One in five Dutch households has financial problems. As a bank, how can you help your customers to be financially independent? Ingrid van Lith (64) works as Advisor Daily Banking at Rabobank 's-Hertogenbosch en Omstreken. She is also a buddy at FiKks: an app in which people with debts are linked to a buddy, who helps them get a grip on their financial situation again.
What is fiKks?
FiKks is an app in which volunteers can sign up as a buddy to help people with their outstanding debts. “In the app participants can state their income and expenses in a household booklet. They can also indicate debts and whether they’ve already contacted organisations to solve these debts”.
The direct contact between buddy and participant makes fiKks different from existing digital financial apps. “Anyone can become a buddy. After an e-learning of 3 hours and a Certificate of Conduct you can start as a buddy and indicate how many people you want to be in contact with. You see the financial data participants have entered on your dashboard. You can ask specific questions or refer people to the right agencies. But the most important thing is to give people confidence that they are on the right track. You are a coach, a sympathetic ear and have a referral function to the various aid agencies”.
Where did the idea come from?
The Dutch Schuldhulproute is an initiative in which civil society organisations and banks together provide help in the event of (starting) financial problems. The route starts at Geldfit.nl where you can anonymously take a test to see how you are doing financially. Based on the outcome, you will discover what help is possible for you. One of the tools is the fiKks app.
“The idea of the app originated in the corporate world. People with financial problems reported sick or started behaving differently from others. The numbers are quite shocking. We’re talking about 1.4 million Dutch people struggling with payment problems. When you see this, you can start helping people, for example by talking to them. But this is a much broader social problem. This is where the fiKks app came in.”
What role does the Rabobank play?
As a cooperative bank, Rabobank contributes to a ‘financially healthy life’ for everyone. Because there is a taboo on money problems, people in debt don’t like to sound the alarm. We want to break the taboo by making it a subject open for discussion and by helping people in a concrete way.
“In our local annual social plan we focus on financial self-sufficiency. One of the things we dealt with was how to recognise people in debt and how to help them? When I discovered fiKks the ball started rolling. A whole different way of banking than we used to do.”
What do you get out of the project?
“I started as a buddy at fiKks in late 2018. In the past year and a half I’ve had about 24 participants I’ve been helping. The questions they ask are very diverse. Some participants really use me as a sympathetic ear for when things don’t go well financially. Others have lost persepective altogether. You really help people by listening to them or sending them on to the right organisations such as debt assistance or a volunteer from the home administration office”.
There are already many Rabobank colleagues throughout the Netherlands volunteering as fiKks buddy. “Within Rabobank ‘s-Hertogenbosch I am still the only one, but when you see how many of my colleagues have already addressed me with questions about fiKks, I’m sure it won’t stay that way for long. I hope that many more of my colleagues sign up! I have been doing this for a year and a half with a lot of enthusiasm. You are a coach, a sympathetic ear and you can help people directly.”
How do you see the future of fiKks?
I’m going to stimulate the buddyship within Rabobank even more. In the coming year every employee at Rabobank ‘s-Hertogenbosch will be working on one of the social themes. One of those themes is ‘Everyone financially healthy’. The focus will be on preventing financial problems, among other things. In concrete terms, this means signing up as a buddy at fiKks with the aim of supporting people with financial problems and promoting financial self-sufficiency. The slogan ‘Make the Netherlands debt free’ is very important to me!