BRUSSELS, 13 November 2020 — The Savings and Retail Banking History Award was attributed this year to Dr. Thomas Ruoss, research fellow at the University of Zurich. His paper "When Banking met Education - The International Savings Banks Institute as a hub for the circulation of economic knowledge in the 20th century" investigates the role of savings banks and their national associations in what we call now Financial Education. Indeed, financial literacy education is experiencing a boom. Actors within the fields of educational, economic, and social policy have been developing a profusion of learning tools, measuring educational achievements, or producing teaching material. This financial literacy education boom is, contrary to current perception, not a historical exception. Historically spoken, one type of actor stands out regarding its activities related to the diffusion of economic knowledge, especially that related to children and youth: the savings banks and the national and international savings banks associations.
The research paper takes the foundation and the development of the International Thrift Institute / International Savings Banks Institute (ISBI) as a probe for the examination of the circulation of economic knowledge in the 20th century. To achieve this goal, the paper develops a twofold perspective on the interface between savings banks and educational practices, asking: what role did educational practices play for the development of savings banks? How important were savings banks for the development of economic education?
Understanding the development of economic knowledge also involves investigating the rise of other actors seeking to wrest influence over general economic education activities from the savings banks. Economic education lost its role as a common ground of communication between the savings banks’ associations due to the reduction of its scope to issues mainly related to money management, and the justification provided for this – the aim of developing long-term costumer loyalty. This picture of savings banks activities makes it clear how a history of economic education as a crucial element of the history of market economies cannot be written without taking private associations and interest groups into account.
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