#SBSStudents: Suffolk Business School Helping to Improve Financial Literacy

By Dr Atul K. Shah

Finance today is a complex arena, and sadly there have been far too many experiences of fraud and deception such that a majority of ordinary people are fearful and have lost trust in experts like bankers, lawyers and accountants. Here at the Suffolk Business School, we have been very concerned about the ethics of finance education, and have always tried to help our student experience by organising field trips and inviting visiting speakers. Here are some examples:

We took the initiative to contact Ipswich Citizens Advice Bureau to help our students to understand the kinds of finance challenges people faced, and how the CAB tries to advise and support. We were welcomed by their Deputy Manager, Nelleke van Helfteren. They ran a workshop for the students explaining the services they provide, how they help people with a range of problems, debt being the most common, and she also ran some interactive quizzes for them. The whole visit was a huge eye-opener, as modern finance textbooks used in business schools say nothing about personal finance and the huge problems of financial fraud and financial illiteracy. By default, they prove that the lives of the ordinary and the marginal are irrelevant for the study of ‘high finance’ – the highly technical, complex and fraudulent variety which sadly prevails today.

Two of our students, Kameliya Yankov and Teodor Georgiev were so impressed that they have applied to be volunteers at the CAB. We are following up the visit by setting a class assignment for them to reflect on the experience and what they learnt from it.

Here is what Nelleke van Helfteren, Deputy Manager of the Ipswich CAB said to me:

“It was such a delight to meet your students and I found it very stimulating to look at our service through the eyes of Finance and Accounting students and to paint a picture of what money means to many of our clients. It is so important for people working in the financial sector to understand how our personal finances feed into so many aspects of our lives – health, relationships, housing, employment to name but a few. The evidence that we gather in the course of our advice work demonstrates this very clearly.

It would be great to meet you and talk about how we can work together in the future to ensure your students at many levels are well-educated in the impact of finance on individuals going about their everyday lives.”

We were very impressed by the service the Ipswich CAB provides free of charge, and the quality of their training and management. They also seemed very cost-efficient, proving that businesses are not the only efficient organisations on the planet – in fact charities can be even more efficient. Above all, we found their ‘holistic’ approach, which tries to engage with the whole person, very synonymous with our approach to finance education here. Like them, we too respect the students as whole beings.

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