Financial Center First Rallies Around Financial Wellness

The Indiana credit union’s robust literacy and wellness program exploded during COVID. Today, it's changing lives one class at a time.

Top-Level Takeaways

  • January is a popular month for financial literacy at Financial Center First Credit Union.
  • A former schoolteacher leads the credit union’s robust program, which offers online, in-person, and one-on-one sessions.

If a New Year’s resolution for Financial Center First Credit Union ($846.4M, Indianapolis, IN) in 2023 is to improve financial literacy and wellness among its 77,000 members, the Hoosier State cooperative is off to a good start.

Financial Center provides financial classes to dozens of people every week, continuing the momentum that began when it moved its offerings to Zoom during the pandemic. Classes are back in person and still online, and more than 2,000 people have participated in the past couple of years, says Jamie Davidson, the credit union’s vice president of financial wellness. January is a particularly popular time for these classes.

Jamie Davidson, Vice President of Financial Wellness, Financial Center First Credit Union

“The credit card bills are coming in and people are saying, ‘What have I done?’” Davidson says. “That’s a good time for our class on 10 steps for financial success, which includes such things as budgeting and credit use as well as checking on beneficiaries and rising rates for things like insurance. We also recommend this as a good time to increase your 401(k) by 1%. Give yourself a little raise.”

Year-round, Davidson directs a three-pronged approach to financial learning:

  • In-person and online classes and personal counseling sessions. “We have a team of credit counselors who can sit down and help a person with whatever the need is,” he says.
  • Community outreach. Davidson himself teaches financial wellness at Ball State University — his alma mater — and also works with domestic violence support groups, homeless shelters, and other organizations and programs to help people get back on their feet.
  • SEG partnerships. Health savings accounts (HSAs) also fall under Davidson’s purview, and he and his staff make several visits a month to the credit union’s select employee groups to provide financial literacy classes and encourage employees to use their HSAs.

Davidson joined Financial Center in 2008 after 11 years as a teacher, the last four teaching social studies at Arsenal Technical High School, where he also managed Financial Center’s school branch.

That was one of three high school branches the credit union operated before deciding to phase out the program.

“We had branch managers going out once a month or so to teach classes,” the VP says. “The board decided it was time to pivot on that strategy. I was the last one standing, and I wanted to teach financial literacy, so here I am.”

Davidson’s role has grown along with his staff and their activities. He was hired as the financial literacy program manager in June 2008. He became assistant vice president of financial literacy in January 2018 and moved up to vice president of financial wellness this past August.

He now leads the credit union’s HSA and workplace banking programs, member and community financial education programs, and university relationships. Davidson also develops and leads Financial Center’s wealth builder series.

Check out Jamie Davidson’s job description as vice president of financial wellness at Financial Center First Credit Union in Indianapolis. Download it here.

Davidson’s team includes an HSA specialist; an employee devoted full-time to Financial Center’s work at Ball State, where the credit union has its own branded presence; and other financial counselors and educators, including himself. He says he devotes approximately half his time on team leadership and executive duties and one-quarter of his time on direct financial wellness work. The rest goes to community outreach and other activities.

“My daily routine is not really a routine,” Davidson says. “I taught a class last night until 7, and we have a lot of community events on Friday and Saturday nights, but I always try to start my day by seeing what my team might need help with, then go to meetings to see how we can make a positive change among our membership base, our communities, and our own employees.”

Ever the teacher, Davidson leads an online wealth builder seminar — for which participants receive $50 in their savings account after five sessions — and he and a colleague host a podcast titled Carpe Dime that has grown to 44 episodes and more than 25,000 listens. The podcast is available on the credit union’s financial education landing page, which also provides links to its Banzai collection of articles and registration for individual coaching sessions.

We don’t just teach, we change people’s lives … We helped one young lady coming out of a domestic violence shelter buy her first home. No one else would even talk to her.

Jamie Davidson, Vice President of Financial Wellness, Financial Center First Credit Union

Davidson’s team is now focusing on continuing the momentum that began when the pandemic first shut down the country and most of the economy.

“Our participation went through the roof and has stayed strong since,” Davidson says. “We’ve had classes with more than 35 people on a Monday night and over a hundred on Saturdays. We also have people who complete the classes again and again because they say they learn something new every time.”

First Financial is not reinventing the wheel when it comes to financial literacy and wellness, it’s just presenting the information in different ways and encouraging participants to engage. That’s making a difference that extends beyond the credit union’s bottom line.

“We don’t just teach, we change people’s lives,” Davidson says. “We track loan penetration and things like that, of course, but there are real stories here. We helped one young lady coming out of a domestic violence shelter get a mortgage and buy her first home on her own. No one else would even talk to her. Together, we were committed to that positive next big step in her life.”

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Ampersand
January 9, 2023

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