Credit unions that deliberately create a culture of financial education among employees and offer ongoing training give their credit unions an edge, says Adam Carroll, a financial education consultant.
“Because we work in a financial services area, we should be more financially literate,” Carroll says.
Creating a culture of financial literacy is a top-down process, that begins with the CEO articulating that financial literacy for staff is a priority. Each employee must be onboard with the fact that the credit union will serve not only as a financial institution, but as a financial education institution, Carroll says.
Credit unions often provide financial education to their members, but often the staff themselves need some tutorials in interest rates, how loans benefit credit unions or simply some lessons on how the credit union is run. Employees who have a better understanding of financials can better serve members. They are also more savvy with their own money and spend less time at work worrying about their personal financial stress.
“Financial literacy equates to being money savvy,” Carroll says. “Monday savvy is just the ability to do more with the money that they make.”
MeriTrust Credit Union ($820.8M, Wichita, KS) is among the credit unions holding free financial training sessions for its employees. For the past three years, MeriTrust has offered a 12-week program to help employees better understand their money. The program was designed as a part of the credit union’s wellness program as a benefit for employees. But it’s had the result of improving their work performance, says Chris Wolgamott, financial counselor at MeriTrust CU.
The program teaches employees how to develop a structured budget, how to pay off debt, how to invest in stocks and bonds, and how to shop for real estate and mortgages. MeriTrust also holds lunch seminars on budgeting and money management for employees. Employees can ask questions and share their opinions.
Alliant Credit Union ($8.4B, Chicago, IL) believes that promoting financial literacy is vital to helping members to achieve and maintain financial well being, says Joe McGowean, vice president of marketing. The credit union is focused on ensuring staff is knowledgeable in financial matters so employees can provide members with helpful, personalized services.
Alliant offers a monthly series of “Product Knowledge College” classes that enable employees, on the front lines and throughout the company, to get up to speed on the products and services Alliant offers, like student loans, investment and retirement planning, and loan protection plans.
“We also offer our employees a monthly series of webinars on topics, such as identity theft prevention, how to teach kids about money and why we buy – the psychology of spending,” McGowean says of the program, which is also available to SEG members.
Employees need to know the lingo of personal finance because they work with the numbers everyday, Wolgamott says.
“Just because we have employees that work for a financial institution doesn’t necessarily mean that they are strong with their own personal finances,” Wolgamott said. “It’s a good benefit for any organization to offer because money is such a big stressor in a person’s life. If you have employees who aren’t worried about their finances, it steadies the ship.”