IDC plans to train investors as well as trustees

Consumer financial literacy training could raise confidence, self reliance of retail investors

The Independent Directors Council’s (IDC) governing board is working on a consumer-oriented financial literacy program, spearheaded by newly elected chair Cynthia Plouché, who also led development of the organization’s innovative D&I program for fund directors.

Helping consumers learn about investing might make them more likely to invest in mutual funds and ETFs, but it would also give them the confidence to make their own decisions about their finances, according to Plouché, the Northern Trust and MassMutual independent director who was elected chair of the IDC’s governing council Oct. 11.

Before her election as chair, Plouché was best known in the IDC for leading the IDC diversity and inclusion working group,  which relies on education and career development to diversify the pipeline of future fund directors.

Rather than find ways to more aggressively recruit candidates with diverse backgrounds, the group chose to grow its own, by evangelizing the benefits of fund-board membership to promising executives too young to qualify currently, then offering to train them in the skills and background they’d need to succeed in joining boards later in their careers.

IDC signed a partnership deal last October with the Robert Toigo Foundation, which will develop educational programs, and with Diligent Corp., which built a digital fund-board-candidate matching service to help match candidates with the fund boards searching for them.

The consumer financial-literacy program is likely to use some of the educational approaches that have made the D&I program successful, but the idea for the project is still so new that most of the details about it are still up in the air, Plouché said during a phone interview with Fund Directions.

The IDC, which focuses on the needs of fund-board directors, not consumers, hadn’t planned any new consumer-education efforts this year.

That changed following an Oct. 3 speaking event featuring former U.S. Federal Reserve System Vice-Chair Roger Ferguson, which touched off enough discussions and support for a financial literacy program that Plouché felt she had no choice but to follow up.

“During that discussion with Mr. Ferguson we spent some time talking about financial literacy, which is important to both of us, and, afterward, enough people reached out to me afterward to show that the topic really resonates,” Plouché said.

PlouchéThe idea of a financial literacy program converged with the IDC’s mission of providing education to the financial industry, and the council’s education committee decided to move forward with the concept, according to Plouché.

“It’s not hard to visualize the kinds of partnerships and ability to work within the financial industry in ways that will help find traction for a movement with respect to financial literacy. But this is still very fresh out of the box, so we are still figuring things out and going to the drawing board on what it will look like,” she said.