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Kids and their cash

Credit unions have devised inventive ways to connect with Generation Z.

Financial habits start young, so financial outreach to the grade-school crowd should be a key mandate of every credit union. These case studies showcase three credit unions — from small to large — and their distinctive approaches to connecting with primary school-aged kids. Desjardins Group (seven million members, $258.4 billion in assets) is, of course, the granddaddy, opening its first “l’épargne du sou” (penny saving) program in a primary school in 1901. Today, Desjardins features two characters in a series of videos, Charly and Max, who tackle such financial issues as opening an account.

Getting involved with their communities, meeting the next generation of credit union members and promoting good money habits — decision-makers at these credit unions know it’s cool to be money savvy.

Quinte First talks Funny Money

They had been doing financial literacy workshops at high schools since 2015 “but we know how important it is to start young so started thinking about primary schools,” says Michelle Christmann, community relations officer with Ontario’s Quinte First Credit Union (13,500 members, $203 million in assets). As a result, Christmann launched the Funny Money program last year through the children’s librarian at a local library. A Grade 3 class visited the library every month, so the librarian asked their teacher if she’d like to have her class learn about financial literacy. The teacher loved the idea and the kids loved Christmann’s presentation, which focuses on the concept of need versus want. “I talk about managing money but in an interactive way that I tailor based on the age of the kids.” For the Grade 3s, that talk included fun stuff like having them learn to ll in a giant cheque and worksheets where they plan their own budgets. The program has been so popular that Christmann did 12 workshops at one primary school last December and

is hoping to make Funny Money part of the regular programming at her library. She’s now training a couple of staff members so they can reach out to more schools this year. “It’s great to get out there and share knowledge. We’ve already had students and teachers who took part in the program come to open accounts — they never knew what a credit union was before.”

BlueShore Financial and the Wishbone

The North Vancouver School District is a leader when it comes to financial literacy, including basic money management in its Grade 2 math curriculum. And when teachers are looking for innovative ways to get the message out, BlueShore Financial Credit Union (40,000 members, $5 billion in assets) is there to help. Its Wishbank program is a customized version of a product called Moonjar, a piggybank divided into three segments: save, share and spend. Blueshore Financial took that piggybank and made it the central component of a package of materials that the credit union sends to partner schools. The piggybank gets kids excited and, more importantly, is a gateway for their teacher to discuss money management. Background materials for teachers, a passbook to help kids keep track of their money and a family guide to share with parents complete the package. And if kids decide to come by with their parents to set up an account? Their trip will be special. “They meet the branch manager, get a trip inside the vault, see how our cash counter machines work and we give them three loonies as a starter kit: one to save, one to share and one to spend,” says Catharine Downes, vice-president of Marketing. “We want them to know they’re important and to feel good about coming in to their credit union.”

FirstOntario Credit Union promotes M is for Money

Everyone loves receiving a gift and FirstOntario Credit Union’s (115,000 members, $5 billion in assets) comes at the perfect time for kids opening up their rst account. The savvy credit union has partnered with entrepreneur Teresa Cascioli to promote her M is for Money book series for kids, giving out free copies of the nine-part financial literacy series to each new member under the age of 10. Cascioli, who made her mark as the former CEO of Lakeport Brewing (she took the company from bankruptcy to a $201 million sale to Labatt in just eight years), has centred her series around the adventures of seven-year-old twins Tessa and Benji. The stories see the siblings learning a variety of important money lessons, from budgeting and saving to spending and taking out a loan. When kids open an account they receive the first three books in the series. For each additional account transaction, they are rewarded with a new book until they have collected all nine. “Learning financial skills early in life is key to becoming financially sound adults,” says James Lefebvre, senior vice-president, Member Experience, Business Services, at FirstOntario. ◊