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More and more, financial institutions are beginning to accept and embrace their role as financial educators. You are no longer simply the provider of checking accounts, credit cards, and auto and home loans; your customers are looking to you to answer their most pressing financial questions.
We talk a lot about the importance of institutions finding a way to break past the competition by moving beyond low rates and offering their members real value. Quite frankly, as far as your borrowers are concerned, a rate is a rate is a rate. If all you are offering is a low rate auto loan, they will jump ship the moment they get an offer from the dealer down the street for a percentage point less.
Financial literacy is an area where you can add enormous value to your customers' financial lives. Your customers may not know how much money they should be saving for a comfortable retirement, or the difference between a term and whole life insurance policy and which one is right for them. Maybe they're in the market to buy their first home, but aren't aware of the ins and outs of the homebuying process. Tack on the complexities of the various loan programs available, and you'll really cause a headspin. According to the 2014 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey, 73% of adults said that they could benefit from advice and answers to everyday financial questions from a professional. Clearly, there is a need for financial education; by providing your customers with financial education, they will turn to you as their trusted source of valuable information.
Furthermore, when your customers are well-versed in everything financial, it helps your bottom line. How, you ask? Those who are financially educated maintain more robust account balances and higher credit scores, and understanding the importance of valuable insurance products may lead to them making the investment. So, how can you develop the kind of robust financial literacy program that your valued customers want and need? Keep reading to find out how!
Implementing a Financial Literacy Program
Self-Service Is the Name of the Game
While having excellent customer service and personal, in-branch banking options are still vital, offering your customers the flexibility to make payments is critical. Give your borrowers the ability to make payments online or via interactive voice response, or ensure that you have multiple ATM locations available across your footprint. And, please, please, please consider mobile options, as they are key to reaching your growing customer base that prefers the ability to self-serve. Millenials, in particular, demand self-serve options, both transactionally and for information. The best way to accomplish this is to create an accessible library of resources on your website and/or online banking portal. The library could be split into key topics, based on the help your members could be seeking, such as:
- Debt Management
- Budgeting and Saving
- Buying a Car/Home vs. Leasing/Renting
- Paying for College
- Saving for Retirement
Within each topic, you would include relevant, easy-to-understand resources, such as tip sheets, guides, calculators, short videos, tutorials, and any other items that your customers and prospects may find valuable. Providing 24/7 access to the information your customers need, with the ability to digest it at their own pace, on their own time is key to meeting your customers' self-serve needs.
Content is King
Whether you choose to produce a newsletter, e-newsletter, or launch a blog, getting valuable content in front of your customers and prospects is a great way to help build your financial literacy program. Content gives you another educational touch point and adding a call-to-action to the end of each article or blog post directs them back to your website or into your branch to inquire about the products and services you provide.
The key to producing valuable content—the kind of content that your desired audience will read, share, and engage with—is to make sure it is the kind of information that they want and need. What are some of the questions that your loan officers get asked the most? What kind of issues do your borrowers seem to encounter most often? By simply doing an audit of the questions and concerns that your staff finds themselves answering most often, you will see that you already have a repository of content ideas in your arsenal.
While self-serve financial literacy options are key, don't completely discount good ol' fashioned, face-to-face interaction! You could host educational sessions or have a guest speaker on a Saturday morning, and invite your customers to join you for a continental breakfast and an opportunity to learn about "FILL IN THE BLANK." This low-cost event could provide phenomenal value to your customers, and reinforce the fact that you care about their financial health, and have their best interest at heart—deepening your relationship. Hosting these type of educational events could be particularly successful if geared toward children, and made into a fun family event.
Protecting and Preserving Wealth
An important part of providing your customers with financial literacy is in turn providing them with the products and services they need to help them be financially sound. Sure, they can go to an agent or advisor for their investment or asset protection needs, but doesn't it make more sense for them to purchase these valuable products from you—their trusted and knowledgeable financial institution? Once you've educated your customers on how to build their wealth, it's important to offer them life insurance products that can protect their families and preserve their wealth.
As CEO of SWBC's Financial Institution Group, Mark manages the day-to-day operations and sets the strategic direction for the division. He is committed to continuous product training, increased premium penetration, and support of the sales staff with a high level of service to ensure the success of our credit union program. He also embraces the philosophy of creating true partnerships with our financial institution clients.