A Much Closer Look: Enhancing Savings Counseling at Financial Empowerment Centers

This report, with generous support from Capital One, draws on data results from a two-city pilot to better understand how Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) clients are saving and ultimately inform new savings indicators for financial counseling success.

In 2017, financial counselors at Financial Empowerment Centers (FECs) in Nashville and Philadelphia tested an innovative approach to defining, discussing, and tracking their clients’ efforts to build savings, using new savings outcomes. The CFE Fund combined counselor and client experiences with academic and policy research to operationalize the field’s thinking about how people with low incomes save, to tell a more complete story about the impact of financial counseling on savings, and to learn whether changing a program’s data system affects the way financial counselors work and the results their clients achieve.

The CFE Fund hosted a webinar on this report. Watch the webinar here. View the presentation here.

Supervitamin Quarterly, Issue 8

This issue, Issue 8, provides an update on the Next Generation Municipal Financial Empowerment awards; a brief on financial empowerment’s role in positive youth development from our Summer Jobs Connect initiative; and an announcement of a Request for Expressions of Interest for organizations to serve as a long-term partner to evaluate financial institution products for Bank On National Account Standards consistency. The issue also includes an update on the CFE Fund’s technical assistance work, the CFE Coalition’s 2016 Policy Agenda; and a guest column from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Housing Counseling, Sarah Gerecke.

Next Generation Municipal Financial Empowerment Award Given to Five U.S. Mayors: Award Recognizes, Supports Emerging Municipal Financial Empowerment Leaders

The CFE Fund’s Next Generation Municipal Financial Empowerment Award grows the municipal financial empowerment field by cultivating and supporting innovative ideas from new mayoral administrations. This May 2015 press release announces the five city leaders chosen through a competitive RFP process to receive this award: Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, New Haven Mayor Toni N. Harp, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, San José Mayor Sam Liccardo, and Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler.

The award, generously sponsored by Capital One, includes both a planning grant and dedicated technical consulting from the CFE Fund. Together, awardee mayors, their teams, and the CFE Fund will develop innovative local government strategies to address poverty through programs such as financial counseling, access to safe and appropriate banking products, asset-building opportunities, and consumer financial protections.

CFE Coalition Comment Letter on the Community Reinvestment Act

The 15-member CFE Coalition has weighed in on key federal policy issues since its founding in 2008.

In this 2014 letter, the Coalition weighs in on proposed revisions to the Interagency Questions and Answers Regarding Community Reinvestment. The Coalition recommends a number of factors that the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) examination process should take into account. First, the Coalition encourages the addition of CRA-based incentives for municipal financial empowerment services, such as for financial institutions that partner with municipalities to offer Bank On appropriate accounts, support children’s savings strategies, and invest in or support integrated financial counseling and coaching services. The Coalition urges that any consideration of alternative product delivery system be balanced by the fact that many low and moderate-income customers rely on full service bank branches, and highlights that cost and range of services, information about account availability, public awareness and customer support are all critical factors. The Coalition also recommends that the Q&A provide specific examples of how community development services can be distinguished from retail banking services, with suggested examples ranging from improving account screening to targeted outreach to low and moderate-income communities and training employees on serving these communities. Finally, the Coalition strongly recommends that assessment areas be revised to include all areas where banks do business, instead of being limited to where banks have a physical presence.

CFE Fund and Capital One Announce Winners of Multi-City Hackathon to Support Financial Empowerment

The CFE Fund and Capital One announced the winner of the Multi-City Financial Empowerment Hackathon, a national effort to create software applications (apps) focused on financial inclusion. Representing San Francisco, MEDAPulse, in partnership with the Mission Economic Development Agency, won the national competition with a tool that helps financial counselors better engage with clients by using technology to remind them of the goals that clients committed to achieving between sessions.

Through a grant from Capital One, the CFE Fund provided funding and technical assistance to Chicago, New York City and San Francisco to host regional hackathons. Combined, hackathons in these cities had over 110 participants who worked in teams to create numerous apps, including budget trackers, goal-setting applications, financial achievement badges and financial action plans.

The CFE Fund and Bloomberg Philanthropies Award Technical Assistance Grants to 7 Cities Replicating the Financial Empowerment Center Model

Financial Empowerment Centers offer free, professional, one-on-one financial counseling to enable residents to address their financial needs and plan for their futures.

In this February 2014 press release, the CFE Fund and Bloomberg Philanthropies announce a second wave of In-Kind Technical Assistance grants to seven cities: Cleveland, OH; Hartford, CT; Hawai’i County, HI; Los Angeles, CA; Miami, FL; San Francisco, CA; and Seattle, WA. Participating cities raised private funds or redirected public funds to support direct program costs. To supplement these city efforts, the CFE Fund will provide robust technical assistance and capacity building resources to each city, fueling the expansion of the model and helping the cities to replicate and customize the public counseling model to meet local needs. The technical assistance grants come in response to overwhelming demand for Financial Empowerment Centers following the success of the expansion of the Financial Empowerment Centers to five cities in March 2013.

CFE Fund Announces Opening of New Financial Empowerment Centers in 5 Cities

Financial Empowerment Centers offer free, professional, one-on-one financial counseling to enable residents to address their financial needs and plan for their futures.

In this March 2013 press release, the CFE Fund and Bloomberg Philanthropies announce the opening of five new Financial Empowerment Center programs to provide free, personalized, and professional financial counseling to residents of Denver, CO; Lansing, MI; Nashville, TN; Philadelphia, PA; and San Antonio, TX. Clients receive assistance with money management, budgeting, reducing debt, establishing and improving credit, connecting to safe and affordable banking services, building savings, and referrals to other services and organizations.  Counselors are professionally trained, and support their clients in navigating complex financial decisions. Financial counseling is integrated into public services including housing services, homeless prevention, foreclosure prevention, workforce development, asset building, financial services access, and domestic violence prevention.