Passing banking to the next generation

Cape Ann Savings Bank lobby

A Cape Ann Saving Bank branch within Gloucester High School school serves as a classroom for students interested in learning hands-on banking skills.

For three decades, Cape Ann Savings Bank has operated a unique program where a branch operates within a local high school. It’s been a vehicle for multiple generations of students to learn banking basics and connect with the community bank.

By Judith Sears

Cape Ann Savings Bank in Gloucester, Mass., has brought banking into the heart of public schools. For 30 years, the $750 million-asset community bank has partnered with Gloucester High School to run a program that combines classroom learning with hands-on banking experience.

Students, overseen by a bank employee, run a Cape Ann Savings Bank branch located right inside the school. Students and staff can open accounts at the branch, which is typically open during lunch hours when school is in session.

“It’s like a science lab,” says Robert Gillis Jr., Cape Ann Savings Bank’s president and CEO, “but this is a bank lab.”

Cape Ann Savings Bank donating to Gloucester Education Fund

President and CEO Robert Gillis Jr. (far left) delivered a $60,000 donation to the Gloucester Education Foundation this past November.

Gloucester High School teachers recommend students for the program, which accepts six to eight per year. In addition to running the branch, students take one of two courses, either a personal finance course or a bank theory course. Bank executives modeled the program after other bank-school collaborations that had sprung up in neighboring counties.

“We thought it was a good idea to help the educational opportunities of high school kids,” Gillis says, “so they learn to balance a checkbook or how to use credit.”

“It really comes down to this. Our children are our future, and it’s our responsibility to give them every opportunity to succeed.”
—Robert Gillis Jr., cape ann savings Bank

Student enthusiasm

Students have embraced the program. It has seen three second-generation student bankers whose parents participated in the program.

“The kids signed up because their parents thought so well of it,” says Jennifer Orlando, vice president and marketing officer. “We’ve had comments from students over the years saying that it’s the best decision they made in high school.”

In fact, Mindy Nicastro, a Cape Ann Savings Bank commercial loans officer, is a program alumnus.

“It’s the best program ever!” Nicastro says. “It gave me opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. It was especially important for somebody who didn’t go to formal secondary education, and I believe it has led to my career success.”

The interest in practical finance has grown at the high school. A few years ago, for example, Robin Pine, a Gloucester High School educator, held a Credit Fair event in the school hallways. Students visited various tables to learn about deposits, lending, credit and other topics.

“I was amazed at the enthusiasm of the students [and] at how excited they could be about rather dry topics,” Gillis says.

“We are a community bank, and the schools are the heart of the community.”
—Robert Gillis Jr., Cape Ann Savings Bank

Doing more on education

Recently, Cape Ann Savings Bank increased its commitment by offering three $1,500 scholarships annually to graduating seniors of the Gloucester, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Rockport high schools. Students who successfully complete the bank program are given preference for the scholarships, which are named in memory of former bank employee Sandra Tucker, who spearheaded the program’s founding.

The high school’s program is just one example of Cape Ann Savings Bank’s involvement in supporting public education.

“We are a community bank, and the schools are the heart of the community,” Gillis says. “The many different educational programs that we support financially and with our time cover the span from preschool through college.”

For example, the community bank participates in the Massachusetts Saving Makes Cents program. Students in third, fourth or fifth grade open a savings account with a $5 deposit, which the bank matches. From that, students save small amounts—even coins—which a Cape Ann Savings Bank employee collects on weekly visits.

Staff from the bank also volunteer in the First R Reading program, visiting schools once a month to read aloud to children in kindergarten and first grade. “We volunteer where we can,” Orlando says. “We are very, very involved in educational events.”

Flourishing through education

Cape Ann Savings Bank in Gloucester, Mass., recently demonstrated its commitment to education with a generous $60,000 donation to the Gloucester Education Foundation (GEF), a 501(c)(3) program that provides wide-ranging support to the Gloucester Public School District, from startup funding for a computer science program to a 3D printing lab.

The community bank has been a steady GEF supporter. Every March, for example, bank employees volunteer to run the concession stand at the group’s annual citywide fundraiser.

When GEF announced a capital campaign to raise $3 million, Cape Ann Savings Bank quickly got behind the effort. GEF’s goal was to build an endowment large enough for the foundation to provide greater support to the schools in the long term.

In explaining the community bank’s generosity, president and CEO Robert Gillis Jr. says his team sees education as crucial to a flourishing community.

“It really comes down to this,” he says. “Our children are our future, and it’s our responsibility to give them every opportunity to succeed.”

Judith Sears is a writer in Colorado.