Last Thursday, the grown-up world of banking, with all its mysterious workings, was opened up to kids. A 9-year-old girl settled into Alan Greenspan's boardroom seat at the Federal Reserve. An 11-year-old boy in Jackson, Wyo., took a turn on the teller line. A group of children nosed around a NationsBank vault in Tampa and took home their fingerprints as souvenirs. The occasion was the fifth annual "Take Our Daughters to Work Day," sponsored by the Ms. Foundation for Women. (Many participants have opened the events to boys and girls alike.) Financial services companies of all sizes have embraced the program, as have the federal banking regulatory agencies. On Thursday, they welcomed thousands of children. Some participants went all out with tightly choreographed events to teach kids about careers and finance, and boost their self-esteem in the process. Others kept it simple, with children shadowing their parents. By the time it was over, most of the adults American Banker spoke with sounded exhausted but exhilarated. "It kind of gets everybody off track for the day," acknowledged Peggy Casey, a teller for F&M Bank, Kaukana, Wis. "But this is just once a year and it's a good experience . . . for everyone at the bank." In Wachovia Corp.'s Atlanta office, 9-year-old Katie M. Lowe quickly sized up the conservative bank environment with a question: "Why does everybody wear navy blue here?" Katie - herself attired in navy blue skirt and jacket that her mother, senior vice president Rebekah M. Lowe, picked out - never got an answer. But she had quite a day anyway. She tapped away at a computer, played around with voice- and E-mail, and helped her mom prepare for a 1 p.m. meeting on branch staffing. She even sat in on the meeting with Wachovia Bank of Georgia President D. Gary Thompson. Katie's mother was delighted. "I spend so much time away at work, it's important for me she have a picture of what I do at work," said Ms. Lowe. "But I also want Katie to grasp the joy of career and the fulfillment that is available to her." Career goals aren't a problem for Katie. She already has identified three fields of interest: banking, of course; auto manufacturing; and her current favorite, dolphin training. Thirteen-year-old Emily Jane Brown came to work Thursday with her mother, Darleen M. Brown, a customer service representative at Merrill Merchants Bank, a $158 million-asset bank in Bangor, Maine. Last year, the seventh-grader spent her day doing some faxing and photocopying, and even transferred money between accounts using Merrill's computer. Mom supervised, of course. This year, her mother put her to work right away, typing up envelopes to send out customer correspondence. The youngster, who likes social studies, science, and math at school, said she might consider banking as a career. "It's pretty neat working on computers and just talking with people, with customer service," Emily Jane said. "I like the idea that children can find out what they want to do when they grow up." One of the slickest programs around was sponsored by Bankers Trust New York Corp. Some 125 boys and girls, ages 12 to 16, wrote essays to win admission to a daylong conference on leadership. Most were the offspring or relatives of employees; about 10 came from three local schools that Bankers Trust has "adopted" in a community outreach program. Two hundred volunteers were on hand to guide the kids through "Jeopardy"- style quizzes, interview and career workshops, and a tour of the trading floor and data center. They even played a survival game that challenged the kids to identify the four most important things they would need if they were in a bush fire in Australia. Eleven-year-old Mariaane Gurney had learned about Bankers Trust from her father. Witnessing firsthand "the long hours and hard work" didn't deter her from wanting to work for the bank too. Quaison Reynolds attends Clearpool Junior High in Brooklyn, N.Y., one of three schools in Bankers Trust's outreach program. The influence of the three bank employees who serve as his mentors is evident: the 13-year-old said he wants to be a banker or a stockbroker. In Jackson, Wyo., Jackson State Bank teller Lois Haycock was joined by her son, 11-year-old Ben, a sixth-grader. A lack of customers, however, was limiting the opportunity for Ben to do much more than "get my drawer straightened up," his mother explained. "I think it's fun here," said Ben, who would like to do it again next year. "My mom was showing me how to count money and stuff like that." Down the hall, Kristi Gould brought her daughter, Katie, to join her in the accounting department. Katie helped her mother with time cards for employee overtime and filled out supply requisitions. The 13-year-old, whom her mother says enjoys math, also helped as Ms. Gould computed monthly accruals for some large expenses and completed the bank's call report. In Washington, nearly 80 girls ages 9 to 14 invaded the inner sanctum of the Federal Reserve Board. Nine-year-old Kathleen Shewmaker of Chantilly, Va., snared the seat normally reserved for Chairman Alan Greenspan at the head of the Fed's three-ton, mahogany and granite boardroom table. When asked if she wanted Mr. Greenspan's job, Kathleen nonchalantly responded, "I don't know," showing no trace of irrational exuberance. Alice M. Rivlin, vice chairman of the Fed, told her young listeners that "not that long ago" girls weren't exposed to the same career options as boys. She recalled her scientist father sadly confessing: " 'You know, you might have been good at physics, but it never occurred to me that a girl could do physics.' " Noting that her daughter had become a California prosecutor, Ms. Rivlin added, "You can do anything you want." Organizers of events at the Fed, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency invented creative ways to explain their obscure jobs. Sporting a bright yellow badge and a holster loaded with an exam report, Leslye K. Burgess described her job as a bank examiner to some of the 90 boys and girls at the FDIC as being a "bank cop." Dawn Cooper plopped on a couch exhausted but satisfied six hours into American Express Co.'s daylong event for 330 girls. Ms. Cooper, the company's regional diversity manager, said she was confident they would go home thinking "this is a company they would want to work for in the future." The goal, she said, was that the girls "could walk away with a better understanding of who we are and what we do." So what did John Starks and Mark Messier have to do with it? That's what a gaggle of girls in one workshop wanted to know. Acting as reporters, they grilled public affairs director Emily Porter on the card giant's involvement with Mr. Stark's New York Knicks and Mr. Messier's New York Rangers. (American Express began issuing affinity Optima cards in October). Then they had a few questions about credit cards: One 14-year-old asked, "If I called up and asked for a credit card, could I get one?" "Well, no," said Ms. Porter, "you have to be 18 and have a job or some kind of income." However, the questioner was not about to be put off, so Ms. Porter said, "Call us back in four years and ask us then." - Reported by Antoinette Coulton, Jacqueline S. Gold, and Mickey Meece in New York, Carey Gillam in Atlanta, and Dean Anason, Jonathan Epstein, and Terence O'Hara in Washington
On April 24, American Banker observed "Take Our Children to Work Day" for the first time. We invited our sister publications to participate, and the event drew 21 children, ages 7 to 14. Our children's parents represent diverse areas of the organization, including editorial, advertising, production, accounting, and the mailroom. We divided the children into four "beats," mirroring the beat structure of our newspaper, and brought them on a tour of a Citibank branch near the office. Armed with reporters' notebooks and business cards, our cub reporters peppered the branch manager and her staff with questions. One boy wanted to know if there were robots behind the ATMs. One girl asked if there were guards who carried sticks, or whether they had to use their hands to combat robbers. Everyone enjoyed seeing the huge stacks of cash inside the ATMs and getting a peek at the vault. Back in the office, the beat reporters gathered in groups to write stories about what they had learned. (One boy, who had traded business cards with several branch employees, made a beeline for the telephone to ask follow-up questions.) Here are our children's stories. GETTING TO WORK: Clockwise from top, American Banker editors and cub reporters troop back to the office after their tour of a Citibank branch in New York's financial district. Arriving in the newsroom, Edwin Grant, 11, hits the phones to ask follow-up questions as Hector Molina, 10, (behind him) sits down to write. Shiomara Rivera, 13, Priscilla Molina, 7, Ryan Arbeit, 11, and Dana Carney, 10, team with staff writer Jennifer Kingson- Bloom for a story on ATMs. Maria Rivera, 10, and Tracey Brown, 14, race toward deadline. Bank Security: It Pays to Be Lucky By THEODORE AMOS, ALICIA ANGEVINE, TONI BROWN, TISHA DaCOSTA, and MAX ROOSEVELT Even though the Citibank branch holds $1.5 million, it has never been robbed, said Dominique Jordan, vice president. "Number One, I think it's luck," she said. She also said that the neighborhood, called the Financial District, is quite safe. It was surprising to find that there were no guards in the bank. We expected to see a big, strong guard - or maybe a robot. But there was nobody like that. Instead, there were lots of video cameras watching people. The vault looks like a big metal refrigerator. To open the vault, you need to turn a combination lock to four numbers. Then there are more locks inside. These need two people, one to turn a key and the other to use a combination. Luckily, children can't get stuck in the vault, and fire can't get in, either. We hope Citibank stays lucky forever. Ever Wonder What's Inside an ATM? By RYAN ARBEIT, DANA CARNEY, PRISCILLA MOLINA, KATHLEEN MROZ, SHIOMARA RIVERA, and NATALEE ROJAS At the Citibank branch at 120 Broadway in New York, there are 18 automated teller machines. Each machine holds $100,000. Behind the ATMs that customers see when they walk in, there is a room that only employees can use where they fill the machines with money. They put money in twice a week. On a typical day, people withdraw $30,000 in cash from the ATMs at this branch, said Joyce Fagan, an assistant vice president. Behind the ATM, there are three canisters with labels on them. It is important for the bank workers not to put $20 bills in the $10 bill compartment. The bank needs its ATMs to be very strong - they are fireproof - so robbers can't get into them. Sometimes the machines do break down because of overuse, money getting stuck, or other technical problems. "ATM machines break down all the time," said Dominique Jordan, the branch manager at 120 Broadway, which is the fifth largest Citibank branch in the New York metropolitan area. "We have a team of technicians who come in and fix them for us." Ms. Jordan said that when the touch screens on the ATMs get dirty, the machines won't work, so it's important to keep them clean. There's a computer that talks to the machine and reads the warmth from people's fingers, and that's how the ATMs operate. Inside the machine, an "eye" watches how many bills are taken from each canister and gives the right amount of money to the customer. Sometimes the machine makes a mistake and gives the customer too much money - or too little. "It does happen - but very rarely," Ms. Fagan said. It Takes All Kinds To Run a Branch By NIESHIA ALDERMAN, NATALIE DASTAS, EDWIN GRANT, ELIZABETH McFEELY, and HECTOR MOLINA The first person we met at Citibank was Dominique Jordan, the branch manager. Ms. Jordan is in charge of the whole branch. She is the boss of 33 people. Before she worked at Citibank, she was a registered nurse. She is also the mother of a 12-year-old son. We also met Joyce Fagan, an assistant vice president who helps Ms. Jordan run the bank. Ms. Fagan showed us the ATM machines. Fritz Jacques showed us the money inside the ATM machine. Mr. Jacques was in charge of the ATM machines: he made sure they all were loaded with money, envelopes and receipts. Maureen A. Walsh is a service manager. She helps take care of the vault, and she opened it for us. Shiela Inquanti is a Citigold executive. She sells both bank and nonbank products to customers. Ms. Inquanti said the high point of her job is helping people with their financial planning. The hardest part is when the stock market goes down and customers lose money. They go straight to her and maybe they complain or yell at her. Ms. Inquanti said she could be promoted to area director. That's someone who supervises other workers and is responsible for other branches, she said. The Future of Banking: Anywhere, Anytime By CANDACE AMOS, ANDREW ARBEIT, TRACEY BROWN, JAMEL DAVIS, and MARIA RIVERA In the future, we are going to have computers that will let people do more banking at home. We will use different media and be able to pay bills and shop from home. We will have a lot of money and we'll be able to bank from anywhere at any time - by phone, by TV, by computer and the Internet. At the branch we visited, there were a lot of free banking services on display, like screen phone banking, regular phone banking, and PC banking. They are the so-called "Wave of the Future." We learned that by using these things people can do banking at home, at the supermarket and at the office. Another thing that will be used in the future is the smart card. This is a type of chip card that will be able to store so much information that you will never have to come to the bank again. Citibank will be different in the future because we will be older and more able to use all its technologies.