UK Savings Week: building financial resilience

Susan Allen, OBE, Chief Executive Officer, Yorkshire Building Society

Marlene Shiels, Chief Executive, Capital Credit Union

Jamie Evans, Research Fellow at the Personal Finance Research Centre, University of Bristol

Amelia Murray, Deputy Editor, Be Clever With Your Cash

Susan Allen, Yorkshire Building Society,  opened the session with an outline of how building societies are supporting 23 million people to build financial resilience through having savings, equating to 19% of all UK cash savings and 40% of Cash ISAs.

Looking at Yorkshire Building Society (YBS) in particular, they opened 693,000 new savings accounts and paid £441 million more in savings interest compared to the market average in 2023. Recognising the importance of people having a savings habit, YBS always have a Regular Saver account available to customers. 

UK Savings Week

Now heading towards its third year, the campaign has two objectives:

  1. Building financial resilience by encouraging a regular savings habit
  2. Encouraging those with savings to actively engage with their savings and make them work better for them

UK Savings Week is important because 25% of people are unable to save on a monthly basis, a figure that has doubled in the last 5 years. In addition, 11.5m people have less than £100 in savings. Marlene Shiels, Capital Credit Union, also noted that 21m people have less than £500 in savings which is the amount needed for many essential items that families need, such as a washing machine. Research has shown that people with money worries are 4.9 times likely to be depressed and 3.9 times more prone to panic attacks

Bristol University Research

Jamie Evans, University of Bristol, provided an overview of the recent Bristol University research, where links between savings and metal wellbeing were investigated. The overall message was clear - the more people save the better their mental wellbeing, however we measure wellbeing e.g. how well they sleep / how clearly they think etc.

Other highlights of the research included:

The negatives – a lack of savings reduced self-esteem when people were forced to borrow money or use services such as foodbanks

The positives – those who save regularly are more likely to become homeowners with 15% non-savers v 82% regular savers become homeowners over 10 years

Things that are likely to encourage people to save include:

  • Incentives

  • Flexibility

  • Rewarding behaviour, not milestones

  • Celebrating milestones

After the research presentation the panel discussed their perspectives on building household financial resilience. Here’s a summary of some of the key takeaways:

There is a wide range of people who are hard to reach and we must find ways to communicate with them. This includes the YOLO generation (You Only Live Once). People rely on those they resonate with and trust for information, such as family and Finfluencers. Is there more we can do to communicate in a personal way – there’s no one-size fits all?  

Messages need to be tailored to the individual, saying to someone ‘you should save’ doesn’t resonate.

  • Understand the barriers preventing people from saving and how to work around them

  • Think about the language, technology, knowledge and timing of your messages

  • Personalise messages, e.g. ‘here are some ideas for you based on your budget and lifestyle that may help you to save regularly’ 

  • Find the channels people use and trust and engage through them, preferably with ‘real people’

  • Identify ‘people of influence’ and engage with them to communicate your messages

  • Build partnerships - a number of employers have Financial First-Aiders, in-house influencers who are trusted within an organisation. As people with money worries are less productive at work, there’s a commercial incentive for employers to engage – so it could be a win/win partnership for employer and employee.

You can find out more about UK Savings Week here