Bankers as Guest Instructors for Money Smart Classes
Banks have a variety of incentives to be involved with financial education programs for low- or moderate-income individuals, most notably opportunities to attract new customers and the possibility of receiving credit from regulators under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). But the FDIC also wants to remind other organizations involved in financial education that they -- and their students -- can benefit greatly by having bankers as guest instructors. Among them: breaking down barriers that may discourage some people from opening bank accounts and applying for loans.
"By interacting with a banker in a friendly classroom setting, students who have little or no experience dealing with a financial institution can learn that their staff are approachable people who can help them with their everyday financial needs," explained Luke W. Reynolds, an FDIC Community Affairs Specialist in Washington, DC.
One model example of a successful guest-instructor program involves the North Shore Community College in Danvers and Lynn, MA, which has been teaching Money Smart classes to area residents through a partnership with seven nearby banks since February 2005. The college coordinates the program and provides classrooms and handles much of the marketing, while the banks supply the teachers. Classes are taught in both English and Spanish. Students who successfully complete the classes are offered either a $25 certificate for use in opening a deposit account or $100 toward closing costs on a mortgage at any of the seven banks -- Danversbank, Eastern Bank, East Boston Savings Bank, North Shore Bank, First National Bank of Ipswich, Salem Five Cents Savings Bank, and Sovereign Bank, which are all Money Smart Alliance Members. Each graduate also gets a copy of the Money Smart Computer-Based Instruction CD-ROM.
"This partnership is working beautifully," reported FDIC Community Affairs Specialist Paul Horwitz in Boston. "These bankers may be competitors outside the partnership, but within it they are true partners -- dividing teaching assignments, filling in for each other, and generally making the students' best interest their highest priority. It's impressive to see how they are completely invested in making each class as successful as possible."
What's a good way for a non-banking organization find a banker as a guest lecturer? "Start by approaching a local branch manager or CRA officer about your training plans and how you would like the bank to help," suggested Reynolds. "Remember that the resources of the bank are limited, and it likely will have to decide between many different organizations asking for help, so try to give the bank as much information as you can to support your request, including the number of attendees expected and your marketing plans for the class."
A Success Story Using Financial Education in the Gulf Coast Recovery
FDIC bank examiner Thanh Lindboe, who speaks fluent Vietnamese, taught Money Smart financial education classes to a predominantly Asian audience recovering from the Gulf Coast hurricanes.
During the first three months of 2007, FDIC bank examiner Thanh Lindboe taught Money Smart classes to a predominantly Asian audience who dominate the Gulf Coast's fishing and boat building industries. Her students were among those still struggling to recover from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Lindboe, who speaks fluent Vietnamese, worked closely with Boat People SOS, a Money Smart Alliance Member in Bayou La Batre, AL. She also taught students in Biloxi, MS and New Orleans. Lindboe taught the Money Smart course in English and Vietnamese and used an interpreter for classes with Laotian speakers.
At her sessions, Lindboe taught skills such as how to maintain a check register, prevent overdrafts, save money and invest in bank CDs. In doing so, she said, students also gained the confidence they need to try to overcome language and cultural barriers that result in people not using mainstream banking services. "Students told me they wished they had Money Smart training earlier and that they now feel they are able to communicate with the bankers more effectively," said Lindboe, who is normally based in the FDIC's office in Sacramento, CA, but was serving on a temporary assignment in the Gulf Coast.
In one class, Lindboe was told by a couple in their 80s that they were upset about paying their bank a $6 fee each month to cash their Social Security checks, especially given that they had a savings account at the bank. Lindboe worked with the elderly couple and their bank and discovered that their savings account had gone dormant for years and was escheated (transferred) to the state government. Lindboe not only helped the couple file a claim with the state to return their $284 in savings, but she also assisted them in arranging for their Social Security check to be direct-deposited into a new checking account, so they can access their payments without a fee. Thanks to Money Smart and a dedicated teacher, this family now is better prepared to manage a bank account and save money in banking fees.