Our commitment to financial inclusion
Migration has made Europe an increasingly open and multicultural society. That is why we are committed to promoting inclusion in the communities where we live and work. As a bank, we have naturally elected to focus on financial inclusion. Our first priority is to help individuals improve their basic skills and knowledge.
Since 2009, our financial education programs have focused on listening to customers' needs and offering multidisciplinary educational modules tailored to different demographics, including youths, the elderly, families, immigrants and cultural mediators, nonprofit organization and SMEs.
Designed and managed in cooperation with experts, institutions and national and international organizations, our programs are run primarily in Italy, Germany and Austria, along with pilot projects in Central and Eastern Europe.
Given the tremendous changes in the way banking is conducted today, we make sure to focus specifically on teaching people how to utilize new digital technologies to their advantage. And from basic financial concepts, to personal finance, retirement planning, savings, investments, financial products and instruments -- our programs provide people the tools they need to competently manage their assets.
Financial inclusion also means fostering the talent and skills that can help new types of entrepreneurship to flourish. We are proud to support a number of competitions designed to foster creativity, especially when they bring innovative ideas through the crucial phase of translating a good business plan into a real for-profit or nonprofit enterprise.
UniCredit also believes that promoting gender balance is essential to fostering talent. For this reason, we are committed to encouraging entrepreneurship among women.
At UniCredit, we support social enterprises that create networks between public and private entities and, by applying strategies typical of the private sector, provide innovative solutions to social challenges, such as aging populations or the rise of unemployment, especially among young people.
We stand side by side with young people and invest in the development of their skills through our UniCredit & Universities Foundation. We also foster the growth of young artists because we believe all forms of personal expression and accomplishment can serve to increase a country's overall competitiveness.
The increasing number of people in dire straits due to the lingering economic crisis has also led us to search for new ways to support individuals and low-income families, including the development of a range of products, services and personalized solutions for recent immigrants.
In Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, we promote financial inclusion through initiatives that are tailored to specific local needs.
Bank Pekao SA's First Apartment for the Young program, for example, helps those under the age of 35 finance their first house. So far, the program has enabled 5,500 young Poles to secure mortgages and purchase a home.
Meanwhile, in Bulgaria, together with UniCredit Bulbank DD, we set up the Academic League to help those aged 18 to 25 years work on real business projects with the support of bank colleagues as mentors.
In addition, across our operations, we are right at the side of our older customers with ad hoc tools and financial education programs.
We are also working to reduce potential barriers for people with disabilities.
In 2014, more than 26,000 people participated in almost 850 educational sessions through In-formati, a program taught by 269 volunteers from UniCredit. Graduates from this program saw their financial literacy improve by an estimated 19 percent.
Our employees and their commitment to local communities
UniCredit employees are encouraged to participate in local community initiatives, especially if they have social objectives.
We believe that volunteering motivates employees, improves teamwork and facilitates the sharing of experience between the Group and local community.
In 2014, UniCredit employees dedicated more than 144,000 hours of their time to volunteer activities during working hours.
In addition to Groupwide programs led mainly by our UniCredit Foundation, our banks across are individually sponsoring programs across Europe that address the specific needs of the communities where they work.