Community Spirit: Morrill & Janes Bank & Trust

Lori Wilkerson (left) and Shaneé Kimber have been working with a local radio station on a financial education segment. Photo by Steve Puppe

Quality customer service means always going that extra mile. Here’s how Morrill & Janes Bank & Trust set itself apart.

By William Atkinson

As a way to help it shine in the face of intense competition in the Kansas City, Kan. banking market, $602 million-asset Morrill & Janes Bank & Trust in Merriam, Kan., has introduced a comprehensive financial education initiative for customers and others in the community that continues to grow and expand.

“We think it is important for banks to provide financial education to their customers,” says Lori Wilkerson, retail banking manager. “A couple statistics that jumped out at us as we were researching the need was that 76 percent of people live paycheck-to-paycheck, and 20 percent of employees have been distracted at work due to financial stress.”

Morrill & Janes Bank & Trust is a smaller bank in the large Kansas City market and wanted to create a strategy to become the bank with the most personal atmosphere. “We got our start in a small community in northeast Kansas, where the employees know all of the customers personally,” Wilkerson says. “We want to create the same atmosphere here—to get to know our customers and be very involved with them.”

Quick stat


Percent of employees who find it stressful dealing with their financial situation

Source: PwC

The community bank’s initial involvement with financial education was through the FDIC’s “Money Smart” program, sponsored by the Kansas City Alliance for Economic Inclusion. “When we got involved with this, I started doing money management seminars for local not-for-profits, churches and employees of some of our business clients,” Wilkerson says.

Morrill & Janes then formally introduced At Work seminars, which provide financial education to employees of the bank’s commercial customers. It followed up with “Lunch and Learn” seminars, which provide financial education for individual retail customers, and more so employees of business clients and other organizations. The current classes being offered to these groups cover topics like credit scores, budgeting and cashflow, online and mobile banking, and how to spot and avoid scams. Wilkerson hired an At Work coordinator, Shaneé Kimber, to help her with these seminars.

Beyond customers

Working through the Local Investment Commission (LINC), Morrill & Janes also provides financial education seminars for Kansas City-area elementary and high school students and their parents, as well as at homeless shelters and for youth who are aging out of foster care.

Another partnership is with Credit and Homeownership Empowerment Services (CHES), a local organization that helps people manage their finances. “Staff from this organization are now helping to train our senior personal bankers, so that they can also help individual customers create budgets and financial plans,” says Wilkerson.

More recently, Morrill & Janes has been working with a local radio station, KUAW-FM. The bank will be sponsoring a segment called “Money Minutes” on the station that will provide financial information for listeners on a number of topics, such as how to plan for retirement, the different types of retirement plans, how to calculate net worth and how a power of attorney works. “We also plan to do a live call-in show, taking calls from people in the community who have questions about banking,” Wilkerson says.

Last but not least, the bank is working with the local Habitat for Humanity. While some of the bank’s employees volunteer to actually help build homes, Habitat offers another service with which the bank can help. “Habitat goes in and helps certain homeowners estimate the costs to repair or purchase things like roofs, fences, steps, heaters, air conditioners and other needs for their homes,” Wilkerson says. “Our bank can then put together a secured loan or an unsecured loan for these people, providing very low interest rates and zero closing costs.” To qualify for these special loans, customers must come to the bank through this Habitat program.

Internal education

And what about the bank’s own employees? Do they receive any of the financial education that so many people outside of the bank benefit from? “Actually, I test out every seminar on our employees,” says Wilkerson with a laugh. “After I get their feedback, I do some tweaking before I offer it to people outside of the bank.”

“I test out every seminar on our employees. After I get their feedback, I do some tweaking before I offer it to people outside of the bank.”
—Lori Wilkerson, Morrill & Janes Bank & Trust

The future? “We are currently working to create a financial education program for our small-business customers,” Wilkerson says.

While Wilkerson hasn’t kept tabs on the specific number of people whom the bank has helped through its seminars and other programs, she estimates it is about 450. And how do these efforts help Morrill & Janes? “We believe that financial education is one way in which we can get our name out to people and set ourselves apart from other banks, because it is a unique service that other banks aren’t providing,” she says.

In addition, she says, the bank has already received a lot of positive feedback from its existing customers, as well as attendees of various seminars who aren’t customers—yet.

William Atkinson is a writer in Illinois.