Bank on Memphis is a public-private partnership between the City of Memphis, Shelby County government, financial institutions and nonprofits to encourage the unbanked to establish accounts at mainstream financial institutions. Its network of local banks, credit unions and community organizations provides economically vulnerable individuals affordable alternatives to high-fee check cashers and title loan businesses.
We recently spoke with two mainstays in the Bank On Memphis effort – Terica Lamb, Manager of Community Outreach and Financial Empowerment and Rachel Newman, Bank On Memphis Program Coordinator – to learn more about the program.
Orion: We would love for you to tell us a story that will help our readers understand what you do. Could you share with us one of your most memorable experiences with a customer and how Bank On Memphis helped them?
Ms. Lamb: We worked with a single mother who had previously had a bank account but was bounced out due to insufficient funds transactions and fees that grew to over $300.00. We were able to get her into a new checking account with a low monthly fee. She opened her account in November 2013 and still has it. Prior to that she was cashing her checks at a liquor store with various fees depending on the size of the checks. Now, she uses the bank’s mobile app to deposit her checks and loves that she can see her account balance real time at any time of the day on her smart phone.
Orion: Tell us how you got involved with Bank On Memphis.
Ms. Lamb: David Lenoir, the Shelby County Trustee, has a passion for financial literacy and wanted to lead the local effort for Bank On Memphis with city City Mayor A.C. Wharton. He sees the banking deserts in various neighborhoods, the lack of financial literacy and wants to make a difference. I am the Community Outreach Manager for the Trustee’s office and it quickly became an initiative that I am passionate about as well.
Ms. Newman: One of the most important goals for Bank On Memphis is to promote financial stability through our education efforts. I can speak from experience and say that Financial Education (both formal and informal) has been crucial in my life. When my husband and I decided to get married, we had $65,000 of combined school debt. We decided to take a financial education class together. We made a financial plan in order to aggressively chip away at our debt. We were able to pay off all of the debt in 18 months, and now redirect those loan payments into savings. This is why I am passionate about Bank On Memphis and its goals. I believe that with education and access, people can make financial decisions that can lead to financial stability.
Orion: Bank On Memphis is now in its 4th year. Tell us about your biggest successes to date.
Ms. Lamb: Since we started, we have opened almost 6,500 checking and savings accounts. This is a small drop in the bucket when you consider that there are approximately 90,000 unbanked households in Memphis but we are making progress! We have also signed on 14 financial institutions and over 30 community organizations as partners in our mission.
Orion: You have already made such a positive impact in our community. What would make it possible for you to do even more?
Ms. Lamb: More funding and more feet on the street! This year we’ll be doing even more promotion of this exciting initiative to get the word out.
Ms. Newman: One of our major outreach efforts will be at the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Sites, hosted by United Way. Bank On Memphis Financial Providers will be at several of the VITA super sites to assist customers with account sign-ups and provide financial counseling and resources. By setting up an account and direct deposit, customers can receive their refund check faster.
Bank On Memphis has also increased its youth outreach efforts. This includes the promotion of a financial simulation called On My Own, developed by UT Extension. Bank On Memphis has also teamed up with Leadership Memphis to teach basic personal finance at their High School Leadership Clubs around the city.
Orion: Terica, Rachel – thank you for sharing your stories with us! Bank On Memphis will be unveiling a new marketing campaign this spring. If you’d like to help spread the word about the important work they’re doing, please share their website (http://www.bankonmemphis.org), like their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bank-On-Memphis/143541239041167), or follow them on Twitter (@BankOnMemphis).