Tapping Into the Unbanked Market
The National Press Club in downtown Washington was the venue, the FDIC was the sponsor and "Tapping Into the Unbanked Market" was the topic as more than 300 bankers, bank regulators, congressmen and their staffs, and community leaders gathered to examine ways to improve bank services to the millions of Americans who do not use traditional financial institutions or services-the "unbanked."
Panels of experts examined a variety of topics, including identification of exactly who the nation's estimated 10 million unbanked are, the role of financial education, how best to attract the unbanked to banks, recent work in the Congress to address the issue and the role of community leaders in working with financial institutions, regulators and Congress to improve the delivery of financial services.
Michael Zamorski, Director, Division of Supervision and Consumer Protection, opened the symposium by introducing Chairman Powell. "A lack of financial education is one of several reasons why 10 million people in this country may be unbanked," Zamorski said. "That's why Chairman Donald Powell is leading the FDIC in efforts like Money Smart."
Chairman Powell addressed how important the question of the nation's unbanked is to the FDIC. "This issue is vital to the FDIC, to banks, to Congress, to our communities and to me," he said. The Chairman noted that the topic is a complex one. He recalled stopping in a small town in rural Texas on a recent trip. He noticed a number of people waiting in line at a check-cashing facility, a typical financial services alternative. Casually dressed, Powell chatted with the people in line without identifying himself as a bank regulator. "I pointed out that there was a bank just down the street," the Chairman recalled. "But they all had reasons for not wanting to go to that bank. Some of them didn't feel welcome, some wanted to remain anonymous, some didn't fully understand what banks do. But a lot of persons who are unbanked know more about financial institutions than we think they do. Banks need to do everything they can to meet these people on their own terms, answer their questions, address their concerns. There are many ways banks can make money working with the unbanked, but it's up to them to go out into the communities where people work and pay taxes and buy groceries and teach Sunday school-you have to be in their community to get to understand what they need."