Dutch Minister of Finance urges institutions to work together

Wobke Hoekstra, Minister of Finance NL signals the importance of financial and knowledge institutions to work together to make a positive impact on the financial lives of Dutch consumers.
Posted on November 01, 2019

On Monday the 28th of October in The Hague, Netherlands, The Think Forward Initiative (TFI) had the honour of presenting at the official kick-off of the Ministry of Finance’s Action Plan on Consumer Decisions.

The Minister himself kicked off the session with a thought-provoking speech around how important it is to understand why we make certain decisions and in turn, how this informs our lives. He went on to discuss how the decisions we make, financial and non-financial, are often heavily swayed by the environment in which we live.

He posed the opportunity for institutions to rally together and start to think about how we can help consumers make better decisions through creating innovations, tools and information. By encouraging institutions, like TFI, to create new innovations for consumers, that have a proven record in being effective, whether by research findings or through real life testing, we may be able to make a difference in how they make decisions with their money. As small changes in behaviour can have a huge impact in the long run.

The event then moved on to cover off the issues in society, surrounding problematic debt. Marc, a survivor of problematic debt, spoke to us all and shared his personal past struggle with debt.

In the beginning, Marc found repaying debt annoying and tedious, but he realised he had a real problem when his income was less than his debt repayments. It was then when he felt things spiralled out of control.

He felt succumbed by debt and couldn’t find the right place to turn to for help. Many institutions could not offer him the right help due to strict regulations. It was only when he received a tax refund that he felt he had a way out.

Marc went on to encourage financial institutions to start helping people with debt repayments when they are small, as the way out of debt is easier.

The session concluded with an interview panel which included our very own Joep Arends, Think Forward Accelerator Hub Lead, Minou van der Werf (Nibud) and Felix Uhl (de Gedragsstudio). Each panellist discussed the importance of working together to make steps towards achieving a more financially healthy society.

Joep Arends discussed the importance of creating greater collaboration between researchers and innovators. He discussed how TFI is working to better understand consumer behaviour. And then share these insights with innovative start-ups who can benefit from the research findings and use them to further support their products and services. The start-ups TFI works with have to have a core business focus on improving the financial lives of their consumers.

Felix Uhl then urged companies collecting debt from consumers to really take a personal approach in their communication to the client. Showing that you understand the client’s personal circumstances will motivate them to make payment arrangements. Felix Uhl also called on a TFI research project, focused on people struggling with problematic debt, to support his argument.

Additional to this, Minou van der Werf talked about her TFI research paper focused on flexible debt repayments. Offering consumers the choice to move their debt repayment dates to coincide with their pay day each month showed not to be an effective intervention in itself. Nonetheless, the interviews suggested that for smaller debt and partial payments, flexible repayments could potentially be successful.

All in all, the panellists concluded that we need to look at ways to remove the hurdles in play for consumers and take steps to learn more about them and then apply these learnings to our service offerings.

The Think Forward Initiative is excited to work with the Dutch Ministry of Finance to join the Action Plan on Consumer Decisions. As the Minister stated: it is time for us all to work together and take steps to make the world around us a bit better.