Community bank initiative works toward more open accounts in St. Louis

A financial plan is nearly impossible to administer without a bank account, and one organization in St. Louis, Missouri, is attempting to bring unbanked communities out of financial slumps through its Bank-On Save-Up program.

Organization works to increase accounts
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the St. Louis Regional Unbanked Task Force is looking to help 20,000 people in the area get official bank accounts established over the next two years. Scores of community bank businesses and others are working to help the organization, the source said, as 18 financial services companies and 42 organizations specializing outside of the financial sector will join the task force in its effort.

St. Louis Public Radio stated that the work being done in the city to help families strengthen fund management is part of a movement that has swept across the United States. Jackie Hutchinson, co-chair of the St. Louis Regional Unbanked Task Force, said her organization's mission is to get people started on a path that can lead to total financial fulfillment, which ultimately makes better citizens and sound neighborhoods.

"If people can begin to use mainstream financial services, they can build credit, they can buy a car, and move on to buy a house, and we see that as stabilizing in our community," she told the source.

First steps to financial freedom
The financial investment advice central to the Unbanked Task Force's work is that having an account open is the number one way families and individuals can mobilize their money. Co-chair Alex Fennoy told St. Louis Public Radio this is because several hundreds of dollars are saved every year when an account exists verses working without a community bank or other established financial service to manage funds.

"If you are in a bank account, it's about a $1200 annual savings," he said. "So we want people to have that in their pocket, and then to in turn start saving that."

According to St. Louis Public Radio, individuals who work with the Unbanked Task Force in this initiative will have access to financial services they may otherwise not – for instance, some nonprofits working with participants will be able to offer account options to consumers who would be declined by larger banks and credit unions.

The city's efforts join 63 fellow municipalities working with the intent to get low-income families bank account access, all of which are following the steps of the first program of its kind based in San Francisco just seven years ago.

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