Keynote addresses by Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s (OCC’s) Acting Comptroller Michael J. Hsu took center stage at the 2023 Bank On National Conference, held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The event, organized by the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund), showcased the remarkable progress made in the Bank On movement, which aims to enhance access to banking services.
With over 375 nationally certified Bank On accounts now available, offered by banks and credit unions representing over 60% of the domestic deposit market, the movement has gained substantial traction. More than half of all US bank branches (53%) now offer a Bank On certified account, making safe banking options more accessible to individuals nationwide. In addition, various federal and state agencies, including the FDIC, the Internal Revenue Service, and state Departments of Labor, as well as local programs across the country, are directing consumers towards Bank On accounts for receiving payments. The movement has been further strengthened by the collaboration of 100 local Bank On coalitions and an increasing number of statewide coalitions.
Jonathan Mintz, President and CEO of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, emphasized the pivotal role played by federal agencies like the FDIC and the OCC in driving the exponential growth of the Bank On movement. He praised Chairman Gruenberg and Acting Comptroller Hsu for their leadership and the efforts of the agencies they oversee, which have fostered collaboration among financial institutions, local coalitions, government leaders, and advocates to expand safe banking access. Mintz highlighted the positive impact these collective endeavors have had on national anti-poverty priorities, as reflected in the record-low unbanked rates reported by the FDIC’s latest National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households for 2021.
The survey revealed that only 4.5% of US households were unbanked in 2021, a significant decrease from 5.4% in 2019. Approximately 1.2 million households have joined the mainstream financial system since the previous survey. Notably, 35% of recently banked households cited government benefit payments, such as unemployment or pandemic stimulus funds, as contributing factors in their decision to open a bank account.
Bank On movement’s strategy
This aligns with the Bank On movement’s strategy, supported by federal regulators, of utilizing such benefit payments as an opportunity to assist individuals in gaining access to banking services. Furthermore, the widespread availability of Bank On certified accounts ensures that those still in need of banking options are within close proximity to branches offering such accounts. In fact, the American Bankers Association (ABA) reported that 95.5% of low- and moderate-income Americans live near a bank branch that offers a Bank On certified account.
The Bank On National Conference brought together key stakeholders from various sectors, including local Bank On coalition program leaders, city administrators, financial institutions, federal banking regulators, nonprofit organizations, philanthropic partners, and consumer advocates. In addition to the keynote addresses, the event featured plenary sessions on topics such as the client journey, state-led Bank On coalitions, and young adult banking. Breakout sessions delved into areas such as marketing, overcoming barriers to account opening, and dispelling myths surrounding the movement.
Prominent representatives from financial institutions expressed their support for Bank On and its mission. Christine Channels, Head of Community Banking and Consumer Governance at Bank of America, acknowledged the significance of Bank On certification for their Advantage SafeBalance Account and its commitment to providing safe and affordable banking access to clients nationwide.
Brandee McHale, Head of Community Investing and Development at Citi, and Brandee McHale, Head of Community Investing and Development at Citi, and Bonnie Wallace, Head of Financial Health Philanthropy at Wells Fargo, also voiced their organizations’ dedication to expanding access to the mainstream banking system. They highlighted the importance of Bank On in promoting financial inclusion and removing barriers that hinder individuals from participating fully in the U.S. economy.
Bank On’s core mission
Bank On’s core mission is to ensure that everyone has access to safe and affordable financial products and services. The movement’s National Account Standards define key features for suitable bank and credit union accounts, such as low costs, no-overdraft fees, robust transaction capabilities, and online bill pay. These standards serve as a blueprint for local coalitions across the country to connect consumers with accounts that meet their needs.
Led by the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund), Bank On coalitions are collaborative partnerships between local public officials, government agencies at the city, state, and federal levels, financial institutions, and community organizations. These coalitions work together to improve the financial stability of unbanked and underbanked individuals and families in their communities. In addition to facilitating access to banking services, Bank On programs raise public awareness, target outreach to the unbanked, and expand financial education opportunities.
To learn more about Bank On and join the conversation, you can visit their website or follow them on Twitter @CFEfund, using the hashtag #BankOn.
The Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund) supports municipal efforts to enhance the financial stability of households by leveraging unique opportunities within local government. Through its experience with large-scale programs, research, and policy implementation in cities of all sizes, the CFE Fund assists mayors and local leaders in identifying, developing, funding, implementing, and researching initiatives and programs that empower families to build assets and optimize their financial resources. With ongoing collaborations in over 100 cities, the CFE Fund has allocated over $59 million to support these efforts in partnership with city governments and their allies. For more information about the CFE Fund, please visit their website at www.cfefund.org or follow them on Twitter at @CFEFund.
Bank On is an essential movement that aims to bridge the gap between individuals and safe banking services, promoting financial inclusion and empowering communities nationwide.