Jane is a domestic worker in the city of Nairobi. She’s in her middle ages and has been in the same employment for the past ten years. Her husband passed away five years ago leaving her with four hungry mouths with her eldest just about to start her secondary school education. She has been enjoying the benefits of free primary education but now she is concerned that she will not be able to raise the school fees for her daughter.
Three months ago a sales lady from a local bank visited their local church and advised her to open a bank account so that she could better manage her finances. She did so and deposited the little money that she had started to put aside towards her daughters’ school fees. A month later she went to the bank to make another deposit and in the process discovered that the amount she had initially deposited had shrunk by a thousand shillings.
‘’What happened to my money?’’ She fumed at the bank teller. ‘’My husband always told me never to trust banks. Now I see that he was right.’’
The teller seeing that Jane was clearly upset, tried to calm her and asked her questions about her motivations for opening the account.
Jane, amidst sobs, told her all about her daughter and how she was trying to save some money to take her to school in the coming year.
The teller then informed her that what she needed to do was open a savings account. She had opened a current account that had attracted a monthly charge which had reduced her bank balance.
‘’You mean with a savings account I can earn more money the more I deposit?’’ she asked
‘’Yes, indeed!’’ Said the teller. ‘’In fact the more you deposit with us the more you will be able to withdraw when the time comes to pay the school fees.’’
Although she was upset about losing some of her money, she left the bank more determined to save enough for her daughter’s school fees. She decided to increase her monthly deposit and asked for extra working hours from her boss so that she could earn a few more shilling to deposit in her bank account.
Twelve months later when her daughter was due to report for her first day of Secondary school, Jane had saved up enough to pay the fees for the first year of school. She was so ecstatic that she was sure she could do the same thing every year until her daughter completed her Secondary School education.
There are probably thousands of other ‘Janes’ suffering the same fate due to the lack of proper financial education. In a 2016 paper on financial education for women, OECD recommended that when implementing financial education programs institutions should identify specific teachable moments to instill financial literacy concepts such as savings and interest as well as identification of the appropriate financial products. This is the kind of education that Jane needed at the point of opening her first bank account but she didn’t get it.
What role can financial institutions play in assisting the consumers to access the right products?