Money is a leading cause of stress for people everywhere. Half of households in Europe are struggling to make ends meet, while one third are unable to face unexpected financial expenses and close to 40% are not saving for retirement.
At ING we believe financially healthy people contribute to a healthy economy and drive social progress. That’s why we’re steering our customers and communities towards improved financial health. We can make a difference by helping people to stay a step ahead of the financial challenges they face. Plus, it’s our way of contributing to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, particularly towards sustainable and inclusive economic growth (goal 8) and reduced inequalities (goal 10).
What makes people financially healthy? Well, they can pay their bills, they have no problematic debts, they have savings set aside, and they’re planning for the future. As such, they’re generally happier because they’re better able to reach their goals, whether that’s buying a new car, their dream home, expanding their family or retiring from their job: whatever it is that moves them.
We think we can make our biggest impact on improving financial health in three ways: through financial inclusion; by helping people manage their everyday finances; and helping them plan for the future and protect their dreams.
Let’s start with the basics – making sure our customers and communities have access to banking products and services. In certain countries we have voice-activated ATMs that make it easier for people with a visual impairment to withdraw money and bank cards with a notch on top so they can insert them correctly. These cards are also useful for customers with limited hand functionality. In Australia, customers with speech or hearing difficulties can do their phone banking via the national relay service and there’s a sign language service in some of our bank branches in Poland.
Financial inclusion is also about making sure everyone can easily understand our terms and conditions, that the information on our websites is readily accessible and that all our customers can use our online banking channels and mobile apps, irrespective of their ability.
To help people remain financially healthy in adverse circumstances, we strive to offer fair and transparent products and services that are relevant to their needs. We care about human rights and work to identify and manage potential risks our customers could face, such as from discrimination, the loss or theft of their data, or being sold unsuitable products and services. You can read more about human rights and how we manage these risks in our latest human rights disclosure.
We use technology and our insights about money to create innovative digital tools that help customers come to grips with their everyday finances. Think of forecasting tools like Kijk Vooruit, which helps Dutch customers plan and control their expenses, subscription manager Minna in Belgium, and savings tools like Everyday Roundup. Used by over one million customers in five countries, Everyday Roundup makes saving instant and easy by automatically rounding up customers’ card payments and moving the difference to their savings accounts.
Shopping platforms like Dealwise – accessed via the ING app in Germany, Belgium and Romania – stimulate healthier spending behaviour by gathering the best shopping deals in one place and giving users cash back on purchases.
To support financial health in our communities we partner with local organisations that provide financial planning, coaching and debt counselling. These include Schuldhulproute in the Netherlands; the Dutch Youth Perspective Fund for people aged 18 to 27; Romania’s Banometru; and Nantik Lum in Spain, which helps women to gain financial independence.
Planning for the future
We seek to empower customers to protect their dreams through savvy savings and investments. We offer smart digital investment tools like My Money Coach in Italy, Naranja+ in Spain, Easy Invest in the Netherlands and Komfort-Anlage in Germany.
Another way we can help customers to stay in control of their finances is by helping them to identify potential savings, for example with a personal budget planner and categorisation tool that’s available in Germany.
Measuring our progress and impact
We’re currently exploring ways to measure our impact, for example using the Dutch Financial Health Index. Developed in collaboration with the National Institute for Financial Information (Nibud) and academic and business partners, the financial health index aims to become the market standard for gauging financial health and stimulating behavioural change.
Our financial health efforts are aligned with the Principles for Responsible Banking. We’re working with the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) to contribute to setting a measurement standard for financial health impact for our industry. As a founding signatory in December 2021, we’ve committed to setting ambitious targets supported by measures around products and services, processes, data analytics and/or partnerships, with the aim of promoting financial inclusion and fostering a banking sector that supports financial health. We’re required to report on our targets and progress annually from mid-2023.