HONG Leong Bank and Hong Leong Islamic Bank's launch of an inclusive financial literacy initiative for the visually-impaired community under its financial literacy HLB DuitSmart corporate social responsibility (CSR) platform reflects its commitment to empowering and promoting economic inclusion and financial literacy for all communities in Malaysia.
The bank worked closely with several associations for the visually-impaired before converting the content into Braille as well as developing financial literacy content in audio format in English, Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin.
Hong Leong Bank group managing director and CEO Domenic Fuda said financial literacy was an essential first step in obtaining financial peace-of-mind.
“The visually-impaired community is often faced with challenges in getting access to financial literacy due to a lack of resources in Braille and also their socio-economic standing.
“This initiative aims to address these challenges by starting off with material that can reach out and be used by the community to empower them with financial knowledge,” he said.
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, said Fuda.
Hong Leong Bank chief marketing and communication officer Zalman Zainal said 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 associations for the blind to ensure that the resources we offer actively engage and educate their community members.
"We want to ensure access to financial literacy is inclusive for everyone, including the visually-impaired,” Zalman said.
“The initiative will start 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 employees who had volunteered for this special project,” Zalman added.
In addition to challenges accessing financial education, Malaysia’s visually-impaired community also faces difficulties in access to financing.
In June last year, Hong Leong took measures to bridge that gap by introducing the nation’s first talking ATM for the visually-impaired at its branches in Brickfields and Pulau Tikus.
The talking ATMs offer audio support in Bahasa Malaysia, English and Mandarin, with adaptive software and supporting hardware such as headphone jacks.
National Council for the Blind Malaysia consultant Moses Choo said: “We are grateful to know that Hong Leong is taking the first step to make banking and financial education more accessible and inclusive for the visually-impaired.
“This initiative is a step forward in addressing the challenges we face with financial services and understanding them better.
"We look forward to working with the banking industry and are ready to provide feedback, creating equal opportunities for our community to benefit from their products, services and solutions,” Choo said.
HLB DuitSmart was launched in September 2019, with an aim to make financial information and knowledge more accessible to the people, as well as enable them to be financially empowered.
To access the audio financial literacy files, visit www.hlb.com.my/duitsmart