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The face-to-face advantages of a branch bank on a college campus

Helping college students who are on their own for the very first time can be a rewarding experience for employees of a bank’s on-campus branch. Students may never have had a bank account before and it may be their first experience with a payment card as well. True, they could deal with an online bank or work with their bank back home or across town, but many find there is no substitute for sitting across the desk from a real live human being at a brick and mortar bank on campus.

“Students just starting on campus, know very little about managing their own finances,” said Whitney Bright, vice president, Campus Banking, for U.S. Bank. “That’s why face-to-face interaction is important.”

Even simple banking tasks that most of us take for granted, such as opening accounts, making deposits, using the ATM, may be Greek to students, particularly incoming freshmen. Learning the basics, “students seem to be appreciative of this,” said Ms. Bright.

This level of comfort and education is perhaps the single most important benefit that an on-campus branch can offer.

But other benefits of on-campus branch banks have nothing to do with students. “(A branch can give) parents peace of mind, knowing their students have a bank on campus they can visit anytime,” said Ms. Bright. “There might be a brick and mortar bank a mile away, but that bank has to deal with so many other things … an on-campus branch is dealing just with students.”

Understanding the campus market

The most important factor when locating a branch on campus is understanding the campus market. A college branch bank is dealing with a unique niche with operational needs.

“The student market is unique so employees (should be) different for the campus branch,” added Ms. Bright. But it goes much deeper than simply hiring the right employees to work with students. Financial education, product offerings, pricing, even hours of operation may need to be adjusted to most effectively serve a campus market.

“We (U.S. Bank) conduct financial wellness seminars for students,” said Ms. Bright. They learn how to open and, more importantly, run their checking accounts. That includes balancing their checkbook each month, reading bank statements, things that most of us take for granted. “We teach students how not to get into trouble with their credit and ATM cards,” she adds.

With more and more financial functions being tied to campus cards today, knowing how to manage and care for personal financial wellbeing takes on even greater importance–for both students and their parents. An on-campus branch can be a key tool in this lifelong lesson.

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