Sharon joined the Open University Business School in May 2014 as Professor of Personal Finance Capability in the True Potential Centre for the Public Understanding of Finance (PUFin).
Sharon’s background is social policy. She brings 16 years’ experience of policy-focused social research on personal finance conducted for funders including the financial services industry, government departments, and charitable foundations.
From 1998 to 2014, Sharon worked at the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre, from 2010 to 2014 as its Director.
Sharon’s recent research includes understanding motivations and barriers to engagement in the consumer debt marketplace (for Arrow Global); the work decisions of low-income two-parent households (for the Child Poverty Unit); working households’ experiences of debt problems (for StepChange Debt Charity); the impact of a cap on the total cost of high-cost credit (for BIS); and the financial dimensions of wellbeing in older age (for ESRC).
My main research interest is personal finance from the perspective of individuals and households. A lot of my research has focused on people with lower incomes, for example understanding financial exclusion and appropriate policy responses to promote financial inclusion.
I was involved in the seminal UK Baseline Survey of Financial Capability, commissioned by the Financial Services Authority in 2004. Since then, my research on personal finance capability has spanned topics including:
I am currently involved in evaluating the Big Lottery Fund’s £37 million Improving Financial Confidence programme and a European Commission-funded study on promoting access to and use of savings products by European citizens.
I work hard to ensure that social research helps inform policy and practice, for example by disseminating research findings through seminars, conferences and round tables and engaging in advisory roles. I am currently a member of:
I regularly act as an expert adviser on personal finance topics including financial capability, financial inclusion and consumer credit. In 2010-2012 I was an expert adviser to the World Bank-led Russia Trust Fund on Financial Literacy and Education, a large programme of work to measure financial capability and evaluate initiatives to improve financial capability. In 2013-2014, I worked as an expert adviser to the World Bank on developing labour market surveys to capture the impact of Saudi-isation policies in Saudi Arabia.
|Role||Start date||End date||Funding source|
|Lead||01/Oct/2014||30/Sep/2015||Joseph Rowntree Foundation|
The Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust set up a 12-month pilot scheme in July 2014 to deliver affordable credit to its tenants. This evaluation, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, aims to assess and learn from the JRHT pilot scheme to shape the ongoing development of the initiative, inform decisions over future roll-out, and provide additional learning for other housing associations and social investors. It combines qualitative and quantitative approaches to assess the pilot’s cost, financial and social benefits, added value, and approach to design and delivery. It involves workshops with JRHT staff; qualitative consultations with JRHT tenants; and analysis of monitoring and financial data collected by JRHT. The evaluation team comprises ECORYS UK, the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre, Cobweb Consulting and Professor Sharon Collard of The Open University Business School.
|Role||Start date||End date||Funding source|
|Lead||01/Oct/2014||31/Dec/2015||Joseph Rowntree Foundation|
This review was commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to identify financial inclusion schemes delivered or led by housing associations, with a particular focus on affordable credit and debt consolidation; to examine in detail innovative and learning-rich schemes; to identify the key lessons for what works and does not work, and why; to assess the extent to which loan schemes are able to compete against commercial (high-cost) credit providers; and to assess the extent to which the lessons learnt from international schemes are transferable to the UK context. The research comprises three substantive elements: (1) a literature review and scoping study; (2) case study research and (3) a synthesis exercise and dissemination event. The project is led by the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre, working with Cobweb Consulting, ECORYS UK, and Professor Sharon Collard of the Open University Business School.