A 2017 financial planning attitudes survey commissioned by Singapore's MoneySense Council found that Singaporeans generally understand what it takes to be financially healthy, but knowledge does not necessarily translate to action. DBS Bank's follow-up data study found that Singapore tertiary students only had enough emergency savings to last them 1 week to 2 months on average. In particular, students from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), a public vocational education institution that has a higher proportion of individuals from lower-income families, had less emergency savings compared to other tertiary students. 70% of ITE students rely on financial aid or scholarships to pay for their education, as many come from financially challenged backgrounds. Their lack of emergency savings makes them vulnerable, especially during economic downturns like we the one we currently find ourselves in owing to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In 2019, DBS Bank and ITE jointly developed a financial literacy and money management curriculum. Apart from imparting money management knowledge, the emphasis was to also tackle students’ inertia towards adopting good financial habits. DBS contributed our data analytics and digital capabilities, as well as financial expertise, in designing the financial literacy curriculum. The objective: to create a data-driven culture, and help students improve their financial health through concrete actions like setting budgets, monitoring spending, and setting life goals.
We defined success as:
LEVERAGING DATA AND DIGITAL TOOLS TO ENHANCE EDUCATION
DBS Bank partnered ITE by providing data insights, and embedding digital tools and data-informed examples/scenarios into the existing financial literacy lessons to contextualise learning.
STUDENT COHORT LEVEL DATA TO IDENTIFY GAPS AND INFORM CURRICULUM
We leveraged data insights from the aggregated student cohort to better understand their financial behaviour. With ITE, we then formed a set of success metrices and designed the curriculum to achieve targeted goals.
For example, we found opportunities for more judicious spending gleaned from data insights on the students' spending habits, and integrated practical examples and real-life scenarios familiar to them into the lessons for relatability.
Data is periodically refreshed to gauge the students' progress as they learn, and is used to assess the effectiveness of the curriculum and illuminate areas for fine-tuning or re-design.
PERSONALISED DATA AND DIGTIAL TOOLS TO CONTEXTUALISE LESSONS FOR STUDENTS
To enable students to better understand their personal financial position such as cashflow, and take action to set/track budgets and monitor their savings, a lesson was added to introduce them to digital financial tools. They learnt about DBS NAV Planner – Singapore’s first holistic digital financial advisor, available for free. Students can see their own financial data automatically organised in dashboards with “next best action” prompts.
The use of such digital tools contextualised the learning experience for each student with their personal financial insights alongside the learning of financial concepts and actions to take. Being digital natives, it also exposed them to digital financial tools they can easily adopt to better manage their finances.
See uploaded Image 1: NAV Planner sample screen showing cashflow breakdown. Students refer to their own screens during lessons for a contextualised learning experience.
Through immersion sessions, we found that most ITE students learn better by doing. The curriculum gave students hands-on practice, supplemented with theoretical lessons. For example, when learning about budgeting, they were encouraged to use NAV Planner to examine their spending habits, then set a budget to manage their spending. When learning about emergency savings, they could use NAV Planner to track how many months of emergency savings they have, and understand how that number is derived so they can take steps to improve it.
Financial literacy courses in tertiary schools typically impart theoretical concepts but stop short of helping students apply these concepts to their own financial situations. DBS' partnership with ITE is unique as students are exposed to real data insights on their personal financial position and habits, and are encouraged to hands-on learning where they can put what they have learnt into action through digital tools.
The curriculum was piloted with 10,000 ITE students last year and expanded to all 27,000 ITE students this year.
We gauged that our curriculum has been a success based on the following:
Students reported that they were saving 80% more on average after exposure to the curriculum. It shows the curriculum has helped educate and empower students to save more.
In an average cohort, the number of students reporting monthly savings increases by about 10% after exposure to the curriclum. 5 in 10 report a positive net cashflow position monthly, compared to 3.5 in 10 pre-curriclum exposure. Compared to peers from other tertiary schools exposed to similar financial literacy courses, this improvement is 5 times more.
10% year-on-year increase in usage of NAV Planner, where 1 in 3 students continue to use NAV Planner post-curriculum.
Of about 2,500 students surveyed, many said they benefitted from learning with digital tools and data insights, and are taking action to improve their financial positions:
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