In a national effort to alleviate poverty, China has already invested deeply in financial technology (“FinTech”) to achieve financial inclusion. In this context, financial social work (FSW) is a good fit with China’s public priorities and the interests of social workers, researchers, policymakers and educators.

Over the course of two decades, Washington University’s Center for Social Development (CSD) has built and sustained partnerships that have set the stage for the introduction of this idea; the training of key FSW local leaders; and the creation of a professional network through conferences, research, and policy/program innovation.

Building on this work, CSD’s director Michael Sherraden and international director Li Zou continued the financial capability and asset building (FCAB) leadership at several recent conferences at Chinese universities.

Speaking on “Financial Capability and Asset Building: A Grand Challenge for Social Work”, Sherraden offered a long-term vision: “Basic finance can become more like a ‘public good’,” using examples such as municipal water systems and public highways.

“People used to have to leave the house each morning to get water. Sometimes the water was dirty and people would get sick. Now, clean water is piped in through plumbing systems, and we take this for granted,” said Sherraden.

“In the information age, community banks and ATMs will likely be replaced with access to better quality finance through the internet and mobile technology, avoiding high fees and inefficient, poor quality services. This will be ‘the plumbing’ for finance. This is happening more quickly than many people realize, and China is in the lead globally.”

The first cohort of FSW students at the Central University of Finance and Economics

CSD will continue to advise and support the development of FSW in China, while at the same time learning from its Chinese partners. These productive partnerships will continue through the curriculum, research and ongoing policy and practice innovations.