The World Bank Board of Executive Directors today approved a US$25 million loan for the Financial Education and Financial Literacy Project for the Russian Federation. This innovative Project will assist the Russian Government in its continued efforts to improve the financial literacy of Russian citizens and their protection as financial consumers.
Rather than higher income households and more sophisticated financial products and services, the target group for the Project is the public-at-large, with an emphasis on school and college students, future consumers of financial services, and potentially active low- and middle-income consumers of basic financial services. The Project will establish access to critical financial information presented in a simple manner and with extensive use of the modern technologies, and will help people in making informed decisions regarding personal finance and protecting their rights on the financial market place. The Project would be implemented by both the national and regional governments.
The global financial crisis had triggered demand for better public information and services to consumers all around the world. The Russia initiative in spearheading a systemic approach to create capacity for financial education and financial consumer protection would offer valuable lessons, especially to developing countries.
The Project is the first World Bank investment operation supporting financial literacy and consumer financial protection in the same operation”, said Pedro Alba, World Bank Country Director for Russia. “It cuts across education, social protection, financial supervision, and consumer protection in financial services, which are individual areas that are extensively supported by various World Bank operations. In the long run, the Project will contribute to improving Russian citizens’ prudent financial behavior and responsible participation in financial services markets, and their more effective protection as consumers of financial services.”
Financial literacy is the ability to make informed decisions about the use and management of one’s financial resources. Financial education is a process to help financial consumers improve their understanding of financial products and concepts, and by obtaining information, instruction and/or objective advice, develop their skills and confidence to become more aware of financial risks and opportunities, make informed choices, know where to go for help, and take other effective actions to improve their financial well-being. Thereby, development and implementation of educational programs and public information campaigns, and the scaling up of on-going Government initiatives to foster financial literacy of the Russian citizens, at both national and regional levels, comprise the core of the Project.
Improved financial literacy yields results only in combination with effective consumer protection. Therefore, among its priority actions, the Project will engage in strengthening the internal capacity of the Consumer Protection Service. It will also work with professional associations and civil society at both federal and regional levels through, for example, the co-financing of sound financial literacy and consumer protection initiatives and programs developed by these two groups.
The Project builds on extensive diagnostic work in Russia on consumer financial protection and a financial literacy survey, which in turn draw on comparative experience in OECD countries. It also builds on a solid track record of lending to the education sector in Russia. Nevertheless, as many of the activities are innovative, the Project design incorporates a phased approach with initial pilots, frequent surveys, and wider dissemination of the successful practices.
The first phase will include activities that can be quickly rolled out (“early wins”), focus on pilots that generate know-how, and develop basic capacity for financial education and consumer protection primarily in banking and credit. During the second phase, the Project would support the scaling up of financial education programs which proved to be successful during the first phase, and the expansion of consumer protection activities to other financial products and sectors.
Total financing of the Project is US$ 113 million, of which the Government of the Russian Federation co-finances US$ 88 million from its own resources. The IBRD will provide a US$ 25 million flexible loan with an interest rate equal to 6 months Libor, plus variable spread, with final maturity of 14 years including a grace period of 5 years.
Improving financial literacy and consumer protection in financial services is a priority of the Russian Government as the share of the country’s population that saves sufficiently for the future, plans regularly for important lifetime expenditures, and participates in basic financial services, such as bank account, is insufficient. In 2006, Russia – during its G-8 Chairmanship – put financial education on the global agenda. Before the 1990s, Russia’s population had limited access to only a few financial services provided by State organizations. During the early 2000s, the financial industry in Russia expanded, following positive trends in economic growth and reforms in the financial and social sectors. Population’s incomes and savings increased, but its financial literacy did not follow accordingly.
After the 2008 global financial crisis, the demand for consumer protection and financial literacy programs increased since individuals fear that they would not be protected adequately as financial services consumers. The nationwide financial literacy survey conducted in June 2008 showed that financial literacy of the Russian citizens remained low. The survey indicated that up to 40 percent of the population still believes that the Government would compensate for financial losses associated with their personal investments.
U.S. inauguration turns poet Amanda Gorman into best seller
WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The president’s poet woke up a superstar on Thursday, after a powerful reading at the U.S. inauguration catapulted 22-year-old Amanda Gorman to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list.
Hours after Gorman’s electric performance at the swearing-in of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, her two books – neither out yet – topped Amazon.com’s sales list.
“I AM ON THE FLOOR MY BOOKS ARE #1 & #2 ON AMAZON AFTER 1 DAY!” Gorman, a Los Angeles resident, wrote on Twitter.
Gorman’s debut poetry collection ‘The Hill We Climb’ won top spot in the online retail giant’s sale charts, closely followed by her upcoming ‘Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem’.
While poetry’s popularity is on the up, it remains a niche market and the overnight adulation clearly caught Gorman short.
“Thank you so much to everyone for supporting me and my words. As Yeats put it: ‘For words alone are certain good: Sing, then’.”
Gorman, the youngest poet in U.S. history to mark the transition of presidential power, offered a hopeful vision for a deeply divided country in Wednesday’s rendition.
“Being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it,” Gorman said on the steps of the U.S. Capitol two weeks after a mob laid siege and following a year of global protests for racial justice.
“We will not march back to what was. We move to what shall be, a country that is bruised, but whole. Benevolent, but bold. Fierce and free.”
The performance stirred instant acclaim, with praise from across the country and political spectrum, from the Republican-backing Lincoln Project to former President Barack Obama.
“Wasn’t @TheAmandaGorman’s poem just stunning? She’s promised to run for president in 2036 and I for one can’t wait,” tweeted former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
A graduate of Harvard University, Gorman says she overcame a speech impediment in her youth and became the first U.S. National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017.
She has now joined the ranks of august inaugural poets such as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.
Her social media reach boomed, with her tens of thousands of followers ballooning into a Twitter fan base of a million-plus.
“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I,” tweeted TV host Oprah Winfrey.
Gorman’s books are both due out in September.
Third on Amazon’s best selling list was another picture book linked to politics and projecting hope: ‘Ambitious Girl’ by Vice-President Kamala Harris’ niece, Meena Harris.
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
Why brands harnessing the power of digital are winning in this evolving business landscape
By Justin Pike, Founder and Chairman, MYPINPAD
Delivery of intuitive, secure, personalised, and frictionless user experiences has long been table stakes in digital commerce, well before the era of COVID-19. As businesses harness the revolutionary power of digital technologies, they have pursued large-scale change to adapt to evolving consumer preferences (some more successfully than others, but that’s a blog for another day). Digital transformation is a term we hear repeatedly, and it looks different for each organisation, but essentially, it’s about utilising technology and data to digitise, automate, innovate and improve processes and the customer experience across the entire business.
As I said, this was already well underway but then came 2020 and no industry escaped the disruption of the coronavirus outbreak, which has had an indelible impact on businesses performance, operations, and revenue. Regardless of whether the impact of COVID has been very positive or very challenging, it has forced organisations globally to re-evaluate and re-orient strategies to adapt.
As lockdowns and pandemic-related restrictions continue to change daily life, this raises the question of how we can balance a dramatic shift to digital and the benefits it brings, while ensuring business continuity and innovation both during and post-COVID, and protecting everyone against fraud?
Digital is an essential survival tool, and even more so in a COVID world
No one could have predicted the dramatic digital pivot that has taken place over this year. Indeed, within weeks of the COVID outbreak cash usage in the UK dropped by around 50%. Digital solutions including delivery applications, contactless payments, mobile commerce, online and mobile banking have become essential components of a touchless customer experience in the era of social distancing. It’s no longer just about an enhanced and superior customer experience, it’s also about health, safety and survival.
In store, businesses have benefited from contactless payments enabling faster throughput and reduced need for consumers to touch payment terminals (therefore requiring greater cleaning, which degrades the hardware much faster). Mastercard reported a 40% increase in contactless payments – including tap-to-pay and mobile pay – during the first quarter of the year as the global pandemic worsened. Digital has also become an essential sales channel for many B2C brands. Where brick and mortar stores have been required to close, digital commerce enables continuity of customer relationships and revenue. This channel also provides brands with rich customer data, which can be used to enhance and personalise the customer experience and typically results in greater levels of engagement and uplifts in revenue.
Industry forecasts estimate that worldwide spending on the technologies and services enabling digital transformation will reach GBP 1.8 trillion in 2023 – a clear indication that the process represents a long-term investment and a global commitment to digital-first strategy. The key point here is that digital brings significant benefits, and regardless of COVID, is here to stay.
The challenges that rapid digital transformation brings to businesses
Regardless of whether businesses are operating in developed or less-developed economies, these times of crisis have levelled the playing field in the sense that all businesses are facing similar issues. Access to products and supplies, maintaining customer relationships, accelerating sales for some and declining sales for others, health and hygiene are just a few of the unique challenges brought about by COVID.
Many businesses in physical environments have had to swiftly implement changes to significantly reduce safety risks for staff and customers, such as contactless payments, mobile ordering and delivery options. But with these changes come a host of other benefits of digitisation, such as faster transactions, and reduced human error at the point-of-sale.
The reliance on technology, however, can also expose organisations and consumers to certain vulnerabilities. In particular, the risks of fraud and cybercrime have dramatically increased since the onset of the pandemic as scammers have taken advantage of digital technologies to target both businesses and individuals.
As a McKinsey report illustrates, new levels of sophistication in the activities of fraudsters have placed more pressure on companies that have been previously slow to go digital, bringing “into sharp relief how vulnerable companies really are”, and damaging the financial health of small and large businesses. In fact, the Bottomline 2020 Business Payments Barometer reveals that only one in 10 small businesses across the UK report recovering more than 50% of losses due to fraud.
But take these stats with a grain of salt. While it is important to be aware of the risks and challenges this new business landscape brings, it’s equally as important to have a lens firmly across your own business, industry and audience, and to identify the changes you can make internally to mitigate risk as well as improve your customer experience. Where can you make some quick wins? Do you have the right skillsets internally to achieve what you need to achieve? What technology is out there that will enable your business goals? There are tech companies like MYPINPAD that are making huge strides in software development, which will transform businesses globally.
A digital world post-COVID
Almost a year in, the line between business success and failure remains fragile. However, an ongoing transition towards greater digitisation will be the difference between survival and the alternative.
There is a wide range of initiatives businesses can implement to weather this storm. If we look at the space MYPINPAD operates within, secure digital consumer authentication is crucial to the ongoing success and security of not only financial products but also identification and verification across a range of different industry verticals. Shifting the authentication of consumers securely onto mobile devices enables businesses to completely reshape their customer experiences. By bringing together a more seamless, frictionless customer experience, accessibility, privacy, security and access to consumer data, businesses are able to drive digital transformation across day-to-day activities.
Against this backdrop, software with stronger security standards continue to play an ever more vital role in supporting society, protecting consumers and businesses from the increase in risks that rapid digitisation brings. Already, merchants can deploy PIN on Mobile technology from companies like MYPINPAD, onto their smart devices to speed up the digitisation process many are now tackling.
Essentially, opening up universal payments and authentication methods that feel familiar, for both online and face-to-face transactions, will be key to opening up a world of possibilities when it comes to redefining how businesses engage with consumers.
Brexit responsible for food supply problems in Northern Ireland, Ireland says
LONDON (Reuters) – Food supply problems in Northern Ireland are due to Brexit because there are now a certain amount of checks on goods going between Britain and Northern Ireland, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said.
British ministers have sought to play down the disruption of Brexit in recent days.
“The supermarket shelves were full before Christmas and there are some issues now in terms of supply chains and so that’s clearly a Brexit issue,” Coveney told ITV.
The Northern Irish protocol means there are “a certain amount of checks on goods coming from GB into Northern Ireland and that involves some disruption,” he said.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Tom Hogue)
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