CCB Community Bank of Andalusia, Ala., recognizes that by teaching local high school students vital financial concepts, the community bank will help prepare them to make looming monetary decisions.
By Judith Sears
Keeping track of expenses and saving for the future might be considered part of “adulting,” as millennials say. For bankers, it’s known as financial literacy, and CCB Community Bank, a $500 million-asset bank in Andalusia, Ala., is leading the way in promoting it.
In May 2016, CCB began sponsoring financial literacy programs in public high schools. “Reinvesting in our community has always been a top priority of CCB,” says Tom Lane, the community bank’s chairman and CEO. “Our kids are our future leaders, so we have placed a strong emphasis on financial literacy.”
The programs are offered by Banzai, a web-based program that teaches skills such as budgeting, writing checks, paying bills and saving money. CCB’s leadership reviewed several alternatives and chose Banzai because its approach aligned with the bank’s.
“Banzai’s philosophy is to educate and inspire students to take their future into their own hands by developing positive money and financial habits. This is a philosophy CCB agrees with,” says Tari McClung, marketing and public relations director with the community bank.
CCB’s sponsorship provides free access to the Banzai curriculum to any teacher at the public high schools in its service area, which includes Andalusia and Opp in Alabama, and Niceville and Crestview in Florida.
The curriculum can be downloaded and used in classroom sessions, or students can work through the lessons on a self-guided basis. Students take quizzes before and after each lesson to assess their learning.
The interactive lessons work similarly to choose-your-own-adventure books. Students are given a virtual checking account and a credit card. They choose a goal, such as saving $2,000 for college, and then every transaction is logged. Along the way to their goal, students encounter real-world challenges: the pipes burst or the car needs a set of new tires.
Lauren Maynor, a career preparation teacher at Andalusia High School, says the curriculum provides a wake-up call for students. “Life is way more expensive than I thought,” exclaimed a student recently, she says. Another student commented, “It’s a lot more difficult to save up when you don’t have plans and budgets for the things you might need.”
Maynor says she’s amused at how surprised students are by all that is involved in managing their finances. “They often have had no idea,” she says. “This gives them a little glimpse into paying bills and taking responsibility. I think it’s really great.”
Maynor adds that her students clearly enjoy learning to play the “game” of financial literacy. Many will ask to retake the lessons if they don’t achieve their goal the first time.
In addition to providing access to the online content, CCB included activity kits for several participating schools that include checks and deposit slips. “Students are not only reading and seeing demos,” McClung says. “They have the real-world experience of writing a check out, balancing their account and keeping the register.”
While Banzai offers curricula for elementary through high school levels, CCB chose to focus on high school students. “We thought that was the age group that would benefit the most from it,” McClung explains. “That’s the age that kids are starting to get jobs and cars, and we felt it was the best age to make a real impact.”
McClung points out that students of that age will soon be coping with increased responsibility and temptation, including from credit card companies. “We want them to make wise decisions when the credit card offers start coming in the mail when they graduate,” she says. “We want them to think when they decide to purchase that new car [and be] prepared for all the unexpected expenses that can arise with a purchase like that. And we especially want to teach them to save money, so they are ready for whatever the future holds.”
CCB’s involvement with Banzai builds on earlier educational initiatives, such as the Kids Saver Club that the community bank started in 1995 to show youngsters the benefits of saving their money. “Offering Banzai is another tool to help the kids be prepared for the future and give back to our community,” Lane concludes. “It is an investment in the children in our communities, and we at CCB look forward to seeing the benefits.”
Building an educational resource
CCB Community Bank has made customer education a hallmark of its community involvement. The bank’s website, bankccb.com, features an education center with resources for customers. “Education is important at any age,” says Tari McClung, marketing and public relations director. “We want our customers to feel comfortable in regard to all of their financial decisions. This gives them a centralized place to go if they want to learn more about how to buy their first home, how to save for retirement or to understand financial terminology.”
The education center is organized into five categories: personal financial insights, business financial insights, home loan insights, product demos and financial calculators. Each features videos and other content. CCB reviews the site quarterly to make sure it’s timely and relevant.
The community bank also posts educational clips on social media sites. McClung notes that CCB receives the most feedback from customers when new information has been shared on those platforms. “By utilizing all media avenues, we hope to always be able to reach our customers with information they need,” she says.
Judith Sears is a writer in Colorado.