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Visa Inc. / Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
Fifth Annual Financial Literacy & Education Summit
April 4, 2011

Welcome Remarks by Byron H. Pollitt
Chief Financial Officer, Visa Inc.

Thank you very much Alejo .

Welcome to the fifth annual Financial Literacy and Education Summit. On behalf of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and my colleagues at Visa, we are very pleased you are joining us today – in person and another 2,000 watching online.

I would like to extend a special ‘thank you’ to Charlie Evans and the remarkable staff here at the Chicago Fed.  In particular, I am grateful to Doug Tillett and his team for all they have done.

We are fortunate to have an impressive group of speakers with us today.  The focus of our panels is on the role of government in advancing financial literacy…. both internationally and domestically.

We know when government leads the way in promoting financial literacy — and collaborates with the private sector and non-profits — the results are amplified.

Here at Visa, we are in the second decade of running financial literacy initiatives and are active in more than 30 countries.  Our free programs range from classroom curriculum for teachers… to games for parents to use with their children… to resources for adults to help them navigate their own financial futures.

In the last three years alone, we’ve reached 12 million people across the globe. And we are well on our way to reach 20 million people by 2013, as part of our commitment made at the Clinton Global Initiative conference in 2008.

As many of you may know, Visa has had success with creating educational video games, including Financial Soccer and Financial Football.  These games have helped millions of middle and high school students worldwide.

But we know the learning of these vital life skills must begin even earlier – which is why we are unveiling two new games to meet this need.

The first is Money Metropolis and the second is Peter Pig’s Money Counter.  These games will help children ages five to 12 learn how to identify and count coins… earn money from chores… make a budget… and save and spend responsibly.  All while having fun.  This makes a challenging subject easier — and more enjoyable.  Both of these computer games are free and can be played online… while Peter Pig is also available for Android phones and tablets.

In addition, Visa is working with Marvel Entertainment to create a Marvel Heroes comic book, featuring Spider-Man, focused on personal finance.  This free comic will be translated into 8 different languages and distributed in dozens of countries later this year… from Canada to Brazil… Egypt to South Africa… and the U-A-E to China.

From video games to comic books… in all of these different countries… it’s fair to ask: do these efforts make a difference?

It’s the right question… and one we continually consider.  Late last year we began two separate research projects, the results of which are being released today in a white paper by Dr. Lisa Donnini

The first was in partnership with West Virginia State Treasurer John Perdue (purr-due), a longtime leader in financial literacy.  The Treasurer’s office worked with West Virginia schools to test our new version of the Financial Football video game with 563 students, ranging in age from 11 to 19.

The results were encouraging.  Students’ personal finance knowledge improved by more than 20 percent after teachers used the game and related curriculum.

We then decided to go deeper to see the impact of financial literacy on consumer behavior.  For this, we partnered with Wells Fargo to study the financial behaviors of college students who took our online tutorial before being issued a credit card.

Here too the positive results can be seen.  The students who took our tutorial had an average revolving monthly balance that was 20 percent lower than those who did not take the tutorial.  The 60-day delinquency rate on their accounts was 45 percent better… their bankruptcy rate was 51 percent better… and the rate of increase of their FICO credit score was 240 percent better.

The right financial literacy… delivered at the right time… in the right way… works.

Who wouldn’t want these results?  We commissioned a national survey last week and found that American parents are clamoring for their children to learn about money management in school.  The survey found that 85 percent of parents want a course in personal finance to be a high school graduation requirement.

But we all know that in most classrooms across the globe personal finance is neither being taught… nor a condition of graduation.  In the U.S., only four states have a requirement.

This raises some important questions:

  • First, should governments make financial literacy mandatory in schools?
  • Second, with governments worldwide creating new consumer protection laws, what role should financial literacy play in helping those consumers understand these protections?
  • Finally, third, should regulation AND education be designed to complement each other?

These are some of the questions our panels will tackle today.

And I can’t think of a better person to moderate our first panel… Maria Bartiromo is renowned for her ability as a reporter to get straight answers out of powerful people.

As the anchor of CNBC’s Closing Bell and the Wall Street Journal Report with Maria Bartiromo, she has helped make the world’s financial system more open and transparent.

She has broken down countless barriers since being the first journalist to report live from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on a daily basis in 1995.

Bartiromo has received many prestigious awards — including an Emmy and a Gracie.  She will be inducted this year into the Cable Hall of Fame for her impact on the cable industry.

Closer to home, Maria is no stranger to the topic of financial literacy… this has been her passion for over a decade.

Please join me in welcoming, Maria Bartiromo…

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