Kuala Lumpur, 7 May 2021 – Hong Leong Bank and Hong Leong Islamic Bank (“HLB” or the “Bank”) today announced the launch of an inclusive financial literacy initiative for the visually impaired community under its financial literacy ‘HLB DuitSmart’ CSR platform. This reflects HLB’s ongoing commitment to empowering and promoting economic inclusion and financial literacy for all communities in Malaysia.
In developing the financial literacy content in audio format for English, Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin, the Bank worked closely with several blind associations in Malaysia. The associations will then convert the content into Braille, providing access to the visually impaired community with Braille language skills to benefit from the material.
Domenic Fuda, Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of HLB shared that financial literacy is an essential first step in obtaining financial peace-of-mind, which should be widespread and accessible to everyone. “Financial literacy is an important basic life skill for everyone, but communities, such as the visually impaired community are often faced with challenges in getting access due to the lack of resources in Braille and also due to their socio-economic standing. This initiative aims to address these challenges by starting off with having material that can reach out and be used by the community to empower them with financial knowledge,” he added.
Visually impaired individuals often face more challenges in navigating a world that does not cater to their needs. This, accompanied by the lack of access to financial literacy content creates additional disadvantages, making them less likely to be able to access financing compared to individuals without disabilities. In Malaysia, it is estimated that less than 10% of visually impaired citizens are registered with the Welfare Department, creating significant challenges in appropriate educational outreach while just an estimated 30% of the community has been educated in reading Braille. These underlying literacy challenges make access to financial literacy an even greater burden.
Zalman Zainal, Chief Marketing & Communication Officer of HLB emphasises the importance of having the ability to make the right financial decisions starts with understanding the basic elements of financial knowledge.
“We are working closely with the blind associations to ensure that the resources Hong Leong Bank offers actively engages and educates their community members. As we continue to advocate financial literacy among Malaysians, we want to ensure the access of financial literacy is inclusive of everyone, including the visually impaired community, whose accessibility is quite limited.
“The Bank’s initiative will start off with 30 financial literacy articles in audio format in the areas of Understanding Common Financial Jargon, Investment and Savings, Financing, Scams, Emergency Fund Planning and EPF Members Entitlement. These audio files were recorded in-house by our staff who had volunteered for this special project.”
In addition to challenges accessing financial education, Malaysia’s visually impaired community also faces difficulties in access to financing. In June 2020, HLB took measures to bridge this gap, introducing the nation’s first talking ATM for the visually impaired community in branches in Brickfields and Pulau Tikus. These talking ATMs offer audio support in Bahasa Melayu, English and Mandarin, with adaptive software and supporting hardware such as headphone jacks. HLB continues to champion the use of technological solutions to improve inclusive financial access, underpinned by its core commitment to ensure financial literacy for all.
Moses Choo, Consultant for the National Council for the Blind, Malaysia said, “We are grateful to know that Hong Leong Bank is taking the first step to make banking and financial education more accessible and inclusive of the visually impaired community. This initiative is truly a step forward in addressing the challenges we face with financial services and understanding them better. With this, we look forward to working with more banks and are ready to provide feedback, creating equal opportunities for our community to benefit from the products, services and solutions the banking industry has to offer.”
‘HLB DuitSmart’ was launched in September 2019, with an aim to make financial information and knowledge more accessible to all Malaysians, as well as enable Malaysians to be financially empowered. These are done through three pillars - create Awareness to build financial knowledge and Assist with the right tools to enable Malaysians to Act appropriately when it comes to financial matters.
To get an access to the audio financial literacy files, please visit our HLB DuitSmart website at www.hlb.com.my/duitsmart