Research with Impact: Developing More Effective Financial Support Provision

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Centre for Decision Research

Dr Simon McNair is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Decision Research. Simon’s academic background is in the psychology of judgement and decision-making, with a particular focus on how individual differences in cognitive and emotional characteristics influence people's behaviour. His PhD research studied how people think about competing evidence when making estimates about how likely an outcome is - a form of reasoning integral in areas such as medical diagnosis (how likely is someone to have Disease X ?), law (how likely is it this defendant is guilty?) and finance (how likely is someone to get a good return on this investment?). Prior to joining the Centre, Simon completed research on behalf of leading UK debt management firm Grant Thornton UK LLP which studied emotional and behavioural differences between men and women experiencing bankruptcy.

Photograph of Simon and Cathy with their award

Early Career Researcher Impact Award
Using Behavioural Insights to Develop More Effective Financial Support Provision

About the research:
"My initial research at Leeds University Business School indicated that psychological factors such as how people cope with stress, and self-efficacy were associated with spending and borrowing during times of high pressure.

Through this research I developed close ties with the United Leeds Debt Forum—a co-operative of professional, voluntary, political and community-based financial activists - and co-organised and hosted their inaugural conference at the University in 2014, with a keynote talk given by Hilary Benn MP. This initial research also garnered media interest from Radio Aire and Made in Leeds TV.

Subsequently, I have developed a research agenda that aims to translate these initial findings into a “psychological toolkit” that can be applied by financial support organisations to develop their policy and practice with respect to helping those in financial difficulty to overcome issues concerning stress, emotions and self-regard.

As part of this agenda I am leading an in-progress project with partners Money Buddies, a Leeds community-based support organisation, which will assist them in identifying the kinds of psychological issues their clients may be facing that may undermine their ability to cope with financial difficulty.

Furthermore, through this initial work I have developed a partnership with both Leeds and Bradford Citizens Advice Bureau—two of the largest UK Bureaus—with the aim of upscaling this research agenda.

The partnership formed a major component of my successful application for a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship (which I will be blogging about shortly) that will see me work directly with CAB to further develop the “toolkit”.

The upcoming project has once again seen me featured on Made in Leeds TV as well as be interviewed by The Yorkshire Post. It stands to yield direct impact on practice in an organisation that is the largest independent provider of financial advice in the UK.

It’s a wonderful honour for me to have my research recognised by the Business School in this way. The fantastic support I have had from my colleagues and peers has, for me, culminated in being awarded a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, and I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to continue my research here at Leeds University Business School.”

Comment from the judges:
“Dr McNair received the Impact Award for an Early Career Researcher, a special category within the Awards. It was evident to the panel that he had developed a highly valuable and applied research agenda and established several very strong working relationships with external bodies – companies, third sector agencies and policymakers. He has also captured the attention of the media. His work is highly commendable and we look forward to hearing about his achievements under his Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship.” 

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect the views of Leeds University business school or the University of Leeds.