Bank On Louisville Helps Lead the Way to Financial Empowerment

January 01, 2013
By  Tina Lentz

Over the last five years, Louisville has made tremendous strides in its financial empowerment integration efforts through the city’s ability to convene stakeholders across all relevant sectors and the work being done to increase the financial capability of clients seeking social services. The Bank On Louisville (BOL) initiative has served as an engine to drive many of these efforts.

BOL’s roots emerged in response to the 2009 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households, which reported that Louisville had a combined 76,500 households that fell into those two categories. In 2010, after nearly 18 months of collaboration from public, private and nonprofit sectors, BOL was launched through an innovative partnership between two Louisville Metro Government departments—Community Services and Revitalization (CSR) and Economic Development.

CSR now spearheads this initiative, with 16 banks and credit unions and more than 100 community organizations, faith-based and government agencies in support. In August 2012, two years after its launch, BOL celebrated the opening of 10,144 new accounts, representing those who were previously unbanked by choice or were in need of a second chance. (See Figure 1.) Of these accounts, 85 percent have remained open.


Increase in Open Accounts, July 2010 through June 2012

Fig 1

In addition, BOL financial education provider partners across the community reported that last year 1,693 participants were engaged in topics that included budgeting and saving, financial goal setting, building and maintaining good credit, predatory lending, and homeownership. (See Figure 2.) For a summary of BOL’s accomplishments, visit


Financial Education Cumulative Participation Numbers (across 10 partners)

Fig 2

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, a strong supporter of BOL, helped to establish strategic goals for 2012-2013, which include:

  • 35 percent increase in account openings,
  • 100 percent increase in financial education participation and
  • 30 percent increase in partners.

BOL’s impact in the community reaches much further; the initiative has served as a catalyst for the receipt of a grant from Living Cities, membership in the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) coalition and a unique partnership with HelloWallet.

Living Cities Grant

In January 2012, due in large part to the work being done by BOL, Louisville was selected to receive a $164,000 grant from Living Cities to boost financial empowerment strategies among service providers for the city’s homeless population. The funds provide an opportunity to work closely with more than a dozen social service providers to create a financial empowerment framework and build capacity within the agencies to increase access to empowerment services and resources.

As the social services provider for Metro Government, CSR assists thousands of Louisville residents each year with a variety of programs, including emergency financial assistance, household income supports, energy aid and nutrition programs, supportive services to families who are homeless or at-risk of being homeless, as well as education, training and employment opportunities.

By championing the need for further integration of asset-building strategies, CSR and other partners hope to improve the financial stability of clients they serve; address the ever-increasing demand on public resources; and create a model that can be replicated by other social service providers to generate a much broader system-wide change.

Cities for Financial Empowerment Coalition

In April 2012, citing the work that the city has done in improving the financial health of its low- to moderate-income (LMI) residents through BOL and other initiatives, Louis-ville was invited to join 11 other municipalities that comprise the CFE coalition. Launched in 2008 by the mayors of New York City (Michael Bloomberg) and San Francisco (Gavin Newsom), the group brings together local governments interested in advancing programs that increase financial security for struggling households.

Membership in this coalition of officials from Chicago; Hawai’i County, Hawaii; Los Angeles; Miami; Newark; New York; Providence, R.I.; San Antonio; San Francisco; Savannah, Ga.; and Seattle can greatly influence Louisville’s momentum as a municipal leader in financial empowerment.

HelloWallet Partnership

In December 2012 BOL embarked on an innovative partnership with HelloWallet, which generously donated 1,000 free two-year subscriptions valued at $90,000. This web- and mobile-based application helps its subscribers/members better manage their financial life by helping to grow savings, pay down debt, plan for their future and manage their financial responsibilities through personalized, independent guidance.

Family Scholar House and Community Action Partnership—two of BOL’s community partners that work with LMI households—are serving as pilot agencies for HelloWallet. Caseworkers at these organizations will assist in introducing the app to clients. They will also track progress and share lessons learned to support other BOL partner agencies that will participate in the HelloWallet program in the future.

Financial Empowerment Summit

The Living Cities funding is also providing an opportunity for Louisville to hold a Financial Empowerment Summit in March 2013 to enhance public, private and community partnerships with a focus on financial empowerment and a goal of developing a community-wide strategy.

For more information about the BOL initiative, visit To learn more about the Department of Community Services and Revitalization and other related programs and initiatives, visit

Bridges is a regular review of regional community and economic development issues. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the St. Louis Fed or Federal Reserve System.

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