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Birmingham looking to help unbanked

Tuesday morning, credit union officials, along with banks, the city of Birmingham, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the FDIC, met to discuss ways to bring financial services to the more than 48,000 unbanked people in Birmingham, AL. To give greater perspective, Birmingham ranks 49th nationally when it comes to unbanked citizens. Aggregated out nearly half of all Alabama residents don't have a regular checking or savings account. Across the country nearly a third of all residents don't regularly use a financial institution.

"Bank on Birmingham" will be patterned after the bank-on model used in San Francisco, Houston and many other cities across the country. The model seeks to engage a city’s un- and under-banked population with the financial services industry by tailoring credit union and bank products to increase accessibility and relevancy. "Bank on Birmingham" will also seek to raise awareness among un- and under-banked consumers about the benefits of transactional account ownership, as well as provide accessible quality financial education in order to make account ownership the first step to financial security and asset building. Credit unions have largely led the way in other bank-on cities mainly because it is a segment of the population that is regularly served by a credit union. Plus, many credit unions already offer starter checking accounts and credit builder loans which could easily translate to a bank-on product.

Tuesday's meeting included Coca-Cola United FCU, America's First FCU and NRS Community Development FCU. The next step for "Bank on Birmingham" is to expand the steering committee. Neither Alabama nor Florida has a state wide initiative like the bank-on model.

If any credit union has questions about the program or would like to take part, contact LSCU Director, Credit Union Relations Adena Whitman at 800.846.8374, ext. 2134.