From the Top

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Paying It Forward

By John H. Buhrmaster, Chairman of ICBA

As students across the nation head back to school, I thought it would be time to once again champion one of my biggest passions as a community banker—financial literacy!

As community bankers, we put the needs of our customers and communities first and foremost. That’s why financial literacy is such an important component to what we do and what we strive for. After all, providing education on financial topics is one of the simplest and best ways to help give our customers the tools they need to succeed. A loan is great, but a loan with some financial education to make a smarter consumer is even better.

Like many of you, at 1st National Bank of Scotia we place extra effort on helping our local citizens stay on the path to financial success. Whether it is early financial education offerings in local elementary schools or presenting a financial seminar at a senior living community, we’ve been providing financial education for more than 90 years. What’s so rewarding is that not only did we start early by helping the young kids learn the building blocks to financial literacy, but many still have accounts with us today. In fact, some of those former students even work for the bank. Now, that’s what I call a loyal customer!

By helping students early on, we were able to do what our community bank was established to do—help young people on the road to financial success throughout their life. We helped them buy their first car or house, plan for their kid’s education and prepare for retirement. As a community banker, nothing can make me prouder than that.

Today, we have the MoonJar Spend, Save, Share program in local elementary schools. We’re honored to cultivate the next generation of savers and customers. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also makes business sense. We all know that a smart consumer is the best customer. When they lose, we lose.

This all brings me to another reason why I feel compelled as ICBA chairman to encourage all of us to hold up the financial literacy flag. We all know that too many Americans were taken advantage of by predatory lenders leading up to the financial crisis. With the proper financial education a lot of that pain and sacrifice could have been avoided. That’s why financial literacy is a key building block, not only to a person’s overall education but also to our economy’s well-being. After all, when Americans succeed financially, so does our economy.

So let’s go ahead and be more empowered than ever as community bankers and pay it forward. We don’t want the next generation to be burdened with another financial crisis, so let’s help to provide them—student by student at the local level—with the tools they need to help make smart financial decisions throughout their lives.


John H. Buhrmaster is president of 1st National Bank of Scotia, in Scotia, N.Y.