Mission Readiness Requires Financial Training

By Corey Carlisle

Banks have a long history of championing efforts to improve consumer financial literacy, recognizing not only the benefits for their customers, but the societal benefits of educating individuals to make smart, informed financial decisions.

For those assisting customers in the military, this focus on financial education can be even more critical, as many service members are young, often right out of high school, just starting families and may not be financially savvy. The Department of Defense has long recognized personal financial security, and therefore financial education, as a critical component for force morale, support and operational readiness.

Surveys of service members and their families cite finances as one of their most significant stressors, rating even higher than deployments and personal relationships. Service members can’t adequately focus on the job at hand if they are concerned about financial problems at home.

Banks that serve military families recognize the unique nature of the military lifestyle, the importance of financial responsibility, and how best to communicate and effectively interact with service members.

Aimed at addressing service members’ unique needs at each stage of their career, from newly enlisted to retirement, Wells Fargo added to its successful Hands on Banking financial education program by launching Hands on Banking for Military in 2013. The program provides 10 individual lesson topics ranging from the basics of banking to career transition and planning for retirement in terminology and images that relate to military service members and their families.

“Military members and their families often face unique financial challenges, including deployments and relocations every few years,” said Chairman and CEO John Stumpf. “These men and women sacrifice their lives for our country. We want to empower them with the right resources to help them succeed financially.”

Thousands of Wells Fargo team members deploy the program via their Veterans’ Team Member Network, which in turn also promotes greater veteran awareness. In 2014 alone, Wells Fargo team members delivered financial education lessons to 136,000 people all over the world.

Pioneer Services, a division of MidCountry Bank, recognizes the importance of financial education. For more than 25 years, the company has provided financial services to more than 1.5 million military families. Today, MidCountry Bank has more than $715 million in total assets.

Recognizing the unique demographics, mobility, and heavy use of technology and mobile devices among military, and their increasing preference to conduct banking transactions through these platforms, Pioneer Services uses a mix of printed, online and social media vehicles to share its financial literacy materials with customers. Steve Meads, president of Pioneer Services, explains, “As the marketplace and consumer preferences have evolved, so too has Pioneer, using technology and other mediums to make information more readily available and accessible to today’s military families.”

To ensure the educational information being provided remains relevant, as well as front and center with military customers, Pioneer continually updates its content and technology platforms. As part of 2015 National Military Appreciation Month in May, the company updated its Military Financial Literacy Survey, and it will be rolling out a mobile app this summer that makes its online Learning Center even more accessible on mobile devices. Plans also are underway for a new series of self-help video podcasts to attract and maintain customers’ attention.Let’s salute these outstanding banks and bankers!