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1st National Bank Taking Financial Literacy to Schools Islandwide

By VOICE Reporter

1st National Bank’s Stanley French Education Forum took,  a quiet, but significant  step forward  last Saturday, when the bank disclosed it was opening new accounts for 25 local students, to take  savings and online banking education to local schools through a financial literacy drive.

The students joined the bank’s customers and shareholders, directors and executives for this year’s forum, which featured two lecturers schooled in regional education and development and doing business in a constantly-changing environment.

OECS Director Dr Didacus Jules and President of the Caribbean Institute of Chartered Accountants Andrea St. Rose discussed a wide range of topics, including: Personal Service and Customer Satisfaction, Climate Financing, Creative Industries, Correspondent Banking, De-risking, Financial Intelligence, Blacklisting and the increasing costs of local application of international regulations.

But a central theme throughout the over-three-hour session at the Administrative Financial Center last Saturday was concern about growing need for a national financial literacy drive and urgent action to positively change current attitudes of youth and students towards savings.

Dr Jules, a national and regional adult literacy and examinations expert who has been OECS Director General since 2014, referred to a recent study that revealed 43% of youth surveyed had negative attitudes towards savings.

There was also concern about taking online banking to elderly customers and others unable, unwilling, or simply slow to adjust; and speakers also agreed on the need to avoid “sidelining” of “old folks”.

However, Dr Jules noted that since COVID, “Online banking is here to stay” and advised the bank should avoid “social exclusion” of affected customers.

The role of 1st National as an indigenous bank, he insisted, was to have “special facilities for affected customers” through “customized banking”, including “special traveling officers” to take services to people in their communities…”

1st National Bank’s Managing Director Fletcher St. Jean acknowledged that “Customers are increasingly demanding personal levels of service” and revealed the bank had already appointed “service ambassadors” for that purpose.

The main focus of discussion during the long Question & Answer period, however, was on the importance of promoting financial literacy among today’s students, represented by those attending from the Leon Hess, Entrepot and Castries Comprehensive Secondary Schools.

The OECS Director General said “Mobile Banking cannot be ignored,” but also revealed bit of local wisdom he gained from an ordinary customer who’d pointed him to “the difference in value between a mobile dollar and a paper dollar” in one’s wallet, where the former is seen as being “of less value” after related charges and service fees are extracted for transactions.

Geraldine Lendor, a bank director who had introduced Dr Jules as the first speaker, supported proposals “to get students interested in the banking of and for the future”, but also urged attention to issues like Climate Financing and funding of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

However, Dr Jules noted that “Climate Financing is the new rush to the trough” and instead advocated for “more partnerships to replace individual races” for related financing.

Managing Director St. Jean stressed that “Our chair (Nigel Fulgence) always insists that we are a community bank” and revealed the bank had plans for taking financial literacy to the national community through neighborhoods and schools, “which is why it’s no accident the students are here today.”

The MD indicated the bank had earlier agreed to open an account for every student attending the forum and it also plans to take issues like online banking services, savings and financial literacy “to every high school on the island.”

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