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Friday, 16 October 2009

What the FSA should (and shouldn’t) do next…

Recent reports told us that the savings ratio jumped in the second quarter of this year to 5.9%, the highest it’s been since late 1993. The figures are a sharp turnaround from the first quarter of 2008 when the savings ratio went negative for the first time. We’re even apparently saving more than the Japanese, for the first time in 30 years, and they are famously cautious as a nation.

And let’s be honest this isn’t being driven by attractive savings rates is it? According to Bank of England figures, the average cash ISA paid interest of just 0.41% in August, a tenth of the level a year ago. Consumers have also been reducing their unsecured debt at the fastest rate since records were first kept in 1993, repaying £300m a month.

Predictions are that the savings ratio could go even higher, into double digits (in the last recession it was 12%) and the UK is still below its’ long-run average of 8%.

All good news, on the face of it anyway.

But what I was mulling over as I was waiting for my flight back from Edinburgh yesterday, was this.

Surely we should be thinking about how we move the nations’ relationship with money away from boom and bust? Are we happy that we only save as a country when our financial system goes into meltdown and we are worried we are going to lose our jobs? Just as the Labour party looked to move the economy away from boom and bust, shouldn’t we be doing the same with saving and lending behaviours as well?

So this is what I think the FSA should do next.
They should do a consumer campaign now about how much people are saving to reinforce the behaviour and appeal to our herd mentality (read Nudge for more!). Make people feel like they are missing out if they’re not. And they should keep reinforcing it over time.

So what they shouldn’t do, is a one-off big bang campaign. And it should certainly not be advertising led. It should employ the best in brand engagement communications from social media to getting key influencers talking on their behalf. They should make saving the next cool. (Oh and by the way, if the FSA read this, I know a great agency that would do a great job on this, just call 020 7360 7878 or tweet me @joteam)

Jo Parker

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