A Message from Dennis White, President & CEO, MetLife Foundation
MetLife Foundation believes in the power of quality financial services. Whether it is families trying to build savings for the future or an entrepreneur seeking working capital, whether the need involves a long-range plan for retirement or just better ways to manage day-to-day finances, everyone needs access to the right financial tools to pursue more from life. That core belief in the power of financial services has shaped MetLife’s business since our founding in 1868. And in 2013, that same belief inspired MetLife Foundation’s new focus on financial inclusion – our commitment to ensuring that low-income households and business have convenient access to a full suite of quality, affordable financial services, delivered by trustworthy providers with respect for the customer.
Hundreds of millions of families in developing countries lack access to formal financial services of any kind. In the industrialized world, major disparities, often along ethnic, gender, or socioeconomic class lines, exist around access to financial services, the quality of those services—and people’s understanding about how to use finance responsibly and effectively. As a foundation sponsored by a global leader in financial services, MetLife Foundation is committed to advancing financial inclusion in every country where MetLife works. We are investing $200 million in pursuit of that mission. We are partnering with grantee organizations ranging from major multinational policy centers to local grassroots service providers. And we are committed to sharing what we learn with the financial inclusion community and the interested public.
Almost 150 years after MetLife became the first to offer “working man’s” life insurance coverage in North America, MetLife Foundation is proud now to pursue a global strategy motivated by that same commitment to financial inclusion and innovation. On behalf of MetLife and the Foundation team, thank you for your interest and support of our work.
A. Dennis White
Financial Inclusion: From Theory into Action
The major goal for financial inclusion is to Increase the number of people able to make smart financial choices. There are many and varied ways to work towards this goal, and it is easy to understand why financial education training would be among the most popular. Financial education training projects are easily quantifiable (people attending a class), and easily standardized (pre- vs post-training scores). It is important to remember, though, that on the measures that matter most – actual outcomes—the task becomes more complex. Improved credit scores, increased household savings, decreased late-payments for bills, reduced stress, etc. – it is costly and time-consuming to collect and verify that kind of data for each person who attends a training. Even self-reported data (asking training class attendees) demonstrates that people seldom leave a classroom training and then independently achieve their savings, debt-reduction or budgeting goals. Knowing does not automatically translate into doing.
Instead, low-income people like everyone else often need some additional incentives – an automatic deduction from their paycheck to a savings account, a text-message reminder to make bill payments, encouragement from a coach (or, increasingly a ”virtual coach” app)—to stay on track. Like going to the gym, “financial fitness” requires some long-term dedication from the client and provider institution. Therefore, MetLife Foundation’s approach stresses both customer and institution. We support programs that build individuals’ financial capability and programs that build the capacity of institutions to serve them well.
Our grant-making does include projects that deliver traditional financial education training, particularly for young people (such as our grants to the Girl Scouts/Girl Guides, the MetLife LifeChangers program and other Junior Achievement programs). But for projects aimed at low-income adults, MetLife Foundation seeks out approaches that include clear pathways to put knowledge into practice, and measurement that demonstrates achievement of financial goals. Our grants to the International Rescue Committee, the Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, and the Center for Community Self-Help all involve work to combine individualized financial coaching with access to and use of affordable products and services.
MetLife Foundation looks forward to learning from and sharing what our partners are doing with the rest of the financial inclusion community.