Improving financial literacy in all communities is important to our nation. The banking industry has helped make inroads in this area—and I’m always interested in tracking banks’ most innovative and inspiring financial literacy programs.

To this end, the development of student-run banks is an initiative that I find particularly interesting. These are bank branches that exist inside of schools.

If you haven’t heard of them, a National Public Radio story offered a fascinating view of one program. The report explores Union Bank’s development of three student-run branches located in California high schools in underserved communities. The branches are staffed by students and serve students, teachers and parents.

Student-run banks offer several important benefits:

  • Education. The branch provides real-world opportunities for students to learn about money management via a safe, secure resource for their financial needs.
  • Employment. Interested students can get hands-on opportunities to work in the branch, providing a path to gain marketable skills while earning money.
  • Assistance. These bank branches are resources for communities with unbanked and underbanked populations vulnerable to predatory financial practices.
  • Brand. This community-based program promotes positive brand awareness for banks committed to supporting the next generation of customers.
  • Future Workforce. Some students who work in the in-school branches will likely be inspired to pursue careers in banking and financial services industries.

I would like to close by suggesting that this focus on financial literacy among youth dovetails into an important opportunity for banks. The Accenture 2014 North America Consumer Digital Banking Survey reveals that current customers are hungry for digital personalized financial advice tools.

Customers clearly want to become more financially literate, and are looking to banks as a source of insight into their day-to-day finances, wealth management and longer-term financial security.So what banks are starting in these student-run banks, they should be continuing in branches for customers of all ages. Because continuing education is key for financial literacy.

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