Through a partnership called the Cha-Ching financial literacy programme Prudential has educated children in 4.5 million households about the importance of earning and budgeting
The global financial crisis brought the need for financial literacy firmly into focus. The growing Asian middle class is estimated at 1.9 billion and, against this backdrop of rising affluence, healthy financial habits are even more critical for families. Prudential has long been committed to enhancing financial literacy and, with programmes already in place for women and high school students, it wanted to extend its efforts to help parents keen to teach their children the basics about money.
To understand the financial literacy needs of children better, Prudential, working through The Prudence Foundation, first conducted research among parents in seven Asian markets about their children’s money management skills: only 13 per cent of parents were confident their children possessed the relevant skills. In August 2012, research specialists Cimigo produced a study on children in Hong Kong and the Philippines aged seven to 12, looking at their understanding and habits when it comes to money.
The survey found the children had developed good saving and spending habits, but they lacked the opportunity to learn and practise the important concepts of “earning” and “budgeting” as they relied heavily on their parents to meet their needs with pocket money.
“Asian parents tend to be overprotective of their children. But too much leniency in handing out pocket money or meeting their purchasing desires could be a missed opportunity to teach children sound money management skills, and to practice ‘delayed gratification’. Parents need to balance their need to indulge their children with teaching them lifelong money skills that will be important for their future,” said Dr. Timothy Leung, founding member of the Association of Psychological and Educational Counsellors of Asia.
Parents wanted more tools to support them, and television and the internet were cited as the best ways to engage children. Prudential recognised that it needed to create an initiative that would be entertaining but at the same time a respected educational programme.
To achieve maximum impact, Prudential entered into a creative partnership with Turner Broadcasting Asia Pacific to tap into the animation expertise of the Cartoon Network, the region’s top children’s channel. They recognised that TV and music were powerful mediums for connecting with children.
The initiative needed to develop an engaging and effective financial education programme for children and their parents, while also positioning Prudential as being focused on families and committed to improving Asian financial literacy. Asian families with children aged between seven and 12 were the target audience along with the teaching profession, educational NGOs and government.
To ensure that content was relevant and age-appropriate, Prudential consulted award winning education expert, Dr Alice Wilder. With her expertise, Prudential adopted the “edutainment” philosophy, which holds that children learn through play and personal experience. Songs and mnemonics, repetition of concepts, real life scenarios and narratives were developed as a way of engaging children to practise money skills.
Objectives and Delivery
The resulting programme was the Cha-Ching Money Smart Kids financial literacy programme which aimed to provide a platform for parents to discuss responsible money management with their children. This initiative – the first multi-country, multi-platform musical animation programme in Asia – helped children learn about four fundamental monetary concepts: earn, save, spend and donate.
Each three-minute animated music video featured the six characters of the Cha-Ching band, each with a different approach to money management. The music videos, featuring songs with lyrics and enhanced sub-titles that children could sing along to, aired on the Cartoon Network in seven Asian countries on weekdays after school and on weekend mornings. In 2012, online episodes were produced with subtitles in Bahasa, Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai.
In total, TV, a website and mobile games and applications were mobilised in the cause of financial literacy. The website www.cha-ching.com features playbacks of the music videos, online games that get children to make money decisions and a dedicated section for parents and teachers with activities that can be downloaded at home. Mobile applications such as the Pocket Money Manager combine the four money concepts in easy-to-use tools to help children track their money cycle.
Following positive feedback and research that underlined the impact of the first phase, Prudential commissioned a second series in 2012-13 which led with music videos and activities aiming to build children’s understanding of the concepts of budgeting, credit and investing.
In addition, a new online game, Cha-Ching Saver World Tour, was launched on the website to encourage children to learn through play.
The Cha-Ching initiative drew wide support from children, parents, NGOs and governments around Asia. The content of the programme attracted NGOs, such as Junior Achievement to organise workshops in several schools for children in Hong Kong and Thailand. In Singapore and Taiwan the programme has also been taken into schools, incorporating games and educational materials. The Philippine Department of Education planned to incorporate Cha-Ching into the curriculum of public schools. The programme will also be rolled out in several schools in Indonesia.
Although Prudential does not have a presence in Fiji, the episodes were provided free upon request to Fiji TV, in partnership with the UNDP Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme and the Fiji Ministry of Education. The episodes were also were provided to Garuda Indoneisa and Singapore Airlines for use in their in-flight entertainment for travelling families as well as to National Geographic for its children’s education website.
Online research conducted by the Cartoon Network with children before and after watching Cha-Ching showed that their understanding of the key concepts increased significantly. Those who thought one should plan before spending more than doubled to 32 per cent from 13 per cent. Those who wished to save money by putting it into a bank went rose to 73 per cent from 52 per cent.
More than 4.5 million households were reached via the Cartoon Network and over 40 million web pages were viewed. The programmes won 70,000 fans on Facebook and had 370,000 views on You Tube.
There was widespread recognition for Cha-Ching as an exemplary programme for promoting financial literacy. The United States-based non-profit Institute for Financial Literacy made Cha-Ching its ‘Education Program of the Year’ in the General Children’s Category of the Excellence in Financial Literacy Education (EIFLE) Awards in 2012. In Asia, Cha-Ching earned the ‘Certificate of Excellence’ in the Corporate Social Responsibility category of the Campaign Asia PR Awards.
The Cha-Ching Smart Money initiative generated extensive media coverage across consumer, business and trade media, reaching more than a billion readers. It started up a financial literacy conversation online and won support from parents, the teaching profession, NGOs and governments.
The principal stakeholders:
Prudential Corporation Asia
The Prudence Foundation
Turner Broadcasting Asia Pacific
Dr. Alice Wilder
Philippines Department of Education
UNDP Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme
Fiji Ministry of Education
This case study was compiled by SharingValueAsia in consultation with relevant stakeholders. It will appear in a special report “Partnership in Action”, published in conjunction with Hewlett-Packard in August 2014