PNC Financial Services Group has been named the official bank of the University of Kentucky, its 50th such partnership with a college or university.

The $361 billion-asset PNC said this week that it has signed a 15-year contract with JMI Sports, the university's multimedia-rights partner, to provide banking services to more than 50,000 students, faculty members and other employees. It will also offer financial literacy programs.

PNC is scheduled to open a branch at the Kentucky student center and seven ATMs on campus in January 2018; will offer virtual wallet accounts that students can use to monitor spending and balances; and will provide ATM access through students' WildCard ID cards. It will also create a cobranded website where students can complete account applications, manage their finances and get financial educational information. 

PNC now contracts with 50 colleges and universities, including Penn State, Georgetown and the University of Michigan, a PNC spokesman said.

Increasingly more banks are partnering with institutions of higher learning as a niche strategy for growth.

  • Bank of the West in San Francisco last November signed a 10-year, $17 million deal to become the official bank of neighboring University of California, Berkeley. 
  • Union Bank & Trust in Lincoln, Neb., in February 2015 became the exclusive bank of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, replacing Wells Fargo and providing a new branch, eight ATMs, and a self-service center with interactive video ATMs, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.
  • Webster Financial in Waterbury, Conn., reached a broad marketing deal in 2015 with the University of Connecticut, and in 2014 it signed a three-year deal to become the official bank of Yale University athletics.
  • Huntington Bancshares in Columbus, Ohio, in 2012 become Ohio State's official consumer bank in a 15-year deal that in part increased its number of ATM machines on campus to 26 from 10.

PNC initially adopted this growth strategy in the 1990s, targeting partnerships with colleges and universities in an effort to reel in students and retain them as customers as they develop high earnings potential after they graduate.

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