More than Just a Piggybank? Financial Products and Services for Children

UNICEF, Children and Youth Finance International

Upon first glance it may be difficult to discern why children need bank accounts or access to financial services. Surely, there are more serious and grave global challenges to address than helping children to open bank accounts?

Yet, a growing global movement of civil society organizations, youth groups, and policy makers are increasingly calling for increased financial access and inclusion for children and youth, . There is growing evidence that financial empowerment can be an important strategy in addressing such issues as child poverty, youth unemployment, and universal education.  It can also protect children from abusive and exploitative situations by preventing them from resorting to informal money lenders or placing themselves at risk of child labour, trafficking and prostitution. 

A focus on children and young people can also make good business sense for financial institutions. Children and youth represent one third of the world’s population, and in some countries, especially emerging markets, children and youth constitute almost half of the population.  These numbers provide a clear imperative for responsible and forward-thinking financial institutions to give due attention to children and youth as key stakeholders in their business. They are the current and the future consumer, they are children of employees and customers, and they are young workers, future employees and business leaders.  A business plan focussing on young people can contribute to expansion in new markets and with new consumer segments. Consideration of how products and services can better meet children’s needs can also be a source of innovation and growth opportunities.

But if financial institutions are to deliver real value for children and youth, their activities must be grounded in an understanding of human rights. They need to move from seeing accounts for young people as simply promotional piggybanks, to understanding children as important stakeholders for their business. Developed by UNICEF and Child and Youth Finance International, “Beyond the Promotional Piggybank” is a discussion paper that calls on financial institutions to develop products and services for children in ways that respect and support their rights. It does so by using the framework of the “Children’s Rights and Business Principles.”  It helps business explore such questions as: what policies does the financial institution need to put in place to address the needs of children? What are key trends relating to children and young people? What are key questions that a financial institution should consider in the design, delivery and marketing of products and services for children?  Through checklists, practical examples, and case studies – the paper seeks to inspire financial institutions to action; and to promote discussion and sharing of additional examples for increasing financial access and inclusion for young people.

Read the paper here.

Subajini Jayasekaran, corporate social responsibility specialist, private fundraising and partnerships, UNICEF