Italy. Financial illiteracy reigns

By Marco Marcocci – President of Associazione Migranti e Banche
Italians, when sipping their coffees at the bar, especially on Mondays morning, are a treasury of knowledge. Aside from football, where they shows their best performances, we are masters of any topic, from sports to cooking, from politics to international affairs, and so on. There is one issue, however, we lack any competences about and when asked we almost always say nonsense. This is finance, the only real bugbear of Italians who, between stocks, bonds and spreads risk their savings by investing them blindly.
Italy ranked at last positions for financial literacy 
Ignorance of our people in financial matters is proven and well known also worldwide: the World Competitiveness Index ranks Italy 44th place for financial education dissemination and last among the G8 countries. Standard & Poor’s, in a survey conducted worldwide in 2014 in collaboration with Gallup, World Bank and Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center, quantified only 37% of Italian adults had a reasonable level of financial knowledge. Financial illiteracy is also is spread among our children. The PISA survey (Programme for International Student Assessment), promoted a few years ago by the OECD, involving 30 thousand fifteen years old in 18 countries highlighted that Italians students were below average. To worsen the already dark situation, the 2016 CONSOB report on the investment choices of Italian families show many gaps of the Italians in the issue. The report, among other things, reports that 20% of those interviewed are not familiar with any financial instrument, and that 8% of investors do not know where their money has been invested.
Here comes the bill on financial education
In recent times, however, to the issue of financial literacy has been given proper weight in the Italian Institutions. There is, in fact, in the Senate a bill (No. 1196) entitled “Norms on economic citizenship”, in which financial education is considered “an instrument for the development of knowledge, skills, attitudes and competences”. All those ingredients, once being part of our baggage, should prevent – or at least warn us – against the risks posed by financial instruments such as Argentinians bond, or subordinated bond of Banca Etruria, which destroyed the savings of many. It’s time to start then, and quickly, to promote financial literacy in schools, at the workplace, on television, on social networks and in any environment where it is easy to reach, with simple and clear concepts notions, the famous “simple” man (and woman). Some initiatives for students and adults are already there. A mapping, done on the second half of 2015 coordinated by the Fondazione Rosselli, in collaboration with the Bank of Italy and others, has identified more than 250 entities as promoters of financial education courses in Italy.
Financial education starts at school
The training is delivered in various ways, from the traditional class in a room to publications structured in such a way as to be attractive to young and very young people. And exactly children are the public to which is directed the book “Tales and Money“, promoted by of the Foundation for Financial Education and Saving (Feduf) together with the Association FarEconomia and the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart. The bookaims to teach how to save money and basics of the economy with the involvement of teachers and parents.
Banks and education to saving 

The importance of financial education is also underlined by many banks. For example BNL (BNP – Paribas) offers a wide range of courses for families, businesses, students and sport-persons (the latter done in collaboration with CONI) called EduCare. Particularly interesting is “Family Millesogni” a story used to talk about saving, economy and investments to primary school children. Financial education in school started in 2007 when the Ministry of Education and the Bank of Italy signed a Memorandum of Understanding “for the start up of an experimental training programs on economic and financial training in some sample schools”

Looking for a national strategy

The world of credit cooperatives is particularly sensitive to financial education and there are many initiatives in this direction undertaken in the area. For example, the BCC Banca della Maremma, in collaboration with the Prefecture of Grosseto, organized a training on financial education for refugees. Another initiative is ORIZZONTI.TV, the web television of FederLUS (Federation of Cooperative Credit Banks of Lazio, Umbria, Sardinia) that started as a project for financial literacy. The Voluntary Association Migrants and Banks proposes  classrooms during which professional of the credit sector explain bank products and services to migrants. The list of existing initiatives on financial education goes on and on, but the need for a national strategy, as many other European countries already did, is urgent in order to make it more effective and more useful.

Article published on the AziendaBanca magazine in October 2016