If you can’t sleep at night, there’s a good chance it’s because you’re worried about money.
Money is a leading cause of stress for people around the world. Half of households in Europe are struggling to make ends meet and another 44% of households aren’t likely to be prepared for future needs. Financial health also impacts more than our wallets, as it’s connected to our physical health and social well-being.
What makes people financially healthy? Well, they can pay their bills, have savings set away, are planning for retirement, can manage financial shocks and are generally happier because they can better reach their goals. Plus, we believe financially healthy people contribute to a healthy economy and help drive social progress. In this way ING promotes sustainable and inclusive economic growth (goal 8) as part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
One thing is clear to ING. As a bank, money is what we know best. And as a large global company, we have a responsibility and an opportunity to make an impact. So how can we help people become more financially healthy?
First, we have to make sure some basics are in place. Like accessibility – banking should be accessible to people with difficulty seeing or hearing. In the Netherlands for example, we’ve introduced voice-activated ATMs to make it easier for some to withdraw money.
Another basic is about figuring out the why – why do people make the financial decisions they do? We conduct and share research on this, which we then use as input for the way we approach financial health.
We think our biggest impact on improving financial health can be made in three areas: information, innovation and involvement.
They say that knowing is half the battle. We believe that the right information (at the right time) can help people make better financial decisions.
In the Netherlands, for example, the ’Kijk vooruit’ forecasting tool gives customers an overview of their planned and predicted transactions, giving them more control over their finances.
We also launched the 'Digitaal vooruit' initiative in the Netherlands, where coaches are in pop-up stores at several locations to answer any digital questions people may have.
But we also venture outside the banking environment. We offer EmpowerCamp in Austria, and Romania– a five-week programme to help customers understand their financial profile and take steps to improve their finances.
We also use videos on YouTube to give people financial insights. In Poland, for example, these kinds of videos have had over 100 million views.
Products and services are similar across banks. We differentiate ourselves by going a step further and innovating to create tools that help customers make better financial decisions.
In Australia, Everyday Roundup allows customers to round up card purchases to the nearest dollar, then moves the difference to their savings or mortgage account. This makes it easier and more convenient to save money or pay off your home loan. The 300,000 ING customer accounts using Everyday Roundup saved a total of AUD 81 million (€46.6 million) in 70 million transactions.
When it comes to investments, our digital investment advisors help give customers precise and intelligent investment solutions, like My Money Coach in Spain and Coach Epargne in France.
In many cases, we partner with others to accelerate innovation. We’re involved with developing apps like Minna, which shows all of a customer’s subscriptions in one place. This helps them maintain control and avoid paying extra for subscriptions they no longer use or need.
Our involvement in both the communities we operate in and in developing countries also contributes to financial health. We support programmes that contribute to an inclusive economy: one where everybody has the opportunity and capability to participate. Here are a few examples.
Research shows that educating young people about money management will give them the information and skills needed to make better financial decisions as they get older. That’s why hundreds of ING colleagues around the world take part in Global Money Week each year, volunteering in classrooms across the Netherlands, Spain, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Philippines, and Turkey.
The Youth Perspective Fund in the Netherlands offers an innovative approach to helping people aged 18 to 27 manage their debts, with coaches working with young people to plan and get their finances in order. Social Builder in France provides three months of digital skills training to women with a social project who have been particularly economically affected by the coronavirus crisis. The aim is for them to generate revenue and get to financial independence quickly.
In Romania, the programme Banometru help adults with financial difficulties with financial planning and counseling.
And in the Netherlands we’re a founding partner of the Nederlandse Schuldhulproute, along with several other banks and the Dutch Banking Association. This unique public-private collaboration aims to prevent and solve problematic debt.
Where information, innovation and involvement come together
The Think Forward Initiative, started by ING and partners, supports research and innovation projects to understand and address different areas of financial health and decision making.
TFI brings together eexperts from the financial industry, policymakers, academics, consumer groups and technology companies. They all work to gain a deeper understanding of the behaviour behind financial decision-making (in TFI’s Research Hub), and then turn that into actual tools that help people (in our TFI Accelerator).
TFI’s Community Hub promotes the activities of the other two hubs through our network of TFI community members, and launches campaigns to ensure our work reaches the people that need it the most.
Sustainability is about planet and people. When it comes to people, we choose to focus on financial health, but that’s not all we do. We make more impact with what we do finance than with what we don’t finance. So we aim to grow the number of mandates for our Social Impact Finance portfolio by lending to projects that lead to, for example, affordable housing or basic infrastructure improvements. And we’re working on making a positive contribution to human rights as financier, employer, taxpayer and driver of progress and prosperity. We were a founding signatory for the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Banking, which aim to provide the framework for a sustainable banking system and help banks to align their business strategy with society’s goals.