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Helping More People to Save for a Rainy Day

Sector: Financial services, Digital and technology

Team: Umar, Numa, Sechele, Sidney, Owain

Partner: Wagestream

Literature review


Helping More People to Save for a Rainy Day

We helped Wagestream build a new savings feature for their app, using evidence from behavioural literature and expert interviews to inform how to best encourage people to build up a rainy day fund.

The Challenge

Around a third of all people in the UK have less than £100 in savings. This means that tens of millions of people across the country have next to no financial buffer, should they encounter any form of financial challenge. A broken fridge, or an unexpected parking fine, for example, can lead to someone needing to borrow money that they subsequently find it difficult to repay. The team at Wagestream, a financial wellbeing app whose goal is to make money management easier and more accessible for people, recognised the severity of this problem amongst the 500,000+ users of their platform. They asked CogCo to work with them in helping them to build a new product that could help their users build up their financial resilience.

The Approach

The CogCo team began by conducting a behavioural science literature review, with the aim of understanding what the evidence said about what was most likely to encourage people on relatively modest salaries to build up a rainy day savings fund. This was combined with a series of expert interviews with behavioural finance experts, including Professor Peter Tufano, the Dean of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School; and Dilip Soman, Professor of Behavioural Science at the Rotman School in Toronto.

The three broad lessons were that (i) individuals are much more likely to save if the process is simple and intuitive (e.g. through creating an automatic link with their earnings); (ii) encouraging small, regular savings is preferred over encouraging people to put aside large amounts, because it is more manageable and helps to create a savings ‘habit’ that can sustain over time; (iii) setting a clear goal can help encourage commitment over time; and (iv) savings lotteries, in which bigger prizes (or greater chances of winning) are on offer the more you save, can be more powerful incentives than more standardised interest rates. After developing these core insights, we worked with Wagestream’s product team to help create a new product that would help encourage people to save small amounts over time.

The Result

The result was a completely new savings pot product called Safestream, which draws on each of these different elements (see Figure 1 below). Safestream enables users of Wagestream to set a savings goal that can be achieved over time by automatically putting aside a small amount of their earnings into a savings pot.

Figure 1: Safestream screenshots

(C) Wagestream

Salaried workers can do this by automatically setting aside a small amount of money from their earnings every month. Shift workers can do so by automatically rounding down their pay to the nearest pound after they have worked a shift, and putting the pennies into a savings pot. A savings prize draw then gives Safestream users the chance to double their savings every month.

A year after launch, the feature had already helped frontline workers save over £10m, and helped 50,000 people save for the first time in their life.

“Through our founding charities and partner employers, we know there is both a desire and an urgent need to help more people with savings – so we’re incredibly proud of the success of the feature so far. The CogCo team has been fantastic to work with, and its deep behavioural expertise has helped build a feature already changing thousands of lives for the better.”

-Peter Briffett, CEO and Co-Founder, Wagestream

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