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Central Pa. banks continue looking for new ways to engage children, adults in financial literacy

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Not only is it good business for banks to offer financial literacy programs, but the demand continues to exist in the community.

"Last year, we taught 204 classes," said Natalie Neyer, a spokeswoman for Swatara Township-based Metro Bank.

That includes working with teachers on school-based programs and community organizations that are looking to financial institutions to fill educational gaps.

National Teach Children to Save Day — where Metro instructors get out to about 40 schools and visit with nearly 3,000 students — is a recent example. Working with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to fulfill merit badge requirements is another.

"We're happy to have that obligation of being responsible corporate citizens," Neyer said. "Part of being that is helping the community be better financial decision-makers. When the community succeeds, we all succeed."

Like many of its peers, Metro has its own financial education program, called Metro Money Sense. The free program has lessons targeting students from kindergarten through high school, but it can be modified for adults.

Recognizing a need in the business community, Metro recently started a free small-business-growth seminar series. That program is in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration and Greater Harrisburg Area SCORE.

"Being a preferred lender through SBA, it was natural to partner and come together," Neyer said of the new program.

'Being proactive'

Community engagement has always been at the top of the list for financial institutions, but there is more marketing of events and promotions today because of social media.

"I think mostly it's us being proactive about reaching out," said Mark Bayer, a spokesman for Shippensburg-based Orrstown Bank.

Spikes in various aspects of the business — for example, mortgage applications — might spark a community program aimed at helping first-time homebuyers, he said. Financial advisers might reach out to the community to talk about retirement planning or how to save for a college education.

Orrstown has a stock market game it runs with area students. The kids are provided with fantasy funds to learn about investing in real companies, Bayer said.

"It's part of being a community organization," he said of the programs. "We don't go out with goals of gaining 'x' number of accounts. We (just) know it's good for business."

And those outreach efforts will change as the face of banking evolves, he said, especially with advances in online and mobile technology.

"I think that's going to influence outreach programs going forward," he said, adding that the days of simply saying, "Here is a checkbook and here is how you balance it" are gone.

New contest

Creativity in how you engage today's youth is key, said Dawn Spahr, community relations officer for Millersburg-based Mid Penn Bank.

Mid Penn recently ran a millionaire-for-a-day essay contest aimed at first- through fifth-grade students. About 800 students submitted entries, and two random winners were selected, said Brittany Giberti, a bank spokeswoman.

The winners received 90 days of interest on a bank account balance of $1 million, which was about $130. They also got a limousine ride to school and their teachers received $500 for their classrooms.

"We're a community bank, and we want people to identify us as a community bank," Giberti said.

Mid Penn launched a My Savings account for children about a year ago. If they deposit $25 within 30 days of their birthday, the bank will add $5. There also are online newsletters with financial education tips and activities tied to the account.

"It's an incentive to come into the bank and save money," Giberti said.

Summer reading programs with small cash incentives are also common promotions banks use with students to teach them about saving money.

State education

The state Department of Banking and Securities recently wrapped up its events during the national observance of "Money Smart Week."

Its investor education team held three events during the week of April 5-12 to help investors grow and protect their money.

One of the events was the Future Business Leaders of America Conference in Derry Township.

The week is a coordinated effort of hundreds of organizations across the country, including businesses, financial institutions, schools, libraries, nonprofits, government agencies and the media.

Editor's note: This item was modified from its previous version to correct information about Mid Penn's My Savings account for children.

Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin County. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jasons@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal. Circle Jason Scott on .

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