Financial education should be an important part of our children’s education. Unfortunately, it is not emphasized on a consistent level. Despite this failure, banks have an ethical and practical responsibility to be sensitive to those who lack the experience, knowledge or means to make sound financial choices. We must do our part to educate all consumers and businesses about our tools and how they can be used to their advantage.
Having a bank account and knowing how to use it properly is often the first step towards financial stability and the ability to access credit, build wealth and plan for the future. A basic foundation can give someone a head start toward financial independence, preparing them to avoid costly mistakes and learn valuable career-building skills.
The impact of financial education is not something I discuss in theory or take lightly. I apply my own experience of being raised in an urban setting where we had limited resources and were not exposed to this type of information through the general curriculum. I had to seek advice to advance my financial knowledge, but not everyone has the opportunity or the confidence to take this step. Becoming comfortable interacting with a banker or similar personality is as important to developing skills as academic lessons, especially for someone who comes from an unbanked or underbanked background.
When I started my career in banking, I made it a point to teach financial literacy in schools in downtown Pittsburgh. I organized a group of my peers and we purposely taught classes on banking fundamentals and important concepts like balancing a checkbook, responsible use of credit, and the attributes a bank values for credit approval. It was a great satisfaction for me to see it click for students who heard, perhaps for the first time, that many aspects of financial success were within their control and reach.
My personal experience has driven me to put financial literacy first at FNB. Our goal is to serve as a resource and advisor, but customers should know that we understand and care about them before they come to us for help. We continually strive to break down ingrained misconceptions and politically motivated distortions about banks and our intentions. Our employees truly care about our customers and the communities they serve.
We have found that the best way to build trust is through transparency and by providing customers with a clear path to grasp the fundamentals of their banking relationship, which in itself is an essential form of practical education. Whether a consumer is on our website or reading their account agreement, basic questions answered — What are account features? How to avoid service charges? What are the first steps? – should be readily available, not buried under banker talk or legalese that is written for us, not them.
Focusing on transparency allows us to protect consumers and our business. Customers make better decisions when they have access to the right products and know how to use them appropriately. Their success translates to success in our communities and creates opportunities for new business. The link between financial literacy and economic health is clear, enduring, and integral to our collective success.
We have also seen the value of meeting customers where they are. People are more likely to use what is easy and familiar. Whether customers want to access services or information digitally from the comfort of their own home, at a branch, online, or at an ATM, the experience must be consistent and convenient.
To this end, we have deployed an exclusive financial education program that integrates several distribution channels. In addition to community outreach and resources from our physical network, we offer financial education programs digitally through our mobile online store. Customers see educational content on the same level of importance as transactional and service elements in their relationship.
Our approach allows for greater reach, especially in underserved neighborhoods or areas where we don’t have branches. By giving consumers the choice to interact with us and our content in a way that best suits them, we have been able to increase our opportunities for beneficial engagement. I have seen a profound change in the way clients interact with our bankers, our products and our services. Our teams shared that new and long-term customers come to the table with more informed questions and are more aware of the results of their banking behaviors.
We all know that financial education works. With growing concerns about financial skill levels and economic disparity in our nation, and without a standardized approach to addressing this challenge, it is up to banks to fill the knowledge gap with empathy, products that prioritize success. customers and transparent education on how to use them. The industry should broaden its reach and reflect on its responsibility both in terms of doing the right thing and to its very real financial impact on our businesses, our customers and our communities.