FEAB 101 - Bank On

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HARDY: Hello, and welcome to another edition of "FEAB 101."

I'm your host, Mel Hardy.

As you know, during this series, we've been traveling all over this great country, talking to our partners about what they're doing  around financial education and asset-building.

A little later on, we're going to go and talk to the folks at Bank On Seattle-King County about what they're doing around the growing Bank On initiative and financial education and asset-building.

So let's go on over and talk to them.

Hello. We're here with Diana Stone from Seattle Bank On of King County. How are you?

STONE: Okay. It's nice to meet you.

HARDY: Good to meet you. Tell me a little bit about Bank On.

STONE: It's an initiative to help connect people with safe, affordable checking and savings accounts, as well as financial-education opportunities.

We were the second Bank On to launch after the Bank of San Francisco, which was the initial inspiration for Bank Ons around the country.

Found out that there were 52,000 un-banked households in the Seattle-King County area.

HARDY: Wow.

STONE: Brought up the folks from San Francisco to talk to our banks and credit unions, as well as our community partners, about why this was necessary and how we could do it.

And in the fall of 2008, we launched the program, being the second one in the country, and now there are maybe 50 or 60 Bank Ons around the country that are trying to start this program.

We now have 16 partners, banks and credit unions, as well as about a hundred community partners that help us spread the word to the public.

HARDY: What about cities that want to be a part of Bank On? How would they get involved?

STONE: Well, there are a lot of cities already working on programs.

I know that the National League of Cities has done a lot of work on it.

They helped us in our initial launching, and I would recommend people going to the National League of Cities to talk to them.

And, of course, the U.S. Department of Treasury is working on a Bank On USA initiative and how to help cities launch programs, so the Treasury Department would be the other place.

HARDY: All of this is obviously an education component, correct?

STONE: Yes, we see financial education as being one of the integral components of Bank On Seattle-King County.

People need to open accounts, but we also want them to be successful with those accounts.

And for that, they often need some financial education.

So as part of the initiative, we have created the Financial Education Providers Network.

HARDY: Tracy, you're an educator, aren't you?

GREENE: I am.

HARDY: And education is important, correct?

GREENE: It is very important.

HARDY: But why is it so important in this arena?

GREENE: The organization that I work for, Hopelink, we offer an integrated array of services to take families from crisis to self-sufficiency.

So when I see families, it's usually because they're in crisis.

And they've gotten into crisis because they've made bad choices, and they've made bad choices for a variety of reasons.

But to get them to make different choices, they need to have education. Education gives them that opportunity to make better choices.

HARDY: So, Tracy, tell me about the impact. What impact does this have?

GREENE: By opening an account with a mainstream financial institution, they are increasing their disposable income.

They're spending less on banking and checking.

So, in essence, they're increasing their income.

And we all know that without income, you can't get by.

Without assets, you can't get ahead.

And when you increase your disposable income, you increase the likelihood that you're going to be able to save and build assets.

HARDY: So, Tracy, why is it important to be a part of Bank On?

GREENE: There are two reasons.

It's important for our clients that they have access to the banks and have access to the accounts and the education, and it's important for our case managers and our front-line workers that they have the information that's available from the other partners.

It's a big network, and you can't do everything, and those things that you can't do, you refer out to your network partners.

HARDY: We're here with Vivian Valencia from Verity Credit Union.

VALENCIA: Thank you. Bank On Seattle-King County, it's a natural fit for credit unions in general.

HARDY: Mm-hmm.

VALENCIA: Credit unions are all about people helping people.

HARDY: Right.

VALENCIA: And Bank On's goal target is to reach out to those that are un-banked.

And that is just such a natural fit for credit unions.

HARDY: What's the importance, Vivian, of somebody having a credit -- I mean a bank account.

VALENCIA: A lot of people that don't have bank accounts, they're using check-cashing places, which could charge them quite a bit of money, you know, just to cash a check.

Much lower cost, from no cost to minimal cost.

It's important to really want to really motivate people to save and learn how to manage their money.

Verity will do -- we will offer a six-month what we call saver certificate.

So if they finish a class, if they come in and they have $50, we'll match that $50.

We'll put it in a six-month saver certificate.

You know, that seems like it's just -- You know, that's a small incentive for us.

But it's a big incentive for a lot of people who don't have bank accounts.

HARDY: Partners who are interested in joining Bank On -- what do they need to do?

VALENCIA: All they would have to do would be to contact the Bank On Seattle-King County program.

And we do have a website.

It's www.everyoneiswelcome.org.

HARDY: Wow.

VALENCIA: And through that website, they can learn a lot about what's going on with Bank On Seattle-King County, see who the current partners are, and then be able to get in touch with us and find out more information about how they could fit into the program.

HARDY: What's the connection there, with Bank On and VITA?

VALENCIA: One of the things that, I think, makes that such a great partnership is a lot of people, they're getting this sometimes huge amount of money back from their taxes, and they may not have a bank account.

So, it gives them somewhere to put their money.

And also, they can sign up for direct deposit, so the money is just automatically deposited in their account.

HARDY: That's great.

VALENCIA: And gives them a chance to think about what do they want to do with that money instead of just spending it right away.

HARDY: Well, that was great. We want to thank our friends at Bank On Seattle-King County for all their help.

Until next time, I'm Mel Hardy.