Professor Rebecca Taylor pictured, dean of the OU’s Business School, was speaking at the launch of The True Potential Centre for the Public Understanding of Finance.
It aims to create a centre of research excellence that will lay the foundations for increased financial literacy in the UK.
“The need for such a centre has never been greater,” said Professor Taylor. “Many people in the UK are struggling to pay their bills, let alone save for a pension; interest rates are low and more emphasis is being placed on the individual to take financial responsibility for their future.”
The centre brings together academics with expertise in regulation of the financial services industry; investment, pension funds and mis-selling; consumer behaviour and customer relationship management; the role of emotion in financial decision-making and taxation.
Its findings will be disseminated widely to improve the industry’s financial practice and enhance people’s personal financial capability.
The centre has been supported by True Potential LLP, one of the UK’s leading financial services organisations. Its managing partner David Harrison is a MBA graduate from the OU.
Professor Taylor said: “Financial literacy in the UK is at rock bottom. While important steps are being taken to introduce financial education to the school curriculum, this will only benefit school-aged children.”
The centre will develop courses relevant to the needs of individuals managing their personal finances and looking to invest in their future. Its research findings will help organisations to reach and understand the behaviours of such individuals in the future.
Mr Harrison said: “Investing and finance is a potentially very simple-to-understand subject that is frequently made very complicated and inaccessible – we have set up this centre to democratise finance and make financial education more readily available.”
The first of the Centre’s three free open-access modules, Personal Finance: Understanding the Basics, will be available from Spring 2014. This module will cover household budgeting, borrowing and debt management, managing savings and investments, how to arrange insurance cover and organise a pension.
The second and third modules, which will be produced later in 2014 and 2015, will help individuals gain an understanding of investment and risks, the financial industry and consumer rights.
Mr Harrison said: “These free courses will arm people with the knowledge and information they need to make informed decisions about their finances, or to ask the right questions of the right people. This will inevitably go a long way in helping to close the growing savings gap that exists in the UK today.”