#PRAwards 2021 highlight: RHB SG banks on internal comms to drive financial literacy

Financial literacy is crucial and it is even more important to start consumers young and equip them with the right skills to make sound financial decisions for their future. Recognising the need to do so, especially for low-income families, RHB Singapore created the RHB Financial Literacy Programme which impressed the judges and bagged gold for Best PR by an In-House Communications Team at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's PR Awards 2021. Here's a look at how the team worked its way to success.

Challenge

Financial decisions can oftentimes be made inappropriately as a result of social pressures. It could also go undetected until social assistance is sought. One of the fundamental underlying factors that could lead to poverty is poor financial literacy that traps individuals into making poor financial decisions. The implications of poverty are long-term and may not manifest until adulthood. Compounded by the fact that most Singaporean children and youths do not typically receive formal financial literacy education to put it to good practice, RHB Singapore saw it as a challenge for the bank to extend its institutional expertise and knowledge to the community to improve their understanding, equip them with the right skills and change their mindset when it comes to making sound financial decisions at any point in time throughout their lives, despite the onset of other complexities.

In 2017, the bank consolidated and revamped its CSR initiatives. This led the internal communications team to launch the inaugural edition of its RHB Financial Literacy Programme to equip children of underprivileged, low-income families with basic financial knowledge and management skills. The programme aims to have a long-lasting impact in enriching and empowering the community while promoting holistic development.

According to the bank, the programme started small, with minimal budget and resources, requiring the in-house communications team to be creative in finding ways to raise funds. The team also engaged all stakeholders - the family care centre partners, participants and RHB employees - to build and strengthen awareness and to rally support. Objectives, benefits and desired outcome were regularly communicated to garner donations, and anchor support and buy-in to enable the initiative to grow and be sustainable.

In 2019, its once-a-year financial literacy programme grew to twice a year - once in July and the other in November. As the internal communications team anchored RHB as a bank that cares for the underprivileged group, it also gained traction and recognition among the community and the family care centres that support them. Last year, despite the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, RHB Singapore took to phase three of the programme online and successfully completed a continuation of the programme with another run in November.

Strategy

RHB has been working with Cornerstone, an official Singapore licensee of MoneyTree Asia Pacific, to conduct the programme since the inaugural edition in 2017. Building on the success of the 2017, 2018, and 2019 editions, the RHB internal communications team grew the programme from an annual event to a bi-annual one in 2019, and furthered it by going digital with the pandemic in 2020.

The bank assigned approximately US$1,000 for the programme as token support of its wider Touch Hearts initiative. However, the amount was insufficient to meaningfully organise an effective and sustainable programme for the Singapore team. This led to the internal communications team strategising multiple ways to raise funds for the programme and partner stakeholders.

To encourage participation from the underprivileged community, as well as donations from RHB employees, key objectives of the initiatives were effectively and continuously communicated to relevant stakeholders.

1. Family care centres and participants

For the 2019 and 2020 editions of the programme, RHB partnered with local grassroots centres including Care Corner Family Services, Fei Yue Family Services & Whispering Hearts Family Service Centre. Each grassroots centre and its social workers serve as key liaisons for the youths. Direct contact with the centres was essential to build trusted and long-term relations with them.

2. RHB management, employees and volunteers

The team took additional efforts to introduce more fundraising activities and boost engagement of all RHB staff so that they are adequately aware of the RHB Financial Literacy Programme. Apart from the ice cream sale fundraising day and donation drive, staff members were encouraged to volunteer their time during the programme run itself. RHB's branches were also involved in managing the account opening for participants.

3. Communications key messages and channels

For internal communications, RHB relied on Workplace by Facebook, face-to-face rallies, emails, and management meetings to push its message. The main internal message was: "We believe in teaching children good money habits one step at a time, as it is a gift that will pay off for the rest of their lives."

It also deployed fundraising activities and donation drives to raise awareness and spur participation.

On the external front, RHB targeted grassroots partners and parents with face-to-face dialogues, emails, and letters. Through the financial literacy programme, it aimed to empower youths with a strong foundation of financial literacy and continuously provide support to build a brighter future.

Execution

The execution and success of the three-phased programme hinged on the strong support from grassroots partners in organising participants, and the in-house team to strategise ways to raise funds making a small budget work and administering the necessary paperwork involved in bank account openings.

To supplement the token amount from RHB Group, the in-house communications team conceived ways to raise funds internally. In 2019, in addition to the annual donation drive, the team also introduced an ice-cream sale to boost its fund pool.

At ground level, the team also received management buy-in and assistance of staff volunteers for pre, onsite and post programme execution. The frequent dialogues between the internal communications team and programme provider ensured that the content was relevant, engaging and useful for participants.

1. Fundraising activities and awareness

The team rallied employees staff participation by sending out frequent internal communications about the programme to all RHB Singapore staff to support the programme during the physical phase. These included supporting the ice cream sale, garnering donations, and encouraging staff members to sign up as a volunteer during the event to mingle with the children.

2. Dialogue with grassroots partners and content providers

RHB tied up with family care centres to explain the objectives and intentions of the programme to reach out to low-income families under their support. The bank also sought the centres' assistance in reaching out to these families, encouraging them to participate and explaining how the programme will benefit families under their face.

Additionally, it also made the programme's registration process seamless by getting RHB relationship managers to guide participants through features and the opening of an RHB junior banker account. The internal communications team also followed through closely with 2019 participants in coming back for the 2020 continuation module.

At the same time, the team also rolled out a specially tailored financial literacy programme. It worked with an experienced vendor that provides financial literacy programmes to MOE schools and customised a comprehensive syllabus for two groups of participants - new participants and returning ones.

Special care was taken to ensure that the programme featured a high level of activity and fun, yet remained sensitive about financial issues that the children are facing with their families. The internal communications team also designed a feedback form to gather feedback from participants to identify areas of improvement, if any, for future runs.

3. Onsite and online - two physical phases, one online phase

The earlier phases of the programme were held at Suntec Convention as it offered a conducive learning environment for a bigger group of individuals. The event registration was managed by RHB volunteers, who along with the RHB CEO, country head, and internal communications team, interacted with the participants and family care centre personnel. The bank tried to make the online sessions engaging and relevant by incorporating problem-based examples.

4. RHB junior banker account opening, fund deposit and passbook collection

Post-event, RHB launched personalised callbacks by branches and the internal communications team to parents of participants who needed more assistance in opening their bank accounts. It also arranged for passbook collection at the branches of their convenience. At the same time, RHB also updated grassroots organisations on the final amount credited to each child's bank account and gathered feedback and comments on all runs.

Results

To date, the RHB Financial Literacy Programme has garnered SG$36,360 in donations benefiting 171 children and youths. A total of 108 accounts were opened and each participant received SG$248.50 in their bank account. Also, 60% of participants had deposited more funds or maintained their balance since the account was opened.

From a long term point of view, RHB said the CSR and business perspectives phase three module of the programme ensured continuation and sustainability. The bank motivated and provided support to build strong financial knowledge and a better future for underprivileged children and youth in Singapore.

As part of the programme, participants are eligible to receive funds deposited into their RHB junior banker account, which serves as a head start to their savings journey and hopefully grow with them into their adulthood. RHB hopes that this is the starting point of its relationship with the children and that they will continue banking with the bank.

From the feedbacks collected at the end of the programme, RHB noticed the majority of participants rated the event highly and found the content useful and applicable to them. The feedback from the grassroots organisations was also positive, thanking RHB for the opportunity offered to the participants.

According to RHB, the success of this programme, after three editions, paves the way for the upcoming ones in 2021 and beyond, where it is able to sustain its efforts to help grow the children's financial literacy journey. It also forged close partnerships with the family care centres and among the underprivileged community, establishing RHB as a bank the cares about their well-being and future. Slowly but surely, it hopes to build the programme and make a difference to the underprivileged community by empowering them with a solid financial management foundation.