The Student-Run Branch
How The Deposits Get Made
Las Colinas’ student-run branches open at 7:20 a.m. and close 20 minutes later when the tardy bell rings. During that time, students will make some 50-100 deposits. That means it’s all hands on deck, says Susie Mayes, the credit union's student-run branch coordinator. Here’s how the line moves:
Security opens the branch doors, watches as kids come and go, escorts the younger students, and carries large bags of change.
Customer service officers greet students, help them fill out deposit slips, and escort them to the teller.
The teller accepts the slip and cash, the teller and the bookkeeper both count the money to verify the deposit amount, and the manager gives the student a deposit receipt.
The marketing officer waits with the student during the transaction.
Marketing students also make posters for the school, submits morning announcements, and otherwise spreads the word about the branch.
Las Colinas’ student-run branches operate like any other branch, just in miniature.
On the depositor side, every student at the five partner elementary schools receives a credit union application at the start of the year. If a parent fills it out, the student becomes a member of the credit union. These newly minted mini-members can deposit into their Star Saver accounts at school throughout their elementary years.
At four of the schools, branches are open twice per month. At the fifth, smaller school, the branch is open once per month. A credit union representative opens the branches, which are located in the school cafeterias, at 7 a.m. and at any given time manages some 26- 50 student “employees” ranging from grades three to five . The younger the employee, the more are needed.
“At one of our schools the [branch] is run by 5th graders, so that bank can run with 30 or less,” says Susie Mayes, the credit union's student-run branch coordinator. “At another school, the bank is run by 3rd graders and it takes more students to get all of the deposits done in a timely manner.”
The credit union strives to make the branch experience as real-world as possible. Interested students must complete a resume and interview with their teacher to see for which of the six branch positions they are a good fit.
“Students pick their top three jobs,” Clark says. “The teacher tries to place them into their first choice but sometimes it’s their second.”
According to the program’s coordinator, Susie Mayes, the positions are similar to what students would find at any traditional financial institution and include managers, customer service officers, tellers, bookkeepers, marketing officers, and security. Each position has it’s own distinct function. If someone is absent, the manager jumps into the vacated role.
As for which students gravitate toward what positions, Clark says it’s all in their personalities.
“The kids who love math want to be teller or bookkeeper,” she says. “The kids who are creative want to be in marketing.”
Adds Mayes: “All the boys want to be in security.”
A Counterintuitive Lesson
Las Colinas strives to make its in-school branches as realistic as possible; however, streamlining systems and adding technology to increase efficiency poses a problem.
“We need paper and pencils,” says Kevin Scott, CEO of Las Colinas. “We're teaching children how to count and work at a basic level. If we automate all the jobs, students wouldn’t have anything to do.”
Click through the tabs below to view images from the credit union's in-school branches.
Students wait in line to deposit at one of the credit union's in-school branches.
Students wait at the deposit window at one of the credit union's in-school branches.
A branch employee counts a cash deposit.
Growing Up Star Savers
Since 2004, Las Colinas has opened more than 1,000 accounts and collected more than $500,000 in deposits, says CEO Kevin Scott. That’s a significant amount of money for elementary school students bringing in coins and other small-dollar deposits, but that’s not the only way the credit union creates value for these members.
Working in the branch helps teach students, many of who are first-generation Americans, basic financial skills like counting money, dividing coins for easier counting, and writing down the numbers as they go.
Beyond these in-branch lessons, Las Colinas runs reality fairs at several elementary schools in Coppell ISD. The cooperative gives students an hour-long presentation on paychecks and budgeting before the fair, and kids have to make real-world choices based on assigned income and family life.
“If they’re over budget, we make them trade in their BMW for a Corolla,” Mayes says.
Additionally, Mayes offers instruction for academic standards outlined by the Texas Education Agency, specifically as the standards relate to financial literacy.
In September 2017, the Texas State Board of Education named Las Colinas a gold-level recipient of the Employers for Education Excellence Award. More recently, Coppell ISD named Las Colinas as its Partner of the Year.
According to Scott, these awards have made the credit union a more attractive employer locally while also validating the work itself.
“These awards rightly honor the work that Susie and Tonia have put in the past 15 years,” the CEO says.
Over the past decade-and-a-half, the credit union has watched its elementary school students grow up, open full-fledged accounts with the credit union, and go to college. And for that third step, the credit union helps as well.
Las Colinas sponsors the Star Saver Education Foundation, which has awarded 12 scholarships totaling $11,000 to high school seniors. To be eligible, students must have gone through the Star Savers program in elementary school. As part of the application the credit union asks these future college students to write a letter to a younger Star Saver saying what the program has meant to them.
“It’s cool to see kids who started with us at an early age go to college and receive money as a result of their membership with the credit union,” Scott says.
As a byproduct of the account’s popularity, approximately 20% of the credit union’s membership is now 18 or younger, says COO Clark. And whereas CUNA estimates put the average age of a credit union member in the mid-40s, at Las Colinas, it’s a decade younger. This means there is an existing pool of members who might soon need a deeper financial relationship. It also means the credit union gets to watch its kids grow up.
“It’s rewarding to see little kids grow into adults and become productive members of society,” Clark says.
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