Bankers Trust in Iowa, Nebraska and Arizona has developed a hub of resources and banking know-how for its customers. The web platform, dubbed the Education Center, is designed to clearly break down financial concepts—and strengthen relationships in the process.
By Eric Best
Name: Bankers Trust
Assets: $4.5 billion
Location: Des Moines, Iowa
When customers had questions, the experts at Bankers Trust had answers.
The $4.5 billion-asset community bank in Des Moines, Iowa, created its own platform for educating customers on financial matters and equipping them with calculators, tools and other tips so they can make money-related decisions confidently. The Bankers Trust Education Center features articles, videos and infographics showcasing the bank’s in-house specialists, such as Ashlee Vieregger, vice president and senior client wealth advisor. She has contributed articles about investments, financial planning and wealth solutions since the site launched in 2017. She says the average American is bombarded with financial jargon, and they often need someone to break down everyday concepts, from IRAs to employee stock ownership plans.
“We’re trying to lift the veil and say, ‘This isn’t hard. This isn’t scary,’” Vieregger says. “Because you can’t make informed financial decisions if you don’t even know what the tools in the toolbox are.”
“We’re trying to lift the veil and say, ‘This isn’t hard. This isn’t scary.’”
—Ashlee Vieregger, Bankers Trust
The Education Center covers topics like personal finance, homeownership, retirement, security, business and more, drawing from roughly 20 staff members who serve as content creators. Anyone can subscribe to weekly emails with content from one or as many categories as they like.
Because all the content is online, there’s an added convenience factor for customers who don’t always have time to teach themselves or ask a banker about something. “I know our clients use the resource between meetings, and if they are looking for an answer at midnight on a Tuesday night, the content is certainly there for them,” Vieregger says.
The site offers relevant and approachable content for families, she adds, which they can use to form money values and financial maturity with their children. “I’d really like to see our customers leverage the content by showing it to their kids, people in high school or young adults. They can certainly understand it. We try to bring the topics to the everyday person,” she says.
Beyond offering a financial lesson, Bankers Trust’s content is also an opportunity to connect customers with community bankers. The Education Center includes a headshot, phone number and email address of each author, as well as a biography page. Plus, Bankers Trust shares each piece of content on social media—Facebook and LinkedIn, specifically—and encourages its sales teams and in-house experts to do the same.
Abby Delaney, Bankers Trust’s digital marketing manager, says these articles can serve as a conversation starter—sometimes even outside of the community bank. Customers have recognized the site’s authors at the grocery store or out in the community. “We want to be approachable to our customers and our prospective customers because that’s who we are,” Delaney says. “We’re a community bank. We want to be there.”
Benefits to the bank
Bankers Trust’s content strategy seems to have helped. Subscriptions have doubled year over year since 2017, and the site had nearly 50,000 hits in 2018. Bankers Trust published nearly 50 financial calculators last year and plans to produce more e-books and visual content in the future. Delaney says the bank’s engagement is ahead of the industry average.
She reiterates that the Education Center isn’t a sales tool, but a hub of financial resources. The bank constructed the platform to be separate from its own website, so readers can trust the information and don’t feel like they’re being advertised to.
Of course, there are advantages of putting together an education website. Scott Valbert, the community bank’s assistant vice president of corporate communications, says Bankers Trust ensures that Education Center messaging is consistent across all advertising and marketing materials. It can also draw earned media in the form of journalists searching for financial leaders on a topic that they’re writing about, he adds.
“Because we’ve built this panel of experts and this really data-rich Education Center, it’s very easy for me to work with media who might want perspective on certain topics. Our focus is really to use this content in as many ways as we can,” Valbert says, adding that, ultimately, the priority is on producing useful content for customers.
Customer knowledge comes first
Rather than a direct sales tool, staff say their focus on teaching customers gives Bankers Trust greater integrity. “We wanted to put content first and put our people first and their expertise first, because that’s what builds trust. Having trust in your bank is paramount, especially today,” Delaney says.
“We wanted to put content first and put our people first and their expertise first, because that’s what builds trust. Having trust in your bank is paramount, especially today.”
—Abby Delaney, Bankers Trust
Vieregger says the site has also expanded her and Bankers Trust’s influence. She adds: “It just adds to our overall credibility, our expertise, our presence in market, so that if I’m meeting with an estate planning attorney, they’ve seen my name on LinkedIn, and they’ve seen it in on the Education Center.”
Eric Best is deputy editor of Independent Banker.