The Philippine Stock Exchange, Inc. (PSE) had 1.62 million stock market accounts at the end of 2021, as online stock market accounts topped the 1 million mark for the first time last year. These figures may be a drop in the bucket compared with the number of stock market accounts on other exchanges, including peer bourses in the region and other emerging markets, but these are still record figures for the PSE. The highest year-on-year increase in stock-market accounts at over 223,000 in 2021 is also a welcome development for the exchange. However, this is also a reminder of the immense work ahead to get more Filipinos to invest in legitimate financial instruments.
When it comes to money management, Filipinos still prefer to merely save their money in a bank account or to keep it under lock and key at home. While this shows an inclination towards being risk averse, the situation may be a little more complex than that. A general lack of understanding of financial markets and the apprehension brought about by preconceived notions about investing have made Filipinos shy away from investing in general and in the stock market. There is still a general impression that investing is only for the rich and that investing in stocks is akin to gambling. At the same time, when there are get-rich-quick schemes proliferating and investment solicitations that guarantee high returns, there will still be a good number of individuals who will simply part with their money without doing any due diligence on their supposed investment. Investment scams have become more sophisticated these days, using tools on the internet to make their claims much more believable. While social media has become the battleground for these scams, it’s also largely through these platforms that more and more discussions about individual financial concerns such as budgeting, paying off debt, investing, and the like take place. The openness needed to talk about these topics has contributed to an improvement in financial literacy in the country. The PSE uses the same social media and other online channels to reach a wider audience, especially those in provinces and cities outside of Metro Manila, where the exchange is based.
The PSE kicked off its 2022 market education calendar with its first-ever Investment Expo, a two-day online event that featured plenary sessions with regulators, financial industry experts, seasoned market practitioners and personal finance advocates as speakers. The expo also had breakout sessions that enabled participants to choose the stock market topics they would like to know more about with equity analysts of PSE-accredited trading participants (TPs). The featured webinar topics included 2021 in Review and 2022 Market Outlook, Digital and Crypto Assets, Personal Finance 101, Improving Your Relationship with Money, Navigating Change for Investors in 2022, Key Sector Trends to Watch Out for in 2022, Applying Smart Strategies for the New Year, Starting a Budget-Friendly Multi-Asset Portfolio On-the-Fly, among others. Event partners, comprising selected TPs and publicly listed companies, had virtual booths to respond to live queries on account opening requirements and questions from investors and potential shareholders, respectively. They also provided videos and downloadable materials on stock-market investing and company updates. The expo was well-attended with about 15,000 registered participants, which is many times higher than the 1,000 to 2,000 attendees that a typical onsite expo venue can accommodate. The webinars had 60,000 views, while the virtual booths of expo partners had 19,000 unique visits, around 36,000 document downloads, and close to 46,000 video views. The expo content remained accessible for a month on the event website to registered participants and was eventually made available on the exchange’s official YouTube channel later on, so event attendees and other interested viewers could revisit the talks and discussions on the topics mentioned.
Given the remarkable turnout of the Investment Expo, PSE will hold a similar event on November 11, but this time the content, speakers’ line up, and format will all be customized for the learning needs and styles of university students. Dubbed the PSE Campus Expo, the event is a whole day online conference organized for college students from top universities with the goal of educating young people about financial literacy and investing by providing an immersive learning experience. It will feature a plenary session, seminar breakout sessions, workshops, stock research competitions, and gamified activities. The Campus Expo details will be introduced on the Ring the Bell for Financial Literacy program of PSE slated for October 5. As part of World Investor Week, the PSE will also be hosting a stock research webinar on October 7 for students who will qualify to join the stock research competition. The said competition will be held during the Campus Expo and is aimed at honing the stock analysis skills of future equity analysts. The event will be offered for free to interested university students from all over the country.
Aside from the January and November expos, the PSE has continued to conduct its regular financial literacy activities throughout the year, including webinars hosted by the PSE for the general public and for companies, organizations and interest groups upon invitation. The second online Certified Securities Specialist Course (CSSC) also opened in June, in partnership with the School for Professional and Continuing Education (SPaCE) of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB). The CSSC is a 124-hour program that puts emphasis on capital markets, fundamental analysis, technical analysis, valuation techniques, portfolio management, business ethics, securities regulations, market dynamics, and the real world applications of finance principles. The 2022 CSSC run will end in December. The PSE is also using its social media accounts for other investment literacy content to educate the public on legitimate investment instruments and make the concept of investing easier to understand.
The numbers challenge us to do our best to provide creative solutions to people’s apprehension about investing. Financial literacy will always be at the core of the services offered by the PSE to help Filipinos take the necessary steps towards financial freedom and wealth creation.