Nine area high school students spent the last two weeks around bank boardroom tables, and the marketing and development ideas they’ve designed have elicited genuine interest from the company’s leaders.
The students — all from Monticello, Albemarle and Western Albemarle high schools — were part of a pilot program organized by Union First Market Bank to give students a hands-on opportunity to see and then develop financial business strategies.
The students, their families and bank leaders gathered Thursday at the Union’s Pantops branch to present their ideas formally and share lunch at the close of the program.
“I’ll be the first one to admit that you all grasped the [idea] of social media a lot quicker than I did,” John Young, Union’s regional vice president for the Charlottesville area said at the start of the program.
“We’re absolutely pleased and proud of the commitment of the student participants involved in this program,” he added. “It certainly far exceeded our expectations.”
Kristen Richey, a rising junior at Western Albemarle High School, and her team helped craft a strategy to help the bank better serve what they described the unbanked and under-banked population.
Those terms refer to people who either don’t use traditional financial institutions at all or make minimal use of the available services. Mistrust of banks and poor financial history are contributing factors to those situations.
As for the biggest challenge to making their plan a reality, “I think it’s just getting the word out there and finding a way where it’s safe for the bank and good for the people,” Richey said.
Alicia Young, a rising senior at Albemarle High School and daughter of bank’s regional vice president, led a group that examined how the bank could improve its online interactions, a critical area for attracting and retaining younger customers.
One idea the group presented was to implement geosocial networking, which allows people to digitally “check in” at the places they visit, thereby giving the bank a free plug through the customer’s social networks and possibly an avenue to begin building business relationships.
The other teams’ ideas included a plan to increase interest and participation in the Virginia CollegeWealth savings program and the best strategies for increasing the bank’s market share with college students.
During the session, the students also visited Union’s corporate headquarters and the Federal Reserve in Richmond.
Reid Young, a vice president of commercial banking and Brett Richey, president of Richey & Co. Shoes, worked behind the scenes for several months to bring the idea to fruition.
Speaking after the program, Alicia Young said she sees a bank industry future with ever fewer in-person transactions, which will boost the importance of making personal connections with customers. The executives agreed.
“Every one of [our] senior management presenters, they’ve emailed me and said they really want to get a copy of each of your presentations,” Reid Young said. “You all are on the cutting edge.”