Saturday, April 24

SIFE Financial Literacy Awards

Over the past few months, I have been working as a business advisor to a newbie team from the London School of Economics who have developed a trading game for school kids. This is under the SIFE programme, or Students In Free Enterprise which is sponsored, besides other firms, by my firm as well. While the teams are basically off to do good things to encourage enterprise, my firm sponsors a prize for the best financial literacy programme. As it so happens, I volunteered to be a judge at the financial literacy programme judgement.

There were a total of about 16 odd teams who had applied, then the SIFE management did a first cut of them to bring them down to 11 and then another cut down to 5. These teams were then put forward to a group of bankers who were the judges. (I obviously recused myself from the LSE presentation)

I sat there and was listening to the students who have actually delivered a variety of programmes. Some examples:

1. Working with entrepreneurs and small firms in distress to improve their financial management of their businesses

2. Working with micro lending firms in Ghana, Philippines, India, Bangladesh etc. to improve their handling of their finances and that of their clients. A great example came of their work when the typhoon struck the Philippines and devastated one of the groups that the micro lender was helping. But because they had savings and some idea of cashflow management and assets, they could recover from the disaster and were back in business chop chop. Now that’s making a real difference.

3. Immigrants / asylum seekers and refugees who are waiting for processing are stuck in tower blocks, with nothing to do, cant do jobs, in damn near poverty levels. So this university teacher got together, gave them financial management teaching, helped them setup a baking and cooking business and the women have started to generate up to £100-200 per sale in profit. Small numbers, but great work. This will help regenerate the area, create a community around these women and are also creating an international cook book. Fascinating idea, eh?

4. Several projects related to teaching kids on how to setup their own businesses, such as creating jewellery out of recycled materials and then sell them at school fairs.

5. A team was training kids on demand and supply, how trading works and got them all excited about this.

6. Getting chemistry students to create drugs and then bring in Glaxo and Kings College London (my current alma mater) to assist in show how that drug can be commercialised. Now that’s a brilliant idea, no? take chemistry students from the technical to the business to the commercial. Now if that isn't going to encourage entrepreneurship and value addition, then what is?

This is all being done by students in the undergraduate degree courses. And they are doing stuff that adults are not. They have the passion, I loved to see the determination and happiness and dedication and enthusiasm shining from their eyes. Based on the back of a fag pack, just these 5 teams that I saw have made a difference, a real tangible difference to about 10k people around the world. Now that’s creditable.

Also I am very chuffed that the LSE team was recognised as the best team :), very happy for them, those boys and girls did very well, very impressed. Here are some stats from this report.

Through the HSBC Financial Literacy Programme, SIFE teams apply for grants ranging from $250 to $1000 to help fund projects of their own creation that stimulate economic opportunity by helping others develop the personal financial management skills necessary to achieve financial independence. 

  • More than 1,506 grants awarded.
  • 2,202 projects completed.
  • 25,250 college students participated.
  • HSBC contributed more than $3 million to SIFE and to support teams' efforts.
  • In 2009, HSBC disbursed 287 grants to college teams.

All in all, I am very proud of these kids. They are doing something for their community. Not sitting back and just wasting time on beer or what have you. Making the world a better place. I speak to so many kids and students in my career. Very few actually have the gumption, courage and determination to succeed. Having a social or charitable conscience usually means that they are going to be good employees or great friends. And it is not difficult at all, its quite easy to help. So my plans are to see if we can help other universities and actually try to increase the coverage as well as the depth of offerings to actually reach out to more people (both here in the UK and in India)

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