LENEXA, Kan.-CommunityAmerica CU has launched a new mobile app to teach children about saving money.

The free app, known as "Socky Saves," features "Socky Saves-a-Lot," a sock puppet character to teach kids about money management. Sam Passer, VP of program services at the 170,000-member, $1.9-billion credit union, explained that the idea came to him after taking his five-year-old daughter to the branch when her piggy bank was full.

That sparked a conversation about what happens to the money at the branch, how to know it's safe, and understanding how much money she has in her account. Since she's always asking to borrow Passer's iPhone, it made him think about the possibility of an app to teach kids more about saving.

"Socky Saves" was developed internally and CommunityAmerica was able to utilize similar functionalities from its main mobile app to help keep costs down. The app works with the CU's "Cash n' Coins" account-savings account for children age 12 and younger-and when users download the app they first log into online banking and are issued an eight-digit code to connect to "Socky Saves."

Once the app is registered, the parent can select which "Cash n' Coins" accounts to connect. After that, the child can click the Socky icon on the phone, follow the prompt to shake the phone and the balance in the account appears. The app only shows the balance, and all other account data is kept separate for security purposes.

"The phone and the technology and the app are one thing, but it's part of a larger component of working with your family and your kids, and teaching them about money," said Passer. "The app might just be the balance, but some of those conversations are really invaluable, educating a child about finances."

In the first week of a soft launch, "Socky Saves" has already had more than 120 downloads, mostly due to word of mouth, without the CU having done much marketing yet. It plans to promote the offering via social media, e-mail blasts to parents of "Coins n' Cash" account holders, in-branch literature and more.


The Larger Objective

Passer noted that when Bank Transfer Day hit, banks in the area kept touting that CommunityAmerica and other CUs didn't have the same kind of technological offerings as banks. He said that while using the app is important, the larger objective is to continue to position the CU uniquely within the marketplace-particularly given the fact that not many FIs are focusing on how young children use technology.

"If we have parents that join the credit union because they think it's cool that we're doing this and want to help them with their family and then they get their mortgage and car loan here and we end up growing the membership and profitable relationships we have, that's part of our ROI," said Passer. But he was quick that that that's "more of a secondary objective; it's a well-meaning gesture at heart."




More info: www.cacu.com

See also: "'Game Theory' Eyed To Snag CU Gen Yers," May 30

"Wisconsin High School Students Play Financial Ed 'Game,'" Sept. 19, 2011

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