Jackson Winsett, assistant vice president and community affairs officer for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, views the connection between financial institutions and communities as two-fold. “I look at it from two different perspectives, but they both revolve around reciprocation,” he said. “The first is a moral perspective — we should always give back to those who have supported us — but the other perspective is a business perspective. The better the community is, the more the businesses in that community will benefit.”
Bankers should be storytellers, Winsett suggested, making communications with customers and potential customers about more than products and services, sharing how their firms improve the quality of life within their footprints.
“They should tell that story to their customers, tell that story to their communities, the city that they reside in,” Winsett said. “Communities need to know, individuals in those communities need to know more about what their banks are really doing to invest back into the community.”
It’s not just talk, either. Winsett speaks about two key programs his community affairs office is highly invested in at the moment: Investment Connection and Digital Inclusion.
Likening Investment Connection to the TV show “Shark Tank” Winsett said: “We provide a venue and format for non-profit organizations to pitch their proposals to funders. It’s a program where those organizations can propose for community and economic development projects that may be eligible under the Community Reinvestment Act to potential funders. Being able to really connect the two, it’s a win-win. You’re able to help the banker potentially acquire CRA credit; at the same time, you’re able to help that non-profit or that community organization with possible funding as well.”
To date, the program, which began in 2011, has totaled more than $34 million in connected funding between banks and non-profits or community organizations, results of which Winsett is “very prideful.”
The Fed’s Digital Inclusion program seeks to address the issues of affordable broadband and computer access and the lack of digital skills that plague certain rural and urban areas within its district (as well as nationwide).
“Based on some of our discoveries, we found that many community organizations that provide technical and digital skills training have outdated or inadequate equipment, so we’re in the process of developing a process that allows the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City to donate up to 75 surplus computers to several community organizations just within our district,” Winsett said.
“We’re really trying to help develop solutions in addition to uncovering and talking through the overall issues,” he continued. “Trying to be a part of the solution instead of the problem.”
Community investment initiatives are only as good as a bank’s communication strategy, Winsett said. This is where the dissemination of information via social media and digital channels becomes crucial.
“I don’t see Twitter really going away; I don’t see Facebook going away anytime soon. Social media itself has extended the reach of everyone, specifically businesses. If you use it right, it can be the best megaphone you’ve ever had,” Winsett advised. “With millennials and those beyond, that’s how they communicate.”