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Breakfast Roundtables with National Experts: Notes from "Municipal Strategies"

OCTOBER 25-26, 2012 | ST. LOUIS, MO.


Heidi Goldberg Program Director, Early Childhood and Family Economic Success
Institute for Youth, Education, and Families
National League of Cities

Cathie Mahon
National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions

Ida Rademacher
Chief Program Officer


City leaders are displaying a growing interest in connecting all of their constituents to the financial mainstream. Campaigns such as Bank On have had success in connecting unbanked and underbanked consumers with financial institutions. It is important that we measure the outcomes of these campaigns and continue to educate consumers and move them forward into the financial mainstream. Municipal leaders, having a unique platform of trust, are in an ideal position to carry this out.


  • The financial stability of all families matters to cities. It is also a public safety issue, so that people are not walking around carrying large amounts of cash.
  • People trust local government in a way they do not trust state or federal governments. Therefore, city leaders have a "bully pulpit" and an effective brand for financial education and inclusion campaigns.
  • Cities need to do the research and identify who the unbanked and underbanked are in their municipalities. Often, they are concentrated in neighborhoods of poverty. These areas may be prime targets for financial education and inclusion campaigns.
  • Bank On campaigns have been effective in many cities and are now growing and spreading. Some are evolving and including prepaid cards as an alternative to checking accounts. Others are taking a one-stop-shop format, providing other services such as credit scores, EITC assistance and financial planning.
  • Unbanked and underbanked consumers are very diverse in their banking histories and aspirations. They need to be understood, and it is important that cities get direct input from them. Cities need to design products and access points that meet the diverse needs of these consumers, but this is difficult when cities have limited resources.
  • While financial education centers are coming to many cities, these services can also be provided by partner organizations. Cities should work strategically with faith-based organizations, libraries, nonprofits and mentorship programs to provide financial assistance to consumers. People have strong connections to places of worship, which are underutilized at present. This strategy may be useful for smaller cities, which do not have the resources of larger cities.


"Put simply: If families aren't stable, cities aren't stable."


  • Many of the products that work best for low-income consumers are small-dollar products, which are not big moneymakers for financial institutions. How can we bring these to scale?
  • Are Bank On campaigns really effective in putting unbanked and underbanked consumers on a positive path toward the financial mainstream? Do they continue moving consumers forward beyond opening checking accounts?
  • Is the financial mainstream evolving to include prepaid cards?
  • The federal government is moving toward a system of electronic payments. What are the implications if cities also move in this direction, and could this be an opportunity to educate benefit recipients on the value of checking accounts?

Other Breakfast Roundtable session notes:
Tax-Time Strategies
Financial Capability
Government Payments and Public Assistance Programs

Back to the conference materials and agenda »