Jeanne D’Arc, a credit union serving counties in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, is going out of its way to teach teenagers and other members of the community financial responsibility.
MoneyStrong, a recently launched initiative of Jeanne D’Arc, is aimed at students, immigrants with no credit, and those with bad credit. The community lender offers the usual suite of thin-file-friendly products, like low interest rate credit cards with a $500.00 spending limit, and even rates that fall if payments are made on time; free checking, which many larger banks are eliminating completely; and a 7.00% APY savings account that makes me wish I were back east. What most impressed me about the MoneyStrong initiative, however, was its community outreach effort.
“MoneyStrong started well over a year ago, originally as an initiative to help teens make smart financial choices,” said Mark S. Cochran, President and Chief Executive Officer of Jeanne D’Arc in an email to NerdWallet. “With input from a team of our high school members, we set out to create a program that was both meaningful and beneficial to our region’s young people…As ideas evolved, however, we realised that MoneyStrong is a compelling financial movement that can benefit almost anyone.”
Jeanne D’Arc has branches in four of the region’s high schools, where Juniors and Seniors have the option to work at the credit union, and, says Senior Vice President Michelle Silveira, many students who apply go on to become employees at Jeanne D’Arc after completion of the program. In addition, the credit union offers community workshops, a variety of financial education classes and guidance in financial responsibility for people of all ages.
The branches are painted in the MoneyStrong colours with murals depicting local hangouts, and employees have strong connections with the students and parents. “Financial education, especially for our younger members, has always been the cornerstone of our philosophy of people helping people,” Cochran said. “MoneyStrong is just one more way we can make sure that all of our members are well-prepared to meet their financial challenges and goals.”
Jeanne D’Arc, too, is active in the community, offering college scholarships, advice in planning for college, products to rehabilitate a low credit score, and philanthropy. Even the headquarters of Jeanne D’Arc feature a mural painted by a local artist. Silveira wrote in an email, “We take pride in assisting our members along the path to a more secure financial future and a better life for their families.”
But Jeanne D’Arc, and credit unions in general, face a different set of obstacles than for-profit banks. In addition to a struggling economy and increased regulation, credit unions grapple with a lack of awareness, the absence of an identifiable brand, and smaller sizes that preclude economies of scale. Still, according to Cochran, “We are a credit union started by immigrants, and still serve working-class people.”
We’ve been writing a lot of doom-and-gloom pieces lately, about how commercial banks, government regulation, the healthcare industry, essentially everyone, is out to get a piece of consumers. It’s nice to come across something like MoneyStrong, which really does have students’ interests at heart. Jeanne D’Arc certainly has the history of involvement and support to prove it.