Ever wonder what it’s like to live in a financially-perfect world? Just imagine: everyone can easily get a loan, use mobile apps to transfer money, and have credit cards ready whenever they have no cash on hand.
Unfortunately, in the Philippines where 77 percent of adults still do not have formal bank accounts, this reality still seems to be in the far future. Mobile banking is still not as popular here even though Filipinos are one of the most active smartphone users in the world. Even understanding money basics like how to compute interest is something most people need help with.
But there’s hope. There are companies in the finance sector that are leading the way by being both financial provider and financial educator. One example is Home Credit Philippines (HCPH) which, aside from already being the local market leader in the consumer finance industry, is also a strong advocate of financial literacy through its Juan, Two, Three campaign. The program, which was started in 2016, teaches communities financial basics in a creative way through games, comic books, and workbooks.
Fun with fundamentals
“We are all about giving financial access to Filipinos who need it most,” says Annica Witschard, Chief Executive Officer of HCPH. “But we don’t just provide tools; we teach people how to use them. And that means teaching the very basics of handling money. That’s how Juan, Two, Three started—it’s all about empowering people through the fundamentals, and in a very fun way.”
After three years of visiting communities throughout the country, Home Credit’s Financial Literacy Ambassadors already have a lot to celebrate. So far, the program has already reached close to 11,000 households, conducted more than a hundred events, and has closed long-term partnerships with both civic and non-civic organizations. Some of these are the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, which signed a three-year memorandum of agreement with HCPH, and the Rotary Club of San Fernando North. It has even been awarded a Silver Award from the Stevies, an international award that recognizes excellent communications programs across different regions and industries.
Never too young or too old
But perhaps its biggest achievement is discovering the exact financial knowledge that people need help with. For example, who would have thought that many parents in different communities still need help understanding concepts like interest? Reaching everyone from students to teachers, senior citizens to small children, laborers and fishermen, to its very own employees, Home Credit has definitely widened the program’s reach. It has even visited the Armed Forces of the Philippines recently to teach financial literacy to men and women in uniform.
“For us, financial literacy shouldn’t be limited to a certain age or group. You can never be too young or old to learn how to handle your money,” explains Witschard. “And it’s not just these far-flung communities that need help. For example, we learned that some of our employees need a little money guidance here and there which, I think, really shows that everybody can benefit from the program.”
To reach even more people, the Juan, Two, Three campaign is tapping as many channels as possible. Other than its financial literacy events, Home Credit has also given out flyers about financial basics to customers, and reached more than 20 million people through various media appearances. HCPH also regularly posts money advice and other tips on its social media channels.
At the rate that the campaign is going, the big question is, “What’s the next step?” Witschard shares that they are setting their sights on including technology in the conversation. “Our services are becoming more digital than ever, so for us that means teaching not only money basics but also technology basics. We want everyone to understand how to use technology in handling their finances.”
This is perfectly aligned with Home Credit’s goal to be an all-around financial tool for all types of shoppers. The company, which already has a solid nationwide presence in stores and malls, is continuing to beef up its mobile app to serve its customers online. The company now has a customer base of 4.5 million Filipinos, with the My Home Credit app in the phones of more than 1.5 million users and counting.
“There’s a lot that we still need to do,” Witschard says. “But with each small step we take, we get closer to our goal. And where better to begin than with Juan, Two, Three.”