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Professor Sharon Collard

Profile summary

  • Visiting Informal Academic
  • Visiting Professor
  • The Faculty of Business and Law
  • The Open University Business School
  • Department for Accounting and Finance
  • sharon.collard

Professional biography

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). 

Research interests

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:

  • Defining and measuring financial capability using qualitative and quantitative research
  • Evaluating interventions that aim to improve individual’s financial capability
  • People’s decision-making and use of consumer credit, including higher-cost credit
  • Barriers and motivations to saving among people on lower incomes
  • People’s experiences of debt problems and their engagement with creditors and advice agencies.

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.

Impact and engagement

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:

  • The Centre for Social Justice Serious Debt Working Group, part of the CSJ’s Breakthrough Britain II programme
  • The Money Advice Service’s Research and Evaluation Group
  • The Future of Debt Management Industry Working Group, co-facilitated by Nationwide and Step Change Debt Charity
  • Citizens Advice Financial Skills for Life Steering Group
  • Research Advisory Group, The Long Term Impact of Debt Advice, Warwick University, funded by Friends Provident Foundation.  

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. 

Research Activity

Externally funded projects

Evaluating the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust Affordable Credit Pilot Scheme

RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01/Oct/201430/Sep/2015Joseph 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.

A review of Housing Association Innovation in Delivering Financial Inclusion

RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01/Oct/201431/Dec/2015Joseph 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.


Workplace pension reform: lessons from pension reform in Australia and New Zealand (2013-01)
Collard, Sharon
Social Policy and Society, 12(1) (pp. 123-134)
Toward financial inclusion in the UK: progress and challenges (2007)
Collard, Sharon
Public Money and Management, 27(1) (pp. 13-20)
Levels of financial capability in the UK (2007)
Atkinson, Adele; McKay, Stephen; Collard, Sharon and Kempson, Elaine
Public Money and Management, 27(1) (pp. 29-36)
Mental health and debt: challenges for knowledge, practice and identity (2007)
Fitch, C.; Simpson, A.; Collard, S. and Teasdale, M.
Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 14(2) (pp. 128-133)
Debt and mental health: the role of psychiatrists (2007)
Fitch, Chris; Chaplin, Robert; Trend, Colin and Collard, Sharon
Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 13(3) (pp. 194-202)
Closing the savings gap? The role of the Saving Gateway (2006)
Collard, Sharon and McKay, Stephen
Local Economy, 21(1) (pp. 25-35)
Quids In: The Impact Of Financial Skills Training For Social Housing Tenants. (2012)
Collard, Sharon; Finney, Andrea; Hayes, David and Davies, Sara
Publisher : Citizens Advice | Published : London
Money Guidance Pathfinder - A Report to the FSA (2010)
Kempson, Elaine and Collard, Sharon
Publisher : Consumer Financial Education Body | Published : London
Attitudes Towards Investment Choice And Risk Within The Personal Accounts Scheme: Report Of A Qualitative Study (2009-03)
Collard, Sharon and Breuer, Zoey
Research Report
ISBN : 978-1-84712-498-2 | Publisher : HMSO
Making decisions about work in one-earner couple households (2009)
Collard, Sharon and Atkinson, Adele
Department for Work and Pensions Research Report
ISBN : 978-1-84712-487-6 | Publisher : Her Majesty’s Stationery Office
Online Personal Finance Learning (2016-06-30)
Collard, Sharon and Brambley, Will
True Potential Centre for the Public Understanding of Finance, Open University
Access to Financial Services in the UK (2016-05-24)
Lowe, Jonquil; Collard, Sharon; Martin, Coppack and Simon, Sarkar
Financial Conduct Authority, London, UK.
Beyond Risk Profiling: Achieving better investment outcomes for consumers and industry (2015-10)
Collard, Sharon; Brambley, Will and Lowe, Jonquil
True Potential Centre for the Public Understanding of Finance, Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.
Saving Us From Ourselves – How Can We Make The UK More Financially Resilient? (2015-07-14)
Brambley, Will and Collard, Sharon
True Potential Centre for the Public Understanding of Finance, Open University, Milton Keynes.
Poverty, Debt And Credit: An Expert-Led Review (2014-03)
Hartfree, Yvette and Collard, Sharon
University of Bristol, Bristol.
Financial Wellbeing In Later Life: Evidence And Policy (2014-03)
Collard, Sharon and Hayes, David
ILC-UK, London.
Working Together: Understanding Motivations And Barriers To Engagement In The Consumer Debt Marketplace (2013)
Collard, Sharon
Arrow Global, Bristol.
The Impact On Business And Consumers Of A Cap On The Total Cost Of Credit (2013)
Personal Finance Research Centre, ; Collard, Sharon; Collings, David; Davies, Sara; Finney, Andrea; Hayes, David; Kempson, Elaine and Morgan, Philippa
Department for Business Innovation and Skills, London.
Working Households' Experiences of Debt Problems: A Research Report Prepared for StepChange Debt Charity (2012-11)
Collard, Sharon; Finney, Andrea and Davies, Sara
Foundation for Credit Counselling
Developing A Vision For Financial Inclusion (2012)
Kempson, Elaine and Collard, Sharon
Friends Provident Foundation, Dorking.
Understanding Financial Difficulty: Exploring The Opportunities For Early Intervention (2011-10)
Collard, Sharon
Barclays and Money Advice Trust, London.
Evaluation of the DWP Growth Fund (2011-01)
Collard, Sharon; Hale, Chris and Day, Laurie
Financial Inclusion Taskforce
Pawnbroking Customers in 2010: A Survey – A Report to the National Pawnbrokers Association (2010-08)
Collard, Sharon and Hayes, David
Personal Finance Research Centre, Bristol.
Review of International Pension Reform (2010)
Collard, Sharon and Moore, Nick
Department for Work and Pensions
Facing The Squeeze: A Qualitative Study Of Household Finances And Access To Credit In A 21st-Century Recession (2009-09)
Collard, Sharon; Finney, Andrea and Crosswaite, Kate
Money Advice Trust, Birmingham.
An Independent Review Of The Fee-Charging Debt Management Industry (2009-06)
Collard, Sharon
Money Advice Trust, Birmingham.
Individual Investment Behaviour: A Brief Review Of Research (2009)
Collard, Sharon
Personal Accounts Delivery Authority