Financial inclusion was the main theme of the World Bank’s 2014 Global Financial Development Report (World Bank 2013). To no one’s surprise, the report noted that SMEs, and particularly informal businesses or SMEs in emerging markets, face significant financing constraints that undermine their contribution to employment, productivity growth and innovation. It also noted, however, that financial sector practitioners saw financial education as the most effective means of addressing financial exclusion for households and businesses.
The call for more widespread financial education is not a new agenda. It is old enough to have developed a substantial policy following, and has withstood (with some concessions) a great deal of well-documented criticism over the years. Yet the financial crisis and its aftermath have renewed interest, from the G20 leaders downwards, for greater financial inclusion, and with it an emphasis on improving the financial capability of consumers and entrepreneurs.
As the most trusted financial advisers of SMEs around the world, professional accountants in practice and in business actively support and mentor many millions of entrepreneurs seeking finance every year. ACCA believes that, while global leaders remain engaged with the matter of entrepreneurs’ financial education, it is important to set out the views of the people who actually provide most of it – the global accountancy profession.
This report brings together evidence from ACCA research as well as the most recent reviews of the literature on the effectiveness of financial education. Its aim is to stimulate debate on alternative approaches that build on the experience of the past decades while also fully engaging the business world’s real financial educators – professional accountants.