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Citibank teaches teens how best to use their money

‘Think Money’ program provided to over 270,000 students, parents and multicultural families


Based on its expertise as a global financial company, Citibank Korea has offered a financial education program for teenagers in partnership with the Young Women’s Christian Association of Korea since 2006 with 2.56 billion won grant by Citi Foundation.

The program titled “Think Money” was launched out of an acute need for real-world financial education as teenagers’ financial knowledge and understanding became a matter of national competitiveness. Citi Foundation has funded the program for seven years.
Citibank Korea CEO Ha Yung-ku (center) poses after attending a signing ceremony for the Think Money program with YWCA.
Citibank Korea CEO Ha Yung-ku (center) poses after attending a signing ceremony for the Think Money program with YWCA.

A financial quotient measurement of 1,770 students in 10 high schools in the Seoul metropolitan area by the Financial Supervisory Service in September 2006 showed that Korean students were behind their peers in other OECD member countries in understanding finance.

Korean students scored an average of 48.2 points out of 100 in the test for financial understanding, lower than those in advanced nations such as the U.S. (52.4 points).

According to a report by the Korean Federation of Banks, some 5,831 teenagers were credit-delinquent, or late on their bill payments, as of June 2006. The number of credit delinquents in their 20s amounted to 635,845.

A lack of understanding of the economy and money was believed to be the main reason for such high rates of credit delinquency among the youth. Financial illiteracy was no longer just a personal problem but a social issue.

A survey by the U.S. Consumer Bankers Association showed that 87 percent of American banks were offering teenagers financial education by the end of 2000.

Korean financial institutions had begun to show interest in financial education to foster financial experts and prevent toxic assets, but systematic support was unavailable and educational materials appropriate for teenagers were yet to be developed.

As part of efforts to fulfill its social responsibility as a global financial company, Citibank Korea started to develop financial educational curriculum for teenagers together with YWCA Korea.

From 2006 through 2008, the bank developed financial educational materials and study guides for teenagers in cooperation with financial experts, distributed them, trained financial instructors and promoted the program.

Citibank expanded the program to benefit a greater number of participants and trained its staff as instructors.

The partnership between Citibank and YWCA became a role model for companies and nonprofit organizations to contribute toward raising the nation’s financial competitiveness through investment in advanced financial education service.

Citibank Korea employees, YWCA staff or volunteers with financial knowledge can serve as instructors of “Think Money” after they receive training for at least a day. They learn how to use the Think Money teaching materials, how to deliver stories, financial quizzes and board games to teenagers, and simulate lessons during workshops.

Between 2006 and 2011, 430 Citibank Korea employees and 847 YWCA staff completed the training courses and served as instructors.

The program has been delivered to over 270,000 students, parents and multicultural families.

Study materials for elementary, middle and high school students, teaching guides, CDs and online financial games are now available to teach the basic concept of money management. Materials for parents and multicultural families have also been developed and distributed.

The classes are offered at YWCA centers or schools that have signed up with the YWCA.

On Think Money’s advisory committee are members of the Ministry of Finance and Strategy, Korea Consumer Agency, professors of consumer education at Sookmyung Women’s University, financial education experts and elementary school teachers.

Think Money was introduced as an exemplary case of financial education led by financial institutions in a forum hosted by the FSS in 2006, and an excellent case of social contribution by the Federation of Korean Industries in 2007.

It was also introduced as a model case of financial education at the Citi-FT Financial Education Summit held last November in Jakarta.

Citibank Korea has sponsored financial experts’ trips to the Citi-FT Financial Education Summits in Malaysia in 2005, Korea in 2006, India in 2007, Beijing in 2008, Singapore in 2009, Australia in 2010 and Indonesia last year.

In addition to Think Money, Citi has provided a number of programs for university students, journalists and women.

Citibank Korea has supported university students to increase their financial knowledge and skills through a financial essay competition, which was launched in 2008 with a $330,000 Citi Foundation grant to the KAIST Graduate School of Finance. The Korea Institute of Finance joined this initiative in 2009. In 2011, 277 teams from 60 universities at home and abroad participated in the contest.

To foster quality reporting in economic and financial subjects, Citi has run a global program called the Citi Journalistic Excellence Award since 1982. Since the Citi Journalistic Excellence Award launched in Korea in 1993, it was awarded to 223 reporters of 51 teams by 2011.
Citibank employees and members of Habitat for Humanity Korea pose during their voluntary work to build homes for the underprivileged. (Citibank)
Citibank employees and members of Habitat for Humanity Korea pose during their voluntary work to build homes for the underprivileged. (Citibank)

Citibank also gives awards to women leaders and women entrepreneurs, runs the Citi-KOSBI Women’s Entrepreneurship Academy and the Ewha-Citi Global Finance Academy, a campaign to help breast cancer patients and support teenagers from multicultural households.

As the first corporate partner of Habitat for Humanity Korea since 1998, Citibank Korea has also provided 1.49 billion won in funding support by Citi Foundation and constructed 23 houses together with some 900 Citi employee volunteers and their families.

The bank also started the first microcredit business for low-income households in Korea in 1998, and has run an environmental campaign to create village forests in the city.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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