overcome. That part of our population is now seeing the opportunities, and they want to participate. But they also want to know how.

There was a spike in interest in e-learning during the COVID-19 crisis and the national lockdown, and I hope this interest will drive down the price and raise the credibility of online education. Financial-education practitioners will now compete on public digital platforms, and this will make visible what we offer as an industry. It will be so much easier for people to search and to research, as financial education extends beyond just the providers of opportunity – to the consumer.

I rely very much on relationships and on loyalty, but, unfortunately for people like me, the digital space removes a little bit of that. Consumers don’t have to see their financial-services providers face-to-face anymore. They can deal with you on a digital platform, and that won’t stop them from dealing with a whole host of other people too. Now they don’t have to feel obligated; they can do their homework and be in the know. Consumers don’t have to rely on somebody coming to present a financial product to them. They can go online and make their own, informed decisions.

Access to education is opening up, and there are now spaces where people can learn. We live in a era where nothing is secret. Information is available, if you learn where to look for it.

Learning does not always translate into the ability to participate, but opportunities do exist now for people to buy shares (or portions of shares) on the stock exchange from as little as R300 a month. Slowly but surely, SA is raising a national agenda that allows everyone to participate, and the JSE is accelerating its ability to allow for the democratisation of those capital markets. With that, comes the added need for continuous professional development, for business education, and for an openness to learning and innovation – not only in the financial-services industry, but across all sectors of the economy.

I am excited about this new era of improved access to financial education. Sadly it comes at a time of global crisis, where our focus is on survival and on saying to our clients, ‘protect your investments; know how to invest your money; and be aware of the insurance you can call on to cover you’. As businesses and as individuals, we need to secure our future.

This global pandemic offers us time for introspection and an opportunity to ask how we can make a difference to those around us – to people who work for us, to their families and to our own immediate and extended families. I believe that this will be a time of generosity – not a time of self-interest.

One of the biggest learnings to come out of this time of immense disruption in the financial-services sector is the importance of empowerment. Access to education can empower society to be secure. And ultimately, the security of society is also the security of our institutions.

I look forward to seeing us all rise to the occasion.

Zanele Morrison
JSE Director: Marketing and Corporate Affairs