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VOL. 132 | NO. 105 | Friday, May 26, 2017

Bank On Memphis Effort in National Spotlight

By Andy Meek

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Shelby County Trustee David Lenoir was in the nation’s capital this week, speaking by invitation on a panel at the 2017 Bank On national conference in Washington, D.C.

Bank On is a national outreach effort targeting the underbanked – consumers, say, without checking accounts who instead frequent places like payday lenders – and connecting them to banks that have established products and services specific to that demographic. Variants of the effort exist in cities around the country.


And Lenoir’s participation in the daylong Bank On conference hosted by the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund on Tuesday, May 23, is one example of how Memphis’ version of the effort – launched in 2011, then re-launched in 2015 with a citywide awareness campaign and mobile app – is getting national attention.

Along those same lines, the Bank On Memphis effort in recent days also was awarded a $10,000 capacity grant from the CFE Fund.

Across the country, according to CFE Fund president and CEO Jonathan Mintz, coalitions like Bank On Memphis “are making critical strides connecting consumers to the financial mainstream.”

And getting that kind of support from the national movement, Lenoir said, is an indication the effort here is on the right track, with national stakeholders wanting to see the city’s effort grow.

“Part of this may be in my DNA. This is a passion of mine,” Lenoir said. “A payday lender or title pawn shop is just not the best way to manage your financial affairs. Having a relationship with a bank or credit union is a much better way to build credit and build your net worth.”

The Bank On Memphis app – the impetus for Lenoir’s participation in the conference this week – is a key way the program here is helping meet those goals.

The app has been downloaded more than 2,100 times, and a companion marketing and public awareness effort has reached some 220,000 people via social media, according to the trustee’s office.

One of the first things users can do after downloading the Bank On Memphis app is tap the Getting Started tab, which takes them to a series of prompts that help them set up a bank account. Other features include a Locator tab that lets users select from a list of participating financial institutions and see location details for the branches closest to them.

More than a dozen bank and community institutions – including Bank of America, First Tennessee Bank, Regions and Iberiabank – have joined the Bank On Memphis effort as partners. That means, Lenoir said, that they’ve set up products and services “specific to this effort.”

To date, more than 6,500 bank accounts have been opened at institutions in the area through the work of Bank On Memphis. And the app – which targets low- to moderate-income Memphians who rely on alternative services like check cashers and title lenders – is a key piece of that.

The local effort is a partnership led by the city of Memphis and the Shelby County Trustee’s Office. Its goals include connecting Memphis-area consumers with no-cost or low-cost checking or savings accounts with low deposit requirements and low account fees, and to help them maintain those accounts.

The program also wants to help with consumers who need a second chance – if they’ve had accounts closed for reasons other than fraud, for example – by referring them to a Bank On Memphis financial education partner.

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