How OneUnited Bank Is Promoting Financial Literacy For Kids

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Written by Ann Brown
OneUnited Bank
Photo: OneUnited Bank

OneUnited Bank is one of the largest Black-owned banks in America and the home of the #BankBlack Movement. And it is run by Teri Williams, president and owner of OneUnited Bank.

The bank recently organized its 9th annual  “I Got Bank Youth Essay and Art competition where $10,000 will be awarded to 10 children nationwide. Each winning child will receive a $1,000 savings account.  For the competition, kids ages 8 to 12 had to read a book Williams who wrote called “ I Got Bank: What My Granddad taught me about money.” After reading the book, entrants had to write a 250-word essay or create art that demonstrates their understanding of financial literacy.

Bank will choose the ten winners by August 31, 2019. 

Williams told Moguldom more about the competition as well as the Black community and financial literacy.

Moguldom: Why did you start the “I Got Bank!” Financial Literacy Contest?

Teri Williams: The I Got Bank Contest was started nine years ago when we began expanding our outreach to teach financial literacy to children who were impacted by the financial crisis. The contest teaches financial literacy to urban youth and selects ten winners who receive a $1,000 savings account.

Moguldom: How has it changed over the years?

Teri Williams: Yes, the contest has changed. The recent essays include fewer stories about foreclosures and financial distress and more stories about entrepreneurship. We also expanded the contest to include art in 2017.

Moguldom: Why is it important for kids to be financially literate?

Teri Williams: We strongly believe that educating our children on money matters will help them make better financial decisions for the rest of their lives. 

Moguldom: How did you get interested in the banking industry?

Teri Williams: I was an economics major in college, which led to my first job at Bank of America. I actually found banking to be boring and stuffy and therefore switched to American Express after business school. I still think banking can be boring. We work hard to make it more engaging and even fun!

Moguldom: The financial gap seems to be growing, but do you feel Black families are becoming more financially literate? 

Teri Williams: We are absolutely becoming more financially literate and savvy. We have accomplished a tremendous amount given the hurdles placed in our way including slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, housing and employment discrimination, subprime loans, etc. We now recognize the importance of the $1.2 trillion we spend annually and are using those dollars to BankBlack and BuyBlack, thereby building wealth in our community.

Moguldom: Tell us more about  #Kings and #Queens.

Teri Williams: The Royalty Campaign is to educate and remind us of the African dynasties that existed and are part of our DNA. Our successful history was wiped out in a rebranding campaign to justify slavery. Yet we continue to rise and celebrate the Queens and Kings in our community, from scientist to activist. Our King and Queen Cards symbolize our success.

Moguldom:  What’s next for OneUnited Bank?

Teri Williams: We will be relaunching the #BankBlack movement in September with new technology and programs. We’re calling it #BankBlack 3.0. Stay tuned.

Moguldom: What are your goals for this year?

Teri Williams: To continue to expand the #BankBlack Movement to reach that “tipping point” where every Black family in America has a #BankBlack experience and are on their way to financial wellness.

Moguldom: How can Black families start closing the financial gap?

Teri Williams: Save through an automatic savings plan, buy real estate in urban communities, which are now popular, buy life insurance, even a simple term policy, and have a will and health proxy. Those are the basic and essential steps.

Moguldom: What are some tips for parents to teach their children financial responsibility? 

Teri Williams: Given them an allowance and teach the importance of savings first and foremost. Educate them on how much things cost and how to find less expensive ways to achieve the same goals. Also, make sure they read my book, “I Got Bank: What My Granddad Taught Me About Money.” They will be forever changed.