The Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC) will launch a new ‘national strategy’ this month developed in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
Retirement Commissioner (RC), Jane Wrightson, told a parliamentary committee last month that the CFFC would unveil the new approach on April 16, targeting financial resilience, better stakeholder co-operation and access to ‘independent’ guidance.
According to the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee annual review of the RC, Wrightson instigated the strategic review after observing “how fragile New Zealanders’ financial capability and planning was and is”.
“The national strategy aims to focus efforts, resources, and messaging from the sector more efficiently to help the consumer,” the committee report says. “We heard that it has the potential to unite a wide variety of government, community, and industry stakeholders, and connect their work to better help New Zealanders.”
Wrightson, previously NZ On Air chief, took up the RC job just prior to the COVID era last February, replacing Peter Cordtz, who held the role in an interim capacity following the premature exit of former incumbent, Diane Maxwell in June 2019.
The CFFC, the department governed by the RC, “learned three key lessons from its work during COVID-19”, the parliamentary report says, namely:
- too many New Zealanders are unprepared for a financial shock;
- New Zealanders want and need financial guidance from an independent source they can trust; and,
- the sector needs to work together to ensure the consistency of consumer messages.
Incidentally, the crisis also shored up the status of the CFFC financial guidance website Sorted, which Wrightson previously considered a little antiquated, she told the committee.
The RC said prior to COVID-19 she wondered if Sorted, now almost 20 years old, had “had its day”.
“However, it proved highly valuable to deal with people’s concerns. After a marketing boost, she said, site usage ‘went through the roof, and feedback was fantastic’,” the report says.
During the pandemic last year, Sorted boosted its service, adding several features to the website as well as producing a one-hour ‘webinar’ and a 30-minute television show featuring a Q&A session with a financial adviser that aired on TV1.
“The commission reported that as a result of the tools and programmes during COVID-19, content engagement rose to record levels,” the report says.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), which has ultimate responsibility for the CFFC, also suffered budget challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
A ‘briefing to the incoming Minister’ published late last year, says pre-COVID about half of the MBIE budget was funded from “third-party sources” such as industry levies.
“Third-party revenue has dropped to 37% this year , principally as a result of a significant fall in revenue from immigration fees,” the briefing says. “While revenue has decreased, our workload has remained at similar levels due to regulatory requirements and new activity (border exemptions process for example). In the absence of new Crown funding, the current shortfall will need to be funded through changes in service levels or investment across MBIE.”
Sorted might have some answers.