The global COVID-19 pandemic has influenced my personal thinking around what is important. In early 2020 I left Beijing just before China closed its borders and travelled back to my home in Tokyo. I remember talking to my wife and children at the time and shared that I was nervous and worried about what would happen. Soon after, COVID-19 spread across Asia and then the rest of the world.
During this challenging time in Asia and Japan, I observed some amazing behaviour as individuals with different cultural backgrounds came together to help each other at a difficult time. It was both inspiring and humbling to watch, but not surprising, social responsibility is a strong belief and embedded in the Asian culture. In Japan and Asia, I observed a strong focus on social responsibility in the delivery of financial services to individuals.
It is these experiences that have contributed to my strong desire to see leaders and employees in financial services companies continue to contribute positively to society.
I have long held the belief that financial planning can improve wellbeing and I am currently completing a PhD on this topic.
Social responsibility is an ethical framework and suggests that an individual has an obligation to work with individuals and organisations for the benefit of society and a society that is flourishing and healthy is beneficial for individuals.
As parts of Australia are in further lockdowns and experiencing uncertainty, financial stress and anxiety, the need for financial planning has never been so acute.
Our society continues to face unprecedented issues following COVID-19 in areas such as mental health and financial stress.
Financial advice or assistance can play a role in reducing financial stress and as a result play a part in reducing mental health issues.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the United Nations (UN) countries, organisations and individuals, is a shared blueprint that outlines 17 sustainable development goals for peace and prosperity for people and the planet.
There are lots of collaboration and energy on delivering against the UN sustainable development goals. Some of the 17 goals may be amplified by providing increased access to financial advice.
Goal 1 is about no poverty. Access to affordable financial advice has a role to play in delivering on this goal. Poverty can be caused by a range of factors such as financial decisions and risks that can have negative consequences for individuals.
Goal 3 is about good health and wellbeing. Access to affordable advice will provide individuals with support around improving their own wellbeing.
Goal 8 is around decent work and economic growth, Access to advice will enable improved financial decisions that will lead to better individual outcomes. With increased access we will have a greater impact on sustainable economic growth.
Goal 10 is about reduced inequalities. The people who need advice may not necessarily be able to access it or afford it. Providing increased access to financial advice in a cost-effective manner will reduce inequities.
Accessibility to financial advice can be achieved through the development and adoption of advice technology, including smart automation. This has the potential not only to raise productivity and GDP growth but also to improve wellbeing more broadly. Technology adoption can lead to broader societal benefits including healthier life and longevity and more flexibility. Flexibility can improve wellbeing.
Technology adoption by financial institutions and financial advisers will contribute to scalability of financial advice that will lead to more people being able to access this important service.
Financial advice can improve wellbeing on a range of dimensions including clarity on goal setting, reduced anxiety because an individual has a plan and is protected, increased certainty and a more improved sense of control over life. This is so important when pandemics such as COVID-19 impacts financial wellbeing through individuals experiencing financial stress.
Society has worked together during COVID-19, and we have seen some amazing and inspiring behaviour by many.
Now is the time to continue to come together and provide more access to financial advice. Access to financial advice can be amplified by technology. This will not just have individual benefits it will also contribute positively to society.
Craig Keary, chief executive Asia Pacific, Ignition Advice
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