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Banks Must Speak with One Voice on Financial Literacy: SunTrust's Delorier

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SunTrust Bank's Rilla Delorier believes banks could improve customers' financial well-being – and by extension their own reputations and profit margins – if they would just cooperate with one another.

Kicking off the inaugural BankThink Live Sessions at American Banker's Retail Banking 2014 conference, Delorier suggested that financial firms' individual efforts to improve consumers' finances are largely failing because customers "are not trusting us." 

Delorier, SunTrust's chief marketing and client experience officer, suggested regaining the trust banks lost in the wake of the financial crisis would be a lot easier if they pooled the financial and human resources each had set aside to promote financial literacy. 

"Shoulder to shoulder, I bet if we looked at all the stuff we're doing across institutions, we'd find incredible redundancy," she said. "We're all creating content. I bet it's pretty darn similar. What if we created it once and we spent our energy on getting it out there and changing behavior?"

Delorier cited  "It Can Wait", an anti-texting-while-driving campaign launched by AT&T in 2010 and ultimately endorsed by Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile, as an example of an industry banding together to foster change. She also name-checked Toms Shoes, which donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for each pair purchased, and Dove, which has launched marketing campaigns designed to build self-esteem among women, as companies that have done a good job of tying purpose to profits.

"What we do is noble work," Delorier said. "What we do matters, so I think it's time we get reconnected to our purpose of why we do what we do."

She closed her talk by inviting bankers to join a dialogue around financial wellness initiatives that the nonprofit organization BAI was willing to organize in April. Those interested in joining the discussion can email info@bai.org.

"We have to do this to save our industry," Delorier said. "If you look at the market share we're losing to nonbanks because people can't afford to have a $100 balance in their checking account, if you look at the loans we're writing off, the mortgages we're foreclosing, we have got to help Americans get stronger and we can do that together."

Jeanine Skowronski is the deputy editor of BankThink. You can contact her at Jeanine.skowronski@sourcemedia.com or follow her at Twitter @JeanineSko.

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Comments (2)
Your so right on but where are the associations who are suppose to unite the interests?
Posted by Rhsmith999 | Thursday, March 27 2014 at 3:41PM ET
The One Voice is spot on. However, I believe that voice should be directed at State and Federal government, including CFPB, to develop and implement a national financial education curriculum that starts pre-K and goes all the way through high school. That education is basic to American life, and the depth to which it needs to be taught is not something financial institutions are prepared to do - unless, of course, the States admit its beyond them and offer us an educational voucher system and the mandate to teach personal finance to this depth and level. There are no sustainable "consumer (financial) protections" that compare and perform as well as a good financial education, and one of these days CFPB will realize that and join our voice.
Posted by mdillon | Thursday, March 27 2014 at 3:52PM ET
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