Promoting a savings culture

Held on Tuesday, October 13


  • Joseph Surtees (StepChange)

  • Mutaz Qubbaj (Squirrel)

  • Alex Letts (Ffrees)

  • Christine Allison (CSFI)


Christine Allison, CSFI Financial Inclusion Fellow, talks to Joseph Surtees (StepChange) and Mutaz Qubbaj (Squirrel) about how to ensure that every UK household has at least £1,000 available in accessible savings.



We are rotten at saving – and we know it. Indeed, 22 million British adults feel they don’t have enough set aside to cope with a rainy day – and 75% of those don’t feel things are going to change.

There is a huge social cost to this. Indeed, it has been estimated that, if every household had at least £1,000 saved, the number of problem debtors would fall by 500,000 – and the State would benefit accordingly. But how do you get individuals and families to save – particularly at the lower end of the socio-economic scale?

StepChange is the UK’s leading debt charity, and it has recently published a discussion paper on keeping families out of debt. The headline recommendation: build on the new workplace pensions system to ‘auto-enrol’ individuals in accessible savings schemes. According to the paper, “this could be done either by creating an accessible savings ‘jar’ within a pension pot, or by diverting auto-enrolment contributions into a linked savings account”. Government should boost its role in financial education, and debt advice must take more account of the need for a savings buffer. Banks and other financial services providers also have a role to play – including credit unions.

The lead author of the report is Joseph Surtees, the charity’s senior public policy advocate, and I am delighted that he has agreed to walk us through the report, explaining its methodology and its findings. I am also delighted that have two respondents to kick off the discussion:

  • Mutaz Qubbaj is the CEO and co-founder of Squirrel – a “financial well-being platform that empowers employees to regain control of their financial lives”. Squirrel is a graduate of the Barclays Techstars Accelerator, and is a member of the UnLtd social impact programme sponsored by the Cabinet Office. Mutaz is an MIT graduate, who spent several years working at MIT’s Media Lab before going into the City with Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and PIMCO.
  • Alex Letts is the founder of Ffrees, the digital current account which “attacks the underlying banking business model by helping customers to save up as opposed to promoting debt and credit products”. Before founding Ffrees, he set up and led RI3K (now EbixExchange), the electronic trading service for the commercial re-insurance industry.
  • Christine Allison is the CSFI’s Financial Inclusion Fellow and a member of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s working group on financial inclusion. She spent more than 20 years at the World Bank, in Washington and elsewhere, focusing on small-scale lending.

This is an important area, with profound social implications.