By Lisa Stafford
In September 2009, Fidelity Homestead Savings Bank held its Grand Reopening in New Orleans East. At the time, Retail Manager Betty Brown was among the bank’s staff who worked tirelessly to integrate the bank and its operations into the New Orleans East community. In addition to supporting the NOELA Newsletter, by advertising and distributing copies of the NOELA Magazine, the bank hosted numerous community events at its 5530 Crowder Blvd. location.
Today, the bank, now called simply Fidelity Bank, continues to have a strong relationship with the community, nurtured by current Assistant Vice President and Financial Center Leader Anthony Bridges. Bridges has been employed with Fidelity Bank for three years, starting in the New Orleans Central Business District location, which he managed for two years.
During the months of July though October, the bank is holding monthly “2-For” Thursdays Financial Seminars at one of the East’s newer businesses – Freezy Street Fresh Rolled Ice Cream, located at 10709 Chef Menteur Highway. The seminars, held on the last Thursday of the month (except October, which is held on October 24), cover topics titled “Your Credit”, “Borrowing Basics”, “Money Matters”, and “Pay Yourself First.”
Bridges’ goals include identifying the community’s needs, even if they are not always banking-related, then using this information to establish relationships with customers. The bank offers credit cards, small unsecured loans and mortgages, and includes people who, by other banks’ standards, may be considered to lack creditworthiness. “We need to help the community,” he says. “Many just don’t understand how to be better.” This extra effort to include those who would otherwise be excluded from a system which could help them improve their financial position, has resulted in the Crowder location being the #1 Financial Center last year.
Bridges often asks, “What can we do?” and answers his own question with, “Whatever you need.” The bank has offered financial literacy classes in local schools, including Youth Savings at Schaumburg Elementary. The bank is currently considering a similar program at Einstein Charter Schools and Sarah T. Reed High School.
This education program centers on tools to ensure financial success, and how to have a healthy mindset, concentrating on what it means to be “wealthy” versus “rich”. “You can bring in six to seven figures,” Bridges says. “But you can still be broke.”
The financial program is a comprehensive set of 22 instructor-led lessons, lasting over 23 hours, and ranges from Kindergarten to High School, to Young Adult, Older Adult and Small Business.
Another focus of the bank’s efforts is a Checking Account marketed to college age individuals. The account has no service charge and requires account holders to balance their checkbook, fostering financial responsibility. During the first quarter of next year, the bank plans to launch a Youth Checking and Savings program for high school students.
The bank is also looking forward to bringing an Affordable Homeownership class and partnering with local businesses for Small Business workshops. In addition, the bank supports nonprofits, such as Kingsley House, through providing valuable resources to enhance the mission of the organization, or encouraging Fidelity employees to volunteer for events, such as Satchmo Summerfest.