UniBank and Western Sydney University launch pilot program to boost Australian uni students’ financial skills

UniBank General Manager Mike Lanzing and Dr Michelle Cull from the School of Business

More than 500 Western Sydney University students are part of a pilot program for a new free app designed to help Australian university students upskill in financial literacy.

The UniBank Wallet$mart app, a joint effort from UniBank, Western Sydney University and Tangible comes at a crucial time, with a recent study showing that one in seven domestic students regularly go without food or other necessities because they can’t afford them, and three in five report that their finances are a source of worry.

“The latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey found Australians under the age of 25 to be the least financially literate, which is concerning given that many financial decisions made by young people can have a long-term impact on their lives,” said Western Sydney University, Associate Dean of Engagement, School of Business, Dr Michelle Cull, who is overseeing the app’s development.

“More needs to be done to inform and guide university students at this important point in their lives. While there are some great personal finance resources and programs available, often it isn’t until people are faced with making a financial decision that they are motivated to learn more. Collaborating with UniBank, we saw an opportunity to offer an easily accessible program that delivers just-in-time information about personal finance items to all students,” said Dr Cull.

UniBank General Manager Mike Lanzing said the combination of valuable research by leading academics and an in-depth pilot program was key to the project’s longevity and success. He said a special report to be released after the pilot program ends in November will provide strong insights to help students in the real world.

“As the bank dedicated to university employees, students and graduates, education is at the core of what we do. We wanted to work on a project that had the potential to drive genuine and ongoing behavioural change when it comes to students’ finances. By utilising the knowledge and data of leading academics in the field of financial literacy and working closely with students during the pilot to get to the heart of their habits and attitudes towards money, we believe the UniBank Wallet$mart app is a great tool to help improve students’ understanding of their finances,” he said.

The UniBank Wallet$mart app incorporates immediate, interactive and comprehensive information and tools to help students understand how to budget, save money and make the best decisions regarding their finances. Upon joining, students take a quiz on personal finance topics such as budgeting, employment, borrowing and saving. Their results produce a “Wallet$mart score,” which they are encouraged to improve upon by working through the relatable written and video content on these important personal finance topics.

Student input is critical to the design process, with the app created to cater to different living and studying arrangements including whether students are from abroad or live locally, are single parents, are living away from home, or are in a share house arrangement with other young people or adults. After the initial pilot, users of the app will participate in focus groups to provide thorough feedback on the app’s design and utility, as well as discuss their own spending and savings habits.

“UniBank is committed to supporting important academic research, and we are proud to work with Western Sydney University on this project to help support the financial wellbeing of university students nationally,” Lanzing said.

Dr Cull is an academic in accounting and financial planning at Western Sydney University’s School of Business and has with more than a decade’s experience in various financial and management accounting positions in ASX100 companies, and draws on the latest data and insights on financial literacy from around the world.


9 November 2020

Ali Sardyga, Media Officer