Award-Winning Bankers Offer Tips on Financial Education Outreach

By Corey Carlisle

Bankers have long recognized the importance of financial literacy and of teaching Americans how to establish and maintain healthy financial habits. With April’s National Financial Literacy Month on the horizon, I asked Kurt Schindler from Banco Popular in San Juan, P.R., and Ben Joergens from Old National Bancorp in Evansville, Ind.—the 2014 and 2015 winners of ABA’s George Bailey Distinguished Service Award, respectively—about their banks’ financial education efforts in the coming year, and for suggestions to motivate colleagues to take on this important work.

What are your bank’s financial education outreach plans for 2016?

Kurt Schindler: We are updating our website so that anyone wanting a financial education session for their groups can better interact with us. We use social media, as well as local radio spots, to offer practical money tips for all our market segments. We continue to offer financial education workshops to more than 30,000 people each year and are growing our financial education corps of employees, with plans to increase the number from 75 to more than 500.

Ben Joergens: Old National’s goal is to promote financial education on a broader scale through our signature Real Life Finance curriculum. We now have designated financial trainers in our regions and they are ambassadors for financial education in the communities we serve.

What got you interested in financial literacy and what keeps you motivated?

KS: Personal finance can be a fun topic, and it needs to be taught to all ages. When I see people realize that it is not such a hard subject, and that we all make mistakes with our money, then they are empowered to make changes in their daily lives—and they do!

BJ: Engaging with nonprofits exposed me to the financial challenges that many individuals face. I am motivated by how powerful education can be in changing behavior. Empowering others to promote positive change continues to drive me every day!

Are there any key metrics you use to measure the success of your program?

KS: We measure reach (number of people, towns, sessions) and by segments­ (students, college students, adults, teachers, entrepreneurs). We also collect participant satisfaction data after each workshop. At the same time, we ask participants about their intent to take action on their finances and we use that information to better understand behavior.

BJ: We implemented a post-testing process to measure the retention levels achieved through our classes. We hope to empower each participant to apply what they’ve learned in their personal lives, which is our best measure of success.

Your banks have had financial education at the core of your employee volunteer outreach efforts for a long time. How do you keep up employee engagement and avoid volunteer fatigue?

KS: We change the titles and content of the workshops every 15 to 18 months. We also tweak the presentation formats as a way to keep employees engaged.

BJ: Engagement in these programs is 100 percent voluntary. We provide tools and coaching support and seek volunteer opportunities at varying times and locations so that everyone can participate at a level they are comfortable with.

Any tips on engaging future bank leaders, particularly your millennial colleagues, in your efforts?

KS: It’s part of being socially responsible; we have information and knowledge that should be distributed to as many people as possible.

BJ: Millennial colleagues are our next business leaders. To engage them, it will be necessary to connect through the right channels and showcase opportunities through technology and social media. Leveraging their large social networks is key.