In a Nutshell: Without its community, First Citizens National Bank would not be around today and still thriving 133 years after first opening its doors. First Citizens National Bank offers traditional banking services and provides students with free classes that make it fun to learn about managing their financial decisions. Resources are also available for every member of the community to learn about their credit history, how to avoid fraud, as well as several other tips for achieving financial wellness. The bank’s mission is to give back to the community that helped build it by offering consumers ways to become financially literate from a young age.
Spend enough time on the internet and you will find a millennial complaining about not being properly prepared to handle the financial hurdles that life throws at them. As a millennial, I tend to agree.
Instead of trying to decipher Shakespeare’s plays, I should have been learning about how to file taxes, how to prepare to buy a home, and the true cost of taking out a loan. By the time I graduated high school, I didn’t even know what APR meant.
First Citizens National Bank recognized this was an issue in its home state of Tennessee. The bank saw this as an opportunity to provide these services to children as young as 8 years old.
For the past decade, First Citizens and its partner, Banzai!, have offered classes for kids and teens with curriculums that follow them until they graduate from high school. As the kids get older, the topics become more advanced. By the time they graduate high school, the teens have invaluable knowledge on how to handle their finances when those first paychecks start coming in.
It’s easy to access the educational resources. All three programs hosted by First Citizens are grouped together on its Financial Education page.
“It’s worked well for us because it’s easy, ” First Citizens National Bank’s Assistant Vice President and Public Relations officer Kristol Sentell said. “It’s an easy program to go through on your own. We do that all for free for our communities. We take the burden of the financial commitment, and they get to benefit from it.”
Building Financial Literacy from the Ground Up
First Citizens National Bank offers a wide range of classes to teach financial literacy in easy-to-understand lessons. The classes were developed in a partnership with Banzai! and fine-tuned over the last 10 years.
Each class is specifically designed to the age of the student, with lessons for 8-year-olds all the way to 18-year-olds.
Some of the most important lessons are taught when a student is 18 or they are a senior in high school. Those students will soon have to be on their own and learn how to file taxes and take out loans for college.
When students first enter the courses First Citizens National Bank offers, they take a pretest to figure out their level of finance knowledge. Students are then put into different classes based on the results.
The classes are not meant to be boring or something students have to do. They are instead designed to be fun and use games to teach financial lessons that keep students engaged.
Students who pass their lessons can move on to the next level, and those who still need more help can go back through the lesson until they are ready to try the test again.
Teachers have the opportunity to invite bankers from FirstCNB to be involved in the lessons.
Part of the bankers’ role is also to teach the students about careers in banking to reduce the stigma that their jobs are nothing more than counting money or filling out loans all day.
The plan is to create a more knowledgeable community by investing in resources students can use.
“It’s always been super easy for anyone to log in and create an account and start using our services,” Sentell said. “That’s always been our primary goal, to make it easy and accessible to all of our communities and customers.”
Offering Opportunities for Everyone to Learn
While classes are meant to teach financial literacy at young ages, anyone is welcome to access First Citizens National Bank’s lesson database with Banzai!. This allows anyone in the community to learn the fundamentals of financial literacy on their own time.
Everything the program teaches can be found online on the website created by the bank and Banzai!. There is no need to go to a classroom or have access to special supplies.
One of the programs included is a virtual library with access to resources to learn about different aspects of finance, such as credit cards and credit scores.
The courses available don’t rely on boring textbook material, but instead are based on real-life scenarios. Once the courses are done, students are encouraged to consider going back to First Citizens National Bank to open an account.
Even employees take advantage of the free lessons, with some saying they have used it to brush up their skills while working at the bank.
“Actually, I went through another probe of one of the tests again just to get familiar with all the benefits and the programs that Banzai! offers,” Sentell said. “That way when I get asked those questions, I’m well versed.”
Creating Better Futures for the Next Generation
When it was developing its logo, the team at First Citizens National Bank made sure to encompass what they wanted the bank to mean for the community.
In the end, the team settled on a logo based on a tree.
The tree has strong roots that resemble the community roots the bank relies on. It also has substantial branches that build and thrive off its roots.
The logo is meant to mimic what it means to be a community bank. First Citizens National Bank wants to build on the community’s existing roots.
With 25 locations across Tennessee and $2 billion in assets, the bank is better equipped to continue supporting community growth.
First Citizens National Bank survived The Great Depression, the recession in 2009, and is now in a position to continue to grow.
Even with uncertain financial conditions during the pandemic, the bank plans to offer its educational resources no matter what.
“When the pandemic did hit, and parents were at home with their kids, we really did push this program so parents had that access to continue their children’s education,” Sentell said. “We always want that opportunity to be out there for our communities and schools.”