- Decrease in Relative Consumer Financial Vulnerability in 2009
KeyFindings of the 2009 Genworth Index for Great Britain:
- British households' levels of optimism about financial future increase
more than other European countries, despite ongoing financial
- Great Britain ranked 10th out of 14 European countries in terms of
relative financial vulnerability
- Index score improves from 23 points in 2008 to 10 points in 2009; Great
Britain still financially vulnerable
- Improvement in UK consumer confidence based more on personal experience
than macroeconomic factors
Great Britain, fuelled by increased consumer optimism about the financial
future, has seen an improvement in its levels of relative financial
vulnerability, according to the 2009 Genworth Index published today. The
Index survey, commissioned by global Fortune 500 specialist insurer Genworth
Financial, is the first academic European study of its kind to capture
"financial vulnerability" by considering the current financial situation and
recent experiences of households with their future expectations.
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The Index, now in its third year, designed by the Personal Finance
Research Centre at the University of Bristol and the European Credit Research
Institute, and conducted by Ipsos MORI, was created to measure relative
financial vulnerability across 14 European countries; surveying 14,000
In 2009, Great Britain ranks tenth out of 14 with an improved Index score
of 10; dropping from 23 points in 2008. The Index is constructed by capturing
responses to two questions: how often have households experienced financial
difficulty in the last 12 months and what were households' financial
expectations going forward? From analysis of the answers to these questions,
14% of respondents from the UK were classed as being 'Financially Vulnerable'
and only 9% were 'Financially Secure'. The Index score is calculated as a
ratio of these percentages, where a positive score represents relative
financial vulnerability and a negative score represents relative security. As
such Britain, with a score of 10, remains tipped towards financial
vulnerability and is also some distance from its baseline score of -19 in the
first survey in 2007, when as a whole, the country was experiencing relative
A Shift towards Optimism
While still tipped towards financial vulnerability, further analysis of
the improvement in the UK score reveals that there was a substantial shift
towards optimism among British households. Almost a quarter (24%) of
respondents felt that their financial position will improve over the next 12
months, compared to 15% in the 2008 survey. The number of respondents
expecting their situation to get worse also more than halved from 36% in 2008
to 13% in 2009. The changes experienced in Britain were far greater than the
average for all countries surveyed and are unlike any other individual
country in terms of magnitude.
"The number of people experiencing financial difficulty has continued its
upward trend, with 16% this year saying that they 'often' or 'always'
experienced financial problems compared to 13% in 2008, and so it is perhaps
surprising to see that Great Britain has experienced a recovery in confidence
and optimism," said Peter Barrett, Global Managing Director at Genworth
Financial's Lifestyle Protection business.
"In fact, our levels of optimism have increased more than any of the
European countries surveyed, including those countries experiencing relative
financial security. Like everywhere else, the UK economy has been subject to
severe financial stress and a number of factors and policies have come into
play over the last year or so, such as lower interest rates and inflation,
financial system bailouts and VAT reduction to alleviate this stress.
Although we are now seeing small signs of recovery from the current
recession, there is still a degree of uncertainty. This begs the question
upon what, specifically, is this new sense of optimism based?"
Why are the British Optimistic?
Genworth Financial, with Ipsos MORI, conducted further qualitative
research into respondents in the UK who were facing financial difficulty but
were feeling positive; a group the Index study describes as; 'Strivers', and
asked them why they were feeling more optimistic? Notably, the findings
revealed that the primary reason for consumers feeling more positive comes
from factors relating to households' own circumstances, whether these related
directly or indirectly to economic factors or to personal circumstances more
Andrea Finney, Personal Finance Research Centre, Genworth's academic
partner for the Index - explains: "The 'Striver' category in the Index
increased considerably in 2009 up to 15%, compared to 8% in 2008, and it
appears to have been made up of households that have migrated from the
'Financially Vulnerable' category, that is, those who have experienced
difficulty and do not expect things to get better. The follow-up work shows
that overall, the reasons for the optimism among strivers appears to have
centred around five key themes. These were: work prospects, money management,
the wider economy, personal circumstances and, finally, general disposition.
Not surprisingly, the first three appear to relate directly or indirectly to
the economic climate. However, perceptions about the wider economy featured
far less and also interestingly, respondents' expectations appear not to have
been driven greatly by media coverage on the economy."
Commenting on the findings, Peter Barrett said, "Not surprisingly job
security and prospects featured greatly in consumers' perception of their
financial future, although even those without jobs still found reasons to be
cheerful, whether as a means of motivating themselves or by focusing on other
more positive financial factors. The recession seems to have necessitated,
and in some cases motivated, people to be more financially prudent;
encouraging them to sort their finances and reduce their levels of personal
indebtedness. This change in behaviour produced a 'feel good' factor in some,
while other respondents had clearly benefited from external positive
macroeconomic factors, but not as many as one would think. Equally, few
respondents felt economic news stories affected their mood one way or
Britain Compared to the Rest of Europe and the US
Beyond Great Britain, the 2009 Index reveals a promising fall in levels
of consumer financial vulnerability across Europe since 2008, with the
overall score dropping from 35 to 27. This is despite a recent deterioration
in the economic situation of every country surveyed*. The fall can be
attributed to both a modest alleviation of financial difficulties and less
pessimistic expectations of the future financial position of households. But
this promising improvement masks wide variations in the experience of
different countries and is still some way short of the levels of security
seen in 2007 when Europe had a score of 7 on the Index.
Interestingly, the USA (new to the 2009 Index) was revealed to be less
vulnerable than Europe, despite the harsh economic climate it has faced over
recent months. Relative financial vulnerability for the USA was at 14 points
on the Index compared to the average of 28 points across the 14 countries in
Europe. Of all the individual European markets surveyed, the Index score for
Great Britain is most similar to the USA.
"The varying levels of vulnerability across Europe undoubtedly reflect
the different experiences of recession in individual countries and the extent
to which some markets are starting to show signs of economic recovery while
others are not. The two countries with the worst levels of financial
vulnerability, Ireland and Poland, benefited from the economic boom and entry
to the European Union. Following the high levels of growth that came with
this it's clear that the shock of the global financial crisis was felt most
acutely here." said Andrea Finney.
In contrast, Portugal and Norway saw large falls in levels of financial
vulnerability with their index scores dropping 25 and 23 points respectively.
As a result, Norway has now replaced Denmark as the most secure country in
"Financial vulnerability has become a much more pressing issue given the
events of the past couple of years. However, even before the economic
turndown, there was widespread concern about the consequences of high levels
of borrowing and the evolving patterns of risk faced by consumers. We helped
create this academically robust and repeatable Index in order to gain an
understanding of which households are particularly vulnerable. It is designed
to help policy makers take adequate steps to help consumers achieve financial
security" said Peter Barrett. "This is the third year of tracking
vulnerability across Europe and it shows the experience of different
countries and households throughout the financial crisis."
* according to IMF World Economic Outlook 2009
Notes to editors:
About Genworth Financial
Genworth Financial, Inc. (NYSE:GNW) is a leading Fortune 500 global
financial security company. Genworth has more than $100 billion in assets and
employs approximately 6,000 people with a presence in more than 25 countries.
Its products and services help meet the investment, protection, retirement
and lifestyle needs of more than 15 million customers. Genworth operates
through three segments: Retirement and Protection, U.S. Mortgage Insurance
and International. Its products and services are offered through financial
intermediaries, advisors, independent distributors and sales specialists.
Genworth Financial, which traces its roots back to 1871, became a public
company in 2004 and is headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. For more
information, visit Genworth.com. From time to time Genworth releases
important information via postings on its corporate website. Accordingly,
investors and other interested parties are encouraged to enroll to receive
automatic email alerts and Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds regarding
new postings. Enrollment information is found under the "Investors" section
Lifestyle Protection Insurance is a family of products that help
borrowers and consumers maintain their lifestyle by allowing them to make
regular repayments on loans, mortgages and other financial commitments in the
event of unemployment, disability or an accident, and clear outstanding
balances in the event of death.
Genworth's Lifestyle Protection products are offered through distribution
relationships with over 250 financial institutions, brokers and advisers in
the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece,
Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland,
Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
Genworth's Lifestyle Protection entities are rated "A-", with a stable
outlook by Standard and Poors.
About The Genworth Index
Research was conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Genworth Financial.
Total sample size was 15,000 householders - the person in whose name the
accommodation is owned or rented, or his/her partner in order to provide
meaningful data from those people with financial responsibilities 1,000 in
each of 14 European markets: Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great
Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and
Turkey) - and the United States. Fieldwork was undertaken during late
September and the first week of October 2009. The survey was carried out by
face to face interviews. The Index design was undertaken by the Personal
Finance Research Centre, University of Bristol and the European Credit
The Genworth Index is derived from responses to two questions:
- Thinking about the general financial position of your household, how
often do you experience financial difficulties?
- Looking ahead over the next 12 months, do you think the financial
position of your household will improve, stay the same or get worse?
By combining responses to these questions, four distinct groups or
clusters can be identified. The Index takes the ratio of the percentage of
people in the financially secure group relative to the percentage of the
group who are financially vulnerable. The resulting value is rescaled so that
a score of -100 indicates maximum possible relative financial security and a
score of 100 indicates maximum relative financial vulnerability. For more
information visit: http://www.genworth.com/consumerindex
Guy Genney, Tel. +44-208-380-3786, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hill & Knowlton
Tim Mullen, Tel. +44-207-413-3465, email@example.com
SOURCE Genworth Financial