Blog: My Account, My Future: Youth feedback and other observations from the pilot evaluation in Kenya
By: Corrinne Ngurukie, Save the Children; Moses Njenga, KIPPRA; and Vilma Ilic, Columbia University
As part of the YouthSave project, PostBank in Kenya recently launched a pilot of a new savings product for young people, called “SMATA,” youth slang for “smarter.” The tagline for the SMATA brand is “My Account, My Future,” reflecting the intention of the product to appeal to young people, aged 12-18, and provide them with an opportunity to save. A recent evaluation of the product pilot—conducted by YouthSave’s Consortium Partners including Save the Children, KIPPRA, and PostBank—identified successes and challenges to the uptake of the product during its trial release. Young people and their parents/guardians provided valuable feedback on the pilot product design and roll out, which will be used to inform further product refinements, as well as roll out planning and implementation.
SMATA was piloted at 12 PostBank branches throughout Kenya from August through December 2011. Launch events were held at all 12 locations and attended by approximately 5,400 people, mostly primary school youth. In addition, a few presentations were given to schools to introduce the SMATA account. Flyers and posters were also used to publicize the product.
PostBank, KIPPRA, and Save the Children conducted an evaluation of the SMATA pilot in January 2012. The pilot evaluation was conducted using a mix of qualitative and quantitative tools. These comprised product satisfaction surveys, focus group discussions with youth and their parents/guardians, and interviews and operational reviews with PostBank staff. Two hundred youth participated in the evaluation, of whom 96% were in-school youth, with the majority (63%) falling within the 12-14 year age -group, while the remainder were 15-18 years old.
Overall, youth respondents reported positive impressions of SMATA, noting that it would enable them to keep their savings in a secure place and to start saving at an early age.“I now have my own account and do not need to save under my mattress anymore,”commented a 13-year-old boy at the Kenyatta Market branch. Many saw the account as a vehicle that would help them and their parents/guardians save for school fees. Youth described PostBank employees as friendly and knowledgeable about the new product, and reported account opening and transactions to be fast and efficient.
Despite the regulatory requirement that accounts be jointly owned by a trusted adult, youth reported a strong sense of account ownership because they can make deposits on their own and their presence is required to make a withdrawal. “I am happy because I own this account. My mother gives me money and I go to the bank to deposit by myself,” commented a 14-year-old girl in Chuka.
For their part, the majority of parents responded positively to their children owning a SMATA account. The quantitative survey of youth confirmed this, with 93% indicating that their parents know about and are supportive of their account. One mother’s statement in a focus group was typical of parent responses: “The money that was used to buy small things like sweets is now being saved.”
Limited access to bank branches, however, was reported as a barrier to using the account by some youth. Bank branches’ opening hours coincide with school hours, making it difficult for in-school youth to transact. In addition, some youth and their parents reported that branch locations are inconvenient, located far away from both their schools and their homes. As PostBank prepares to take the product to scale, making the product easy to access will be critical. To address ease of access, youth will be able to use the bank’s other POS access points—namely PostBank agents and mobile phone banking (PataCash)—but for deposits only.
Another challenge, reflected in the pilot data, was recruiting secondary school students and out-of-school youth. Only 37% of pilot participants were in secondary school (15-18 years old), and only 4% were not in school. These low numbers likely reflect PostBank’s marketing of the product during the pilot: only below-the-line marketing—localized marketing including school visits, fun day events at a local school, and visits to parents of youth—took place, and most of that was in primary schools. Bank staff noted that marketing was challenging in secondary schools because many are boarding schools in which a youth’s parents may not live nearby and cannot be readily available to serve as the trusted adult in the account-opening process. Out-of-school youth were difficult to mobilize because they tend to be scattered (as opposed to concentrated in one location like school-going youth), often lack identification documents, and have difficulty identifying a trusted adult with whom to operate the account. Going forward, PostBank plans to diversify its marketing and outreach strategies to reach a broader range of youth.
The richness of the data collected in this single pilot evaluation may be indicative of the lessons that will come out of ongoing research efforts in YouthSave. The youth participants’—and their caregivers’—valuable feedback in this pilot evaluation will help to further refine the product, as well as help execute the roll out planning and product implementation. On a larger scale, this data combined with additional data gathered throughout the YouthSave project will likely inform the field as a whole.
Acknowledgments: This information has been derived from the SMATA End Evaluation Pilot Report presented to Postbank on February 9, 2012. Many thanks to Save the Children, KIPPRA, and Postbank for authorizing the use of this content.