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Money Smart News - January 2004

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Tapping Into the Unbanked Market
Panel 2: Laying Out the Welcome Mat: How to Attract (and Retain) the Unbanked

The next panel, "Laying Out The Welcome Mat: How To Attract (And Retain) The Unbanked," dealt with the variety of reasons that so many people are unbanked.

Yman Vien, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO, American Metro Bank, Chicago; Joseph A. Smith Jr., Commissioner of Banks, North Carolina Banking Commission, Raleigh, North Carolina; and Chiquita D. Board, County Extension Agent/First Accounts Program Manager, DeKalb County Cooperative Extension Service, Decatur, Georgia, comprised the panel, with Sheila C. Bair, Dean's Professor of Financial Regulatory Policy, Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, acting as panel moderator.

Bair opened by reviewing a number of recent successful efforts by several banks to increase access to financial services and to make credit more available.

Smith cited the goals of the North Carolina banking industry to develop banking services for the state's unbanked on a meaningful scale and to act in the public interest in a way that is consistent with a profit-making industry. He cited the success of a working group of banks, government agencies and non-profit organizations and noted the significant help provided by the FDIC.

Vien noted that when her family came to the United States from Vietnam, they had no notion of using collateral to get credit. Now, as the head of a major bank in her region, she is an expert on collateral and credit, but sees people every day who are hindered by that same lack of basic financial understanding. "We start people off with the basics," she said. "We make small loans that enable them to establish credit, then we help them build on that."

Board described the success of financial literacy efforts in DeKalb County, Georgia. "Working with the University of Georgia, we set up a one-stop center for financial literacy featuring the FDIC's Money Smart," she said. "We also had the 'First Accounts' project, which recruited first-time savers, working with employers who encouraged enrollment and local non-profit community groups who gave grants that matched the amounts the first-time savers used to open their accounts."

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Last Updated 01/15/2004 MoneySmartNews@fdic.gov