This is the final instalment in a four-part series aiming to use the analogy of public health as a tool for finding solutions to improve both individual and institutional financial health. ‘Holistic’ care is now mainstream: acknowledging the social, psychological and even spiritual needs of an individual for better outcomes. Perhaps it’s time for financial institutions to take the same approach.
Social prescribing is a key component of the NHS Universal Personalised Care plan, encouraging healthcare professionals to refer people to a range of non-clinical, local services to support their health and wellbeing.¹ Taking inspiration from this holistic approach, banks and other providers could also help customers achieve their goals beyond financial stability and growth. Doing so could deepen the relationship they have with their customers, helping them become a trusted partner in their lives.
Social prescribing aims to support people in many areas of life, from practical needs like housing and education, to social interaction and self-actualisation. Here we focus on three areas in which financial service providers could potentially better support customers (or have started to already):
- Physical health
- Education and career development
- Value-based investing
As we mentioned in the introduction to this series, healthier people are more likely to do well financially.² So what if banks not only helped you manage your money, but also encouraged you to lead a healthier lifestyle? Health insurance providers like Vitality already reward customers for achieving physical health goals, but the idea doesn’t need to be contained to this industry.
Financial institutions could take inspiration from the successful social prescribing initiative ‘parkrun practice’, which promotes local 5k running events amongst GP practices.³ Bank-sponsored parkruns could even be tied to financial objectives: a ‘couch to £5k’ initiative could, for example, encourage people in a local area to both train to run a 5k and save 5k, capitalising on the social norms established by parkruns, and the increased sense of self-efficacy that working towards a goal can ignite.
Banks or other financial providers could also develop dedicated apps or expand existing ones to support customers in achieving their fitness goals. For example, they could create a Lifestyle App (similar to this DBS spin-off), providing tools to set and accomplish health goals alongside savings targets.⁴ To add an extra incentive, personalised discounts and rewards on gym memberships or sports gear could be offered. Banks could even encourage customers to create specialised savings accounts tailored to their fitness objectives, such as saving for a new road bike.
A financial services provider could differentiate themselves by supporting customers’ physical (and mental) health, and in doing so benefit from the increased financial resilience of those customers.
Education and career development
One of the potential ‘treatments’ that a social prescribing link worker might recommend to a patient is education: for example taking part in one of the courses offered by the Workers' Educational Association on digital skills, communication skills, and confidence & self-development.⁵ These are areas that financial providers could also support their customers with, helping them increase their financial resilience. Barclay's LifeSkills platform is a noteworthy example, providing practical tools and guidance to help individuals find their path and develop valuable skills for a fulfilling career.⁶
Financial providers can also support people to achieve specific education goals. In the same way that public bodies sponsor scholarships to promote social mobility and diversity in the workforce⁷, Santander’s scholarship scheme granted 30,000 study and business grants in 2021 alone, actively contributing to the development of a diverse and competitive workforce.⁸ Another great example of how financial providers can support education goals is ZeeFi, an Australia-based Fintech providing flexible payment options for students.⁹ By offering a range of payment solutions, including Study Now Pay Later, Payment Assist, and Vocational Loan, ZeeFi can help remove financial barriers for students - allowing them to reach their full potential.
There are many opportunities for financial service providers to support educational or career goals in ways that are mutually beneficial to both the individual and the institution.
One of the aims of social prescribing is helping people live a more fulfilled and meaningful life, by connecting them to activities, groups, and services that meet emotional as well as practical needs. Activities include arts & crafts, gardening, and group learning - so that individuals can find meaning in spending time with others and exploring new avenues of self-expression.
While providing people with such platforms and opportunities is perhaps out of scope for financial providers, they can still support their customers to live a more value-oriented life by, for example, allowing them to choose how to invest their money. Traditionally, there has been limited transparency regarding banks' investment choices - but customers have become increasingly conscious of the role their money plays in fuelling the climate crisis or social injustice. This led to a boom in the popularity of ESG assets, which are expected to increase to US$33.9 trillion by 2026 ¹⁰, and to the surge of numerous investment firms specialised in social investing, like UEthical¹¹, Ellevest¹², and Australian Ethical.¹³
But the future of ESG investing may lie in providing consumers with the option to tailor their investments to their own identity and values. For example, the investing platform Public allows customers to invest in women-led companies (which, according to a BCG study, generate more than twice as much revenue as their male-founded counterparts¹⁴), by highlighting them in their Women in Charge theme.¹⁵ JP Morgan also noted a growing opportunity in investments tailored to LGBTQ+ equity, with survey results showing that nearly half of US investors are looking for exactly these options.¹⁶ Not surprisingly, the demand is higher among LGBTQ+ investors (86%) and younger investors (67% of Gen Z and 56% of Millennials), indicating the growing importance of investing in line with personal values.
In facilitating investments that feel good, financial providers can support their customers’ wider wellbeing as well as their financial standing, forging a more meaningful relationship.
These are just some opportunities for banks to adopt a more holistic approach to people's wellbeing, supporting their goals and values beyond mere financial health. By becoming trusted partners and enablers, financial institutions can forge meaningful connections with customers and contribute to their overall wellbeing. Despite being profit-driven entities, it is possible - and desirable - to envision a mutually beneficial relationship, where banks and financial institutions play an active role in promoting the physical health and future aspiration of their customers.
Curious to explore this topic further? Check out Personal finance: A public health emergency for more insights and learnings.
In conjunction with this article series, we’ll be running workshops connecting people in industries like finance, healthcare, politics, design and beyond to expand on the emerging ideas and find opportunities to bring them to life. No matter what your role, we’d love to get you involved - please reach out to [email protected] if you’re interested.
- ‘How are Income and Wealth Linked to Health and Longevity?’, Urban Institute & the Centre on Society and Health, 2015. Available at: https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/49116/2000178-How-are-Income-and-Wealth-Linked-to-Health-and-Longevity.pdf
- https://www.becas-santander.com/en/index.htmlFun fact: at DesignIt we did some work with Santander to improve their Scholarships platform, so we’re extra proud to mention it here!
- ‘Why Women-Owned Startups Are a Better Bet’, Boston Consulting Group, 2018. Available at: https://www.bcg.com/publications/2018/why-women-owned-startups-are-better-bet