When times get tough, it’s helpful to have savings to fall back on. This has been realised by many Australians as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our way of life and our economy.
It has highlighted the importance of developing a long-term savings habit -one of the major objectives of ANZ’s Saver Plus program which was developed in partnership with The Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) in 2003 and is co-funded by ANZ and the Australian Government.
Like other organisations, the pandemic has created some real challenges for the community organisations responsible for delivering the program, which assists individuals and families on lower incomes to build assets and improve financial capability.
Thinking about the priorities in the current environment, the program quickly shifted focus to support participants preparing for remote schooling, enabling digital access for more than 1,100 families and individuals.
Building digital capability
The program increased digital inclusion by providing access to devices, as well as supporting participant’s digital competency.
Saver Plus Coordinators assisted participants with registering for email accounts, downloading banking apps, setting up payment transfers and completing online forms.
Since March 2020, more than 1,500 participants opened new online bank accounts with support of the program.
ANZ Deputy CEO Alexis George says financial literacy and digital competency are intertwined.
“The digital competency of our Saver Plus participants has been key to ensuring they are able to continue in the program and reach their savings goals during the pandemic.”
Choosing financial resilience
Between March and September 2020, the program matched more than $520,000 towards laptops and tablets, making up 62 per cent of all matched savings claims – a 13 per cent increase from the same time last year.
During a once in a lifetime pandemic it’s easy to lose focus, but pleasingly this has not been the case for Saver Plus participants. Those who no longer had the capacity to save were given the opportunity to withdraw from Saver Plus, and access their ANZ matched funds to date (up to $500) despite not meeting all program requirements. Participants were encouraged to re-start the program in the future when their circumstances improved.
Of the 2,000 participants contacted, only 57 withdrew from the program. In a demonstration of resilience and recognition of the importance of saving, a huge 97 per cent of participants elected to remain on the program.