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Schools to promote bank for cash

By Claes Bell, CFA · Bankrate.com
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

It's not unusual for banks to form partnerships with sports teams, celebrities and colleges to promote their services to fans. But a Wisconsin bank is looking for a novel endorsement to sign up customers for its savings, checking and CDs: a Wisconsin school district.

Associated Bank is partnering with the Neenah Joint School District for a program called "Rocket Banking," named after the district high school's mascot, that will leverage the popularity of the district's sports teams to help promote the bank's services.

From Duke Behnke at the Appleton Post-Crescent:

"They would like to see what is the market demand for students in our school district but also for other people who have an interest in our school district -- moms and dads, uncles, nephews, grandparents, booster clubs, PTOs," said Jon Joch, Neenah's director of revenue enhancement and business support services.

Joch said the partnership with Associated Bank could prove to be a revenue stream for the school district.

Neenah would receive $5,000 stipends at the beginning and end of the program for its participation. It also would receive payments based on the amount of business generated by the program.

"For opening up a new checking account, it's $50 to the district," (Jon Joch, Neenah's director of revenue enhancement and business support services) said. "For a savings account, it's $10 to the district. For a money market account, it's $25 to the district, and for a certificate of deposit, it's $5 an account."

In addition, the district would receive quarterly payments based on a percentage of the value of the accounts.

In return, Associated Bank would use the school district's "communication channels" to inform Neenah residents about its products through Rockets Banking.

I'm not necessarily opposed to school districts making marketing deals with private companies. School districts all over the U.S. are struggling financially right now, and if companies want to help them out in exchange for say, naming rights on a high-school football stadium, I think that's fine, especially if it helps schools avoid doing things like laying off teachers.

I do think you have to be careful though, about letting companies market financial products to kids. Young people are even less apt to think critically about financial products than the average U.S. adult, as any person who ran up huge credit card debts in college can attest.

The Associated Bank's student checking account, for instance, carries a $5 monthly fee, unless the accountholder elects to get their statements electronically, and has available "overdraft protection transfer," which charges a $15 fee to cover an overdraft from an accountholder's savings account. Neither of those characteristics seem ideal for a debit card you're going to put in the hands of a high school student.

I think that if a school district is going to partner with a bank in this way, it should do:

  • Make sure the bank offers students a foolproof checking account that doesn't allow them to get into trouble.
  • Require the bank to chip in for a financial literacy class that touches on those subjects before putting bank marketing in front of kids still learning how the financial system works.

What do you think? Is it appropriate for a school district to partner with a bank? How should such a partnership be handled?

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2 Comments
Renee Euchner
January 20, 2012 at 6:28 pm

OFF-TOPIC QUERY

Would you be willing to answer a few general questions about prepaid debit cards for a trend study? Need answers by Monday.

Thanks,
Renee Euchner

Meagan
January 20, 2012 at 7:57 am

I think it could be a great way for the students to learn about money management and provide revenue for the district, as long as the schools incorporate financial literacy into their curriculum.