Michigan Community Banker Designs Financial Literacy App

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A Michigan community banker and mother of two, Kathleen Craig, has created a financial literacy app for young children.

In recent weeks, Craig, who is assistant vice president, consumer e-services at United Bank & Trust, Ann Arbor, Mich., has launched a website that touts her first mobile app, Banker Jr. which banks can white label. The app runs on iPhone, iPad and Android devices. It's sold through Craig's Ann Arbor, Mich.-based software company HT MobileApps.

The app, which is not tied to real money, has three main purposes: get children familiar with the look and feel of mobile financial accounts, train them to save toward something and build bank brand awareness.

Why the need? Though many community banks provide children with paper registers and stickers to practice banking, that's not enough to appeal to mobile-savvy young consumers, she says. Plus, Craig points out that floor traffic is dropping at branches nationwide; thus, fewer children are walking into banks' physical doors to even get those mock paper bank accounts.

"This takes the place of a paper register," Craig says.

The app's design, which features a blinking pig, allows children to set up financial goals, deposits and withdrawals in a play money environment. The software also includes a game and small touches like wishing a kid happy birthday on his big day. In the current iteration, there's a game designed for toddlers, while Craig says she's working on building two more games into Banker Jr. to accommodate the older age groups. "Games are how kids learn these days," she says.

Before a child can use the app, a parent must download it and accept the terms. The child, meanwhile, only shares a username and his birth month and day.

It's a project that was just a notion a year ago. "It's fun to see my idea come to fruition," Craig tells BTN.

In the coming months, Craig plans to continue to pitch the app to banks (including her own) and will continue to build out the app's feature set. She hints at how the app won't be the only one she, and her development team, launches. "We have some ideas for education outside of the banking space," Craig says.

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