Insurance sector chips in to help needy kids

MAS lauds Ifpas' financial course for students; move will boost industry's profile

A MOVE by the insurance industry to help financially disadvantaged school children has been applauded by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

The industry is donating $100,000 to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (SPMF), and will also provide a five-week money management course for about 25 needy students. It then plans to extend the course to more students.

Speaking at the launch of the initiative, Fincare, MAS assistant managing director of capital markets Lee Chuan Teck said this would help the students - and also improve the industry's public profile.

He said reports about errant agents and "over-commercialisation" have tarnished its image recently. "There is a need to rebuild this trust and enhance the image of the industry, and Fincare is a step in the right direction," he said at the event, held at the Singapore Recreation Club.

Fincare is being run by the Insurance and Financial Practitioners Association of Singapore (Ifpas) Alliance, a group representing 15,000 insurance agents and financial services practitioners. A group of 15 accredited financial counsellors will provide the money management course for free.

Mr Lee said that while the counselling programme is a good start, Ifpas should also try to follow up regularly with the students after the course to ensure they practise what they learnt.

SPMF chairman Han Fook Kwang said Ifpas' initiative will not only help financially, but also promote a sense of identity and community in Singapore.

"Social capital is the relationship that is formed in a community when people look out for one another and when they feel that they belong," he said.

"I believe that in Singapore, there is a social capital deficit... and the best way of strengthening social capital is by strengthening the people sector - social services and civil society."

So far, the group of 15 pro bono counsellors are the only insurance agents here to have undergone the Ifpas Practical Financial Counselling programme.

To grow the pool of accredited counsellors and volunteers, Ifpas Alliance chairman Leong Sow Hoe said the organisation is offering a discount of up to 45 per cent on the programme. "I urge all agency leaders to... convey to your agents that it is time to show the community that we have a heart," he said.

yasminey@sph.com.sg