How Triumph Bank Earned a Merit Badge

By Laine Crosby

Everyone knows a Boy Scout. They raise money for charity, improve our neighborhoods, and make the world a better place. Last year, in an economically distressed community in south Memphis, Tennessee, Triumph Bank turned the tables by giving back to the Boy Scouts. The bank began a mentoring program to teach two Boy Scout troops personal financial responsibility, to prepare for their future financial goals.

Triumph Bank paid it forward.

A commercial loan officer and former Eagle Scout heard of a need in the community that Triumph Bank serves. Boys in troops from low income areas were not receiving a personal financial education. And given their socioeconomic status, the Boy Scouts believed that financial education could be forcefully empowering. Before long, Triumph Bank adopted two troops from the Chickasaw Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

Triumph’s board of directors went all in.

While bank board members generously supported the troops with their own time and money, they also voted to give employees who volunteered eight paid hours off each year to serve. In addition, the Board also made a $15,000 commitment to the Chickasaw Council of the Boy Scouts of America to be made over three years. They felt that—at least initially—concentrating their time and resources with only two troops would allow them a great opportunity to impact the boys’ lives. As a result, the volunteers were able to develop long lasting relationships with the boys.

In turn, the financial information the boys have learned from the program will positively impact their decisions and the community as a whole.

Throughout the year, ten Triumph Bank volunteers taught 35 Boy Scouts, implementing the FDIC’s Money Smart for Young People curriculum, custom tailoring it to be age-relatable. The boys learned what it means to have a checking or savings account, earn good credit, and prepare for major expenditures such as a first car or college tuition. They also had fun learning how to make goals and save for purchases such as new athletic shoes or an iPhone.

The bankers also volunteered their own time and money to the schools where the troops were based. They cooked homemade dinners and hosted evening events for the students. Many brought their own families so their children could make new friends with these bright young men.

Gaining an immeasurable return on investment.

To hear Traci Strickland talk about “Akeem” (a pseudonym), you would think he was her own child. But he isn’t. Traci is the vice president of marketing at Triumph Bank, and she was asked by CEO Will Chase to organize and implement the Personal Financial Education program.

Akeem is a Sudanese refugee who is in one of the two Boy Scout troops that Traci helps mentor. Akeem’s father is a truck driver and is frequently on the road. His mother still lives in Sudan. Like many of the other boys, he lives in the dormitory at the small private school he attends. The school is funded through charitable contributions and was “adopted” by Triumph Bank several years ago. In fact, the bank had begun a mentoring program with the school before bankers began working with their Scout troop last year. So, Traci has known Akeem since he was a young boy just starting school. He is now six-feet-six inches tall and in the 9th grade.

Akeem is smart and studies hard. There is nothing that he wants more than a good education so he can get a job one day to help support his family. Traci and the other volunteers have given their time, money, and hearts to make this dream a reality.

When Akeem moved to high school last year, he put together a “thank you” video. With grand aspirations and much love, Akeem expressed his gratitude to the good folks at Triumph Bank for their part in preparing him to meet his life goals. But Traci’s rendition of the story is more of a thank you to Akeem and the other boys for their immeasurable gifts in in her life, and in the lives of her colleagues and their families.

Replicating success is turn-key.

The program can easily be replicated because the materials are available free through the FDIC. And, the program can be implemented with many organizations. Triumph Bank specifically chose to partner with the Boy Scouts of America because the organization’s core values align with Triumph’s emphasis on financial education. The FDIC’s program is tailored for all age groups and is effective in teaching how financial success can be possible for everyone, even at a young age.

This past year, the American Bankers Association awarded Triumph Bank, Memphis, Tennessee with the ABA Foundation Community Commitment Award for Financial Education for its Personal Financial Management program with the Boy Scouts of America.

Today also marks the 107th birthday of the Boy Scouts. Since the beginning, the organization has helped build future leaders by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. We wish them a happy birthday and express our thanks for giving the world a better future. And, we congratulate Triumph Bank for living up to their name.

Laine Crosby is a marketing and financial services writer, a New York Times bestselling author, and editor of ABA Bank Compliance magazine. Email: [email protected].