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FIANANCE | 05.21.2020

Finance and disability — hand in hand to improve everyone’s life

Alberto Matellán — Chief Economist at MAPFRE Inversión

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“Companies that make a conscious effort to integrate disability in all its dimensions turn out to be more innovative, agile and adaptable to change, because they have to solve problems and situations that others don’t face”

The worlds of disability and finance seem a long way apart. However, an effort to bring them closer together could help improve the lives of individuals and families in many ways. Although there are many kinds of disability, each creating different needs, the global framework offers some optimism.

Firstly, families that have a member with a disability require specific financial planning, as their future needs are likely to be different. The long-term becomes more important; for example, ensuring that young family members with disabilities secure a future income when their parents have passed away, or that they secure an adequate inheritance, which is then managed properly. Abante are experts in this type of advice and have been working with MAPFRE for a year now. They point out that the keys to this planning are time, allowing compound interest to play in our favor, and tailored solutions. And everyone’s needs are different. Fortunately, there are a number of specific instruments that, with the appropriate guidance, can help create tailored plans.

Employment is one of the main ways—perhaps the most important—of making it easier for people to participate in society and to develop fully. But there remains a popular belief that companies tend to regard disability as an added cost. In other words, as a drag on their financial results. But the reality is different. MAPFRE has demonstrated this in practice, by creating a methodology from scratch to select companies that demonstrate a greater commitment to disability. This has highlighted that a company’s behavior in the world of disability is actually a sound and unexpected indicator of its financial performance. And companies that make a conscious effort to integrate disability in all its dimensions turn out to be more innovative, agile, and adaptable to change, because they have to solve problems and situations that others don’t face.

Here’s an example. Have you ever thought about how to explain finance (a concept beset by equations and mathematical results) to a blind person? This person cannot see the equations, nor can computer systems read them aloud. The conversation requires rethinking based on how we understand financial analysis, leading to innovative everyday solutions. This is not a theoretical example. It is something that happens every day in the economic analysis department at MAPFRE Inversión, one of whose analysts is blind. In fact, the positive relationship between commitment to disability and financial results is so clear that it has become an investment portfolio: the MAPFRE Responsible Inclusion fund.

However, labor integration and the participation rates of people with a disability remain far below average, hindering the full development of the cohort. People with intellectual and mental disabilities feature heavily in these figures. In these cases, alternative channels of access to the world of employment may be required. For example, the Fundación MAPFRE Together We Are Capable (Juntos Somos Capaces) program is a pioneer in Spain in uniting the forces of associations and companies to identify the specific functions and tasks that make up a job position tailored to a particular person. The aim is to integrate into ordinary companies people who, without this support, would find it almost impossible to access employment. And companies find in practice that they can use profitable, positive human capital in talent niches they had not previously considered.

In conclusion, the development of every individual and family will improve if we strengthen the relationship between the financial world and the world of disability, through the channels described above or in other ways. This mainly requires a change in the perceptions of business and financial managers, doing away with misguided popular beliefs and seeing the world of disability as a talent niche and an opportunity to improve a company’s results, culture and mission. In particular, this means seeing the company as something aimed at improving people’s lives, and not just at obtaining a monetary result. Fortunately, that change is already taking place in many companies.