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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Banner Bank Recognized for Empowering Consumers Through Its MoneyWise Financial Wellness Program

Banner Bank Recognized For Moneywise Financial Wellness
Mike Senecal

Written by: Mike Senecal

Mike Senecal
Mike Senecal

Mike Senecal draws on more than 20 years of editorial experience to update CardRates.com readers on industry trends, business news, and best practices in budgeting and credit use. Mike has worked for decades in academic and trade publishing, including roles as managing editor and technical editor at the University of Florida and as contributor to finance industry publications, including Surety Bond Quarterly and Independent Agent, among others. Mike holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of South Carolina, and he enjoys bringing his years of academic and industry expertise online to help consumers of diverse financial backgrounds.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro
Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience to the CardRates team. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Florida. Today, Lillian edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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In a Nutshell: During the Great Recession of 2007-09, many banks went into capital preservation mode to save assets, cutting off credit lines to homebuilder clients and contributing to the housing crisis. Banner Bank leveraged its outstanding financials to continue lending. It’s a prime example of how Banner goes above and beyond to do the right thing. The bank’s  MoneyWise financial wellness program extends that legacy. Free workshops, personalized assistance, and online resources from MoneyWise empower consumers and businesses, earning Banner our Editor’s Choice™ Award.

If you follow financial industry news, you may be familiar with reports that as many as 50% of Americans don’t have enough savings to pay for a sudden emergency expense such as a flat tire or unexpected dental procedure.

The statistics vary from article to article, but the gist is the same: Millions of consumers live in a financially precarious state, with a relatively minor adverse event enough to send them over the edge into a spiraling crisis.

The team at Banner Bank, based in Walla Walla, Washington, has developed the MoneyWise financial wellness initiative to help.

Banner Bank logo

Banner serves customers online and at 145+ branch locations in the Pacific Coast states and Idaho. MoneyWise is an extensive array of free workshops, personalized assistance, and online resources to help consumers turn financial negatives into positives.

Through MoneyWise, Banner extends a 134-year legacy of striving to do the right thing. The relatively conservative bank doesn’t consider itself on the cutting edge of anything. Instead, it’s always there for customers, consumers, and communities.

“We’re in a highly competitive business, but we don’t think of financial education as part of our competitive space,” said Kelly McPhee, SVP of Communications and Public Relations at Banner. “Too many people don’t have the information they need to make financial decisions with confidence, and all banks and credit unions need to lean in and do their part.”

It’s one thing to develop wellness resources as part of a sales strategy. But it’s another to devote significant time and energy to helping people who may bank elsewhere.

Banner Bank earns our Editor’s Choice™ Award for leaning in with a can-do attitude and understanding that leveling the financial playing field makes the economy better for everyone.

A Legacy of Responsible Financial Management

That’s why Banner has grown over 134 years into the powerhouse it is today. For most of its history, it was a relatively small savings and loan institution, where it learned to be prudent with customer deposits. It has remained true to the core values of listening, learning, and helping people and businesses reach their goals.

Growth mode came in the 1990s. Today’s Banner boasts more than $16 billion in assets gained through organic growth and acquisitions. Customers stay with the bank because they feel they can count on it to protect and grow those assets in good times and bad.

“We want to be a trusted source of credit and capital through all economic cycles,” McPhee said.

Banner Affordable Mortgage program
Banner has a long history of support for the housing industry.

An impressive balance sheet is the result. The FDIC classifies Banner as well capitalized, meaning it has extended itself responsibly.

The Great Recession of 2007-09 was a case study of that philosophy in action. As the economy tanked, almost every financial institution in the country stopped or severely curtailed lending. Homebuilder finance took a direct hit because housing was at the epicenter of the downturn.

“We all heard devastating stories about abandoned housing developments,” McPhee said.

Banner’s leadership team chose to take a left when others were turning right. Its homebuilder clients had employees and payrolls like other businesses, and it was time for the bank to step up.

“We kept lending,” McPhee said. “That decision is still spoken about in the home lending world, and many homebuilders say they’ll never leave Banner because when they needed us, we were there for them.”

MoneyWise Resources Meet Consumers Where They Are

The current post-pandemic housing downturn reminds many of those dire economic times. Banner leverages its outstanding financials, lives up to its motto, and continues to lend in the present-day environment of low inventory, high prices, and high rates — proving once again that customers can count on it.

The bank’s MoneyWise financial wellness initiative provides yet another example. Banner has offered financial wellness programming for many years. Recently, the team created an umbrella brand to accelerate those efforts, including paid media devoted solely to education instead of sales.

“We’re helping clients and communities take control of their financial futures and achieve their goals,” McPhee said.

MoneyWise financial wellness initiative
MoneyWise is an array of free workshops, personalized assistance, and online financial wellness resources.

Banner creates and shares financial knowledge in many ways. Articles written by Banner experts focus on practical topics and earn accolades from nonclients and media sources. Sophisticated financial planning calculators are free for everyone to use.

The bank empowers frontline employees to act as consultants, follow up with clients, and move concerns up the chain when necessary. Team members offer in-person presentations in various settings, including schools, civic groups, and businesses.

“If we don’t have instructional material prepared to present, my team will create it even just for that one instance,” McPhee said.

Housing is a topic that is always top of mind. Banner offers free, personalized, in-person workshops to help prospective homebuyers get mortgage-ready. That includes courses on understanding lot loans and homebuilding and earning down payment assistance through a certification available in Washington State.

A section on the Banner website discusses home renovation financing options to provide choices to homeowners who stay in their homes. Material on homebuyer education prepares those planning a transition.

“It doesn’t mean you’re ready to buy now — it’s how do you get to a space where you can qualify,” McPhee said.

Helping Prospective Homebuyers Achieve Their Dreams

Banner’s emphasis on homebuying education backs up a robust presence in home lending. The bank offers several creative products to help more people get into homes.

One, the Household Plus mortgage, supports prospective buyers seeking funding for multigenerational or nontraditional living arrangements.

“Say you’re living with a dependent adult or simply want to buy a house with your sister,” McPhee said. “Traditional mortgages do not allow you to consider income from people living with you. We saw the need and developed a mortgage that lets residing family members or boarders contribute up to 30% of the borrower’s qualifying income.”

The Community Heroes mortgage addresses rising housing costs by making financing accessible and affordable for frontline professionals, including educators, fire department employees, law enforcement professionals, nursing professionals, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics, and active or retired military personnel eligible for VA benefits.

“We identify unmet needs and do our best to close those gaps,” McPhee said.

Meanwhile, Banner’s paid-media strategy reaches customers and community members where they are with information they can use. The ads tend to target younger financial consumers with an eye toward the future.

“We help people understand their current financial habits follow them around for many years in the form of their credit score,” McPhee said. “They may not be ready to buy something significant today, but when they are, the way they spend and save today will have an impact.”

It’s a reminder from McPhee that alleviating the current emergency savings crisis is about developing sound personal financial habits.

“If you don’t think about what’s coming tomorrow, that may prevent you from moving beyond the present,” McPhee said. “We’ve got to find a balance between what’s happening right in front of us and how we help our future selves. A big part of achieving that balance is financial knowledge.”