Teaching the young the value of money
Sound financial management comes from a sound education - that is the mantra Citi wants Hong Kong's youth, from primary school youngsters to university graduates, to adopt.
Citi has sponsored a new book, Wisdom on Financial Management, which is published by Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Healthy Budgeting Family Debt Counselling Centre.
Sim Lim, Citi country officer and head of markets and banking for Hong Kong and Taiwan, said the book was aimed at getting the message across about the problems of bad debt.
'My belief is that you can teach young people from primary [school] and through to university and beyond - education is ongoing,' Mr Lim said.
'There are different routes a bank can take towards its social responsibility. Education is a trust of ours where we teach people the value of money.'
Mr Lim gave the example of sensible long-time borrowing for a home investment as 'preferable to borrowing money on a credit card for that expensive branded bag you don't really need and then paying it back via minimum repayments or using one card to pay off another'.
'Credit cards are easy to get in today's world, but money isn't free. When families go through bankruptcy it is a painful experience for everyone - that is what we want to avoid.'
Wisdom on Financial Management was launched last month and is bilingual with a format designed to entertain and inform youngsters. The text focuses on six core values to financial education: aspiration, diligence, responsibility, self-improvement, self-control and generosity.
The book is accompanied by a series of fables, old and new, to capture the attention of young readers. It also features short excerpts about Hong Kong achievers from all walks of life, including corporate high-fliers, educators, social workers, lawyers and accountants who share their views and experiences to explain the virtues of good financial planning.
'We like the concept of different stories. It's easier to absorb, particularly the real stories about real people, their own difficulties and how they overcame them,' Mr Lim said.
Citi worked closely on the project with social workers from the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals who handle serious debt cases involving families and individuals in Hong Kong.
'We know how serious the debt problem is in society and we don't want to wait for more problems to happen, so we worked with Tung Wah on producing the right advice to help before the problems start,' Mr Lim said.
The book is for use in all primary and secondary schools, universities and libraries in Hong Kong. An online copy is also being prepared. The essence of the book originated from a pilot Smart Kid financial education programme by Citi and the hospital group.
Mr Lim said Citi's strategy took corporate social responsibility 'to the next level', beyond the annual donations to charity.
'This next level is not just the cash, it's ensuring that worthwhile projects get done. Citi has been here for 105 years, and I want our staff to give back with their time and knowledge, not just an annual donation,' he said.