The National League of Cities, in its Bank On Cities Connecting Residents to the Financial Mainstream Toolkit for Municipal Leaders (Click here to see the entire Toolkit), identified six core components that are key to the success of a municipal initiative to expand access to mainstream financial services:
The mayor or another prominent local official should serve as a champion of the initiative. Local elected officials have the power to raise public awareness of the issues related to financial services and bring local financial institutions and other partners to the table.
Strong partnerships are the backbone of an effective Bank On initiative. No one entity can achieve success on its own. Community organizations have direct connections to the target populations. Financial institutions have the capacity to deliver low-cost financial products and services. City government staff can serve as coordinators and conveners. Other community stakeholders can bring additional knowledge and resources to a Bank On program. It truly takes a community!
By bringing key partners together in the early planning stages, city leaders can draw on their expertise and facilitate buy-in, particularly among financial institutions.
Local partners should develop a data collection strategy in the early stages of the initiative. This process requires negotiating with financial institutions on how to report data on Bank On accounts, and in some cases developing an evaluation component outside of the tracking conducted by financial institutions. The ability to measure the Bank On program's impact is vital to its sustainability, continued involvement of partners, political viability and funding.
There is no need for cities to "reinvent the wheel" in developing a Bank On initiative. Local officials can use resources, expertise and technical support from NLC, the FDIC, the Federal Reserve, CFE Fund, regional banks and other cities that already have programs in place. Moreover, websites such as joinbankon.org can offer a portal to helpful information.
Finally, creating a Bank On program in isolation is a missed opportunity. By incorporating a Bank On initiative into a larger community asset-building agenda, cities not only help families open bank accounts but also enable them to achieve long-term financial security.