In April, hundreds of people related to the finance sector convened in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, for the Child & Youth Finance International (CYFI) summit. The CYFI event was the first of its kind to bring together youth and senior-level representatives from across various sectors to discuss financial inclusion and education for youth around the world. Some 70 youth summit participants, primarily high school students representing 40 countries, discussed how to shape and define the future of finance. They also engaged directly with policymakers to share their views on youth financial literacy. Their policy recommendations included:
- Create awareness of youth finance. In order to reshape the future of finance, knowledge and education must be spread around the world.
- Provide financial education. Establish a mandatory financial curriculum that is taught in all schools for students age 12 and above.
- Encourage youth-led enterprises. Banks should offer low-interest loans to inspire youth to make money based on their own ideas.
- Child-friendly banking. Youth should be able to open bank accounts without a parent’s signature, and banks should create special child-friendly bank account cards for ATM machines.
During the summit, Knowledge@Wharton High School caught up with Tom Rosen Jacobson, a 16-year-old 10th grade student at the International School of Amsterdam who participated in the youth policy meetings. Not only did the summit increase Jacobson’s awareness of global child finance issues, but he also learned valuable lessons in teamwork and collaboration.
Below is an edited transcript of the conversation.
Knowledge@Wharton High School: Thank you for joining us today.
Tom Rosen Jacobson: No problem.
KWHS: What brings you to the Child & Youth Finance International Summit?
Jacobson: It started out with my mom [speaking with one of her friends] who is one of the organizers of this summit. She said, “If you know anybody who would like to come, please tell us, because we want to get as many people as we can.” So my mom asked around and eventually, she came to me as well. I thought it would be fun to do. That’s how I ended up here.
KWHS: What did you do here? Tell me a little bit about the summit from a youth perspective.
Jacobson: We started out the first day with getting to know each other, so we played a lot of social games.
KWHS: And who was here? How many students?
Jacobson: Over 70 from  countries. It was a lot of different nationalities in one place.
KWHS: You started out talking about financial issues. Tell me a little bit about how the couple days went.
Jacobson: Our groups had to think about very broad questions. An example would be: What is money? or Can money be used or abused? As the day progressed, we started thinking about specific things heading more toward this day, when we would be presenting our thoughts to the [adult policy-makers at the summit].
KWHS: How did you end up defining child finance? That seems like a really big term. What were some of the things that you got into with that?
Jacobson: My main point was:
KWHS: Have you had a savings account before?
Jacobson: Yes, very early.
KWHS: And continued to put money in there?
Jacobson: Yes, of course. That’s the Dutch habit of always wanting to put more and more into your bank account.
KWHS: What do you feel were the key lessons learned for you during this conference? You were here with a bunch of other youth from around the world and lots of high school students. What do you take away from this?
Jacobson: The most important thing was that we were able to understand each other. There were people coming from very poor environments as well as extremely rich environments — completely polarized people. It was really good to learn that no matter what our financial situation was, [we were able to work things out together].
KWHS: Do you plan to go into a career in finance?
Jacobson: I’m not planning to at the moment. I’m focusing on producing music and mixing music because that’s one of my many interests that I’ve been enjoying since [an early age]. I’ve been playing a lot of instruments.
KWHS: Such as?
Jacobson: Violin and guitar and also drums. So I wanted to take that to the next level and make sure I keep doing what I like because that’s what I believe is the most important thing to do.
KWHS: Find your passion.
KWHS: Did you also have fun at this summit?
KWHS: It was enjoyable? Not just a lot of hard work?
Jacobson: It was very enjoyable. Of course, the things we discussed are not to get you narrowed down to a career in finance. The things you learn here can be used in any case whatsoever — in daily life as well as in the big decisions you make. For example, [you can apply these lessons when figuring out] what job to take or what university course to take. The things you learn here and the friendships you make will last forever and can be used anywhere, regardless of whether you want to have a future career in finance or not.
KWHS: If you had something that you wanted to say to other teenagers around the world about finance or about what you learned here today and this week, what would it be? What message would you like them to hear?
Jacobson: It would definitely be that even though it might not seem this way, children of our age can [be] a huge inspiration for others whom we might see as inspirations ourselves. And the other thing is that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what you believe in or what’s around you, you will always be able to agree and laugh and talk with others who might be completely different, and come out with one very good final product.
KWHS: Tom, thank you for joining us.
Jacobson: No problem, thank you.