Bank Watch

NC bankers look to attract younger generations to the industry

Associate professor Tony Plath teaches a finance class at UNC Charlotte in this photo from 2013. Banks have faced difficulties attracting recent college graduates. A new effort under way in North Carolina seeks to promote banking careers to younger generations.
Associate professor Tony Plath teaches a finance class at UNC Charlotte in this photo from 2013. Banks have faced difficulties attracting recent college graduates. A new effort under way in North Carolina seeks to promote banking careers to younger generations. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

It’s no secret that banking has faced an image problem since the financial crisis. Now, an effort underway in North Carolina seeks to promote banking careers to younger generations, in hopes of persuading more people to consider jobs in the industry.

The Raleigh-based North Carolina Bankers Association says that’s one of the main ideas behind its new Young Bankers initiative, said Dawn Thompson, a vice president for the association helping with the program’s formation.

Program goals won’t be finalized until February, but current plans are for bankers to fan out into North Carolina’s schools, where they will teach financial literacy to students, Thompson said.

She used the example of a banker going into a middle school to go over such basics as budgeting or how interest compounds.

“Ultimately what we want to do is have every community in North Carolina, in all 100 counties, covered with a banker getting in and teaching a class and promoting financial literacy,” she said.

The Young Bankers program is named for the age of the bankers who will participate in the initiative, which is open to bankers under age 45.

The program comes at a time when banks have faced difficulties attracting recent college graduates following the 2008 crisis. Some bankers and academics note that failures of banks nationwide, coupled with ongoing job cuts, have created the perception that the financial sector provides too little job security.

As some bankers in Charlotte have learned, perceptions about their industry are being formed at an early age.

During a visit with Girl Scouts this summer, Cathy Bessant, an executive for Bank of America, was asked by one of the Scouts: “Are some bankers good?” Bessant told the Scouts that banking is a “very good and noble” profession.

Thompson said the program will seek to make bankers more relatable to students. At the high school level, fewer students are saying they want a career in banking, she said.

“They think of the banker from ‘Mary Poppins,’” Thompson said. “That’s one aspect of it, is really just to let bankers get to know these kids. Most people want to go work for a Google.”

“We need more bankers to help build the American Dream,” she said.

Young Bankers will be open to people on all rungs in the industry, from tellers up to senior vice presidents, Thompson said. So far, more than 150 bankers have emailed her to be part of the program, which hasn’t been widely marketed yet and doesn’t officially launch until next year.

The program’s advisory council includes Charlotte bankers ‪Jada Grandy‬, a senior vice president for Fifth Third Bank, and ‪Kelly King‬, a senior vice president for NewDominion Bank (who is not the BB&T chief executive of the same name).

Thompson said other states, including South Carolina, already have similar programs in place.

The goals of the North Carolina program will be broader than just introducing banking to students, Thompson said. Among other things, the initiative is meant to develop emerging leaders in the state’s banking industry.

Thompson pointed to bankers who, decades earlier, built Charlotte and North Carolina into major financial services centers.

“We need to kind of help identify the next leaders in the North Carolina banking industry,” she said.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

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