Neighbors Federal Credit Union's first-ever "Financial Literacy Center" inside of a local high school is using mobile technology to turn the old-school in-school branching concept on its head.
There are no student tellers at the Baton Rouge, La.-based credit union's newest in-school facility, nor is there any money changing hands. But what students will find at the $818 million credit union's financial literacy center inside Denham Springs High School are an iPad, an iPhone, two computers, a touchscreen monitor — and all the tools they need to become financially literate, even as they use the technology to access online banking services.
Brandi Cummins, Neighbors FCU’s vice president of sales and service, will oversee the facility in conjunction with a member of the school's faculty.
Neighbors FCU explained that this facility is part of the “Neighbors Mascot Program,” which provides specialized checking accounts to participating schools in the Greater Baton Rouge area and also gives money back to the school for each debit card swipe.
“We have enjoyed a great relationship with Neighbors Federal Credit Union for some time through their promotion of their Mascot Debit Card which features our Yellow Jacket logo.” DSHS Principal Kelly Jones said in a statement. “The facility will provide a resource to educate our students on financial responsibility, which is a necessity as these students move on to their life after high school.”
What makes the new facility unique is that it is not exactly a branch of the credit union or purely a financial literacy program. It could be considered a hybrid.
Preston Guy, marketing communications specialist at Neighbors FCU, told Credit Union Journal that the credit union already has a full-service branch run by students inside another local school, Walker High School in Walker, La., just outside Baton Rouge.
“We also run financial literacy seminars routinely throughout the year so that all members of the community can equip themselves with the ability to make wise decisions financially,” Guy said. So while the new facility does share some qualities of a literacy center, "it is its own entity.”
The bigger emphasis, Guy added, is on educating students.
While students at the new facility will be able to open accounts online, manage their Neighbors FCU financial products including online banking, the credit union will not have one of its employee servicing their needs like a teller or financial service officer on-site.
It is the first such facility that Neighbors FCU has ever opened.
“As far as I am aware, this is truly a new and unique and type of in-school facility,” Guy said. “As technology begins to progress [students] can perform more banking from smartphone devices we have provided.
Additionally, the teacher there should be able to assist them with many banking questions they may have.”
While a DSHS teacher will be able to educate and assist the students on-site, Neighbors will designate one of its employees to regularly visit the center and help out directly.
The credit union’s financial literacy coordinator, Kim Chapman, will also host financial literacy classes at DSHS.
“The facility will be open to the students every day around lunch hour,” Guy added.
All Denham Springs High students are eligible to join the credit union, but membership isn't required to participate in the financial literacy offerings at the center. Membership does have its advantages, of course.
“We even have a checking account exclusively designed for these students that gives up to 10 cents back to the school for every debit card swipe and [which] comes with features that are youth-friendly such as no monthly service fee whatsoever, automatic overdraft protection and 24/7 mobile apps, online banking and bill pay,” Guy said.
Overall, the goal of the new center is to make a “positive investment” into the students of the community.
“Through the Mascot program we have raised more than $22,000 for schools in Livingston Parish alone,” Guy said. “We are also awarding $15,000 to graduating seniors at our Mascot schools through our Neighbors Way tuition fund.”
Opening up such centers in schools is a natural for the credit union that got its start serving teachers.
Guy further pointed out that DSHS and more than 80 percent of the surrounding parish was devastated by flooding in 2016. “That gave us an opportunity to build this facility while the school itself was being rebuilt,” he said. “As our Mascot Program grows we hope to see more facilities like this and will be on the lookout for the best ways to make a positive impact on students.”