With a growing elderly population, projected to nearly double from 52 million to 95 million in the next 40 years, age-friendly banking is more important than ever. More banks are beginning to include age-friendly initiatives in their future goals, but more needs to be done. Continuous commitment and engagement with all financial institutions will emphasize the need for making the financial sector an age-friendly environment.
The National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) and First Citizens Bank announced a $16 billion community benefits agreement (CBA) on February 22, 2021, that included age-friendly banking initiatives like new resources and training aimed at aiding those experiencing dementia and other forms of cognitive decline.
With this CBA, First Citizens Bank agreed to train a specific set of staff to understand cognitive decline and the experiences of older adults with respect to their banking needs. This will then also enable bank staff to recognize potentially suspicious activity on behalf of those experiencing cognitive decline. Suspicious activity can include large withdrawals, fraudulent checks and more.
In addition to the new training, First Citizens Bank also agreed to consider a new age-friendly banking product. What would be included was not specifically defined in the agreement. However, they have many choices for account and product features that could greatly advance their geographic footprint in age-friendly banking.
One option that First Citizens has for their age-friendly banking product is a checking account with low fees and the potential ability to have a view-only account feature for trusted caregivers or care partners. View-only accounts entitle an authorized third-party account access to view transactions on an older adult’s behalf and monitor for suspicious activity. As with the staff training, view-only banking accounts will enable trusted caregivers to detect fraudulent activity and then go about the proper steps to investigate and report said activity.
First Citizens Bank could also offer various other types of account protections. Many subsets fall into this category, including daily withdrawal limits, among others. Notifications and alerts can also greatly enhance the senior banking experience by helping prevent fraud via alerting the customer when a change is made in their account or a new account is opened in their name. These alerts can also extend to notifications about upcoming bills and more to ensure seniors are not getting late-fee charges if bills have been forgotten.
Another option entails small-dollar loans to senior citizens. Loans for seniors will ensure that they are able to make needed, but not necessarily substantial home modifications to facilitate aging in place safely with the necessary home equipment and new technology- regardless of their available disposable income. Home modifications such as grab-bars and railings are often inexpensive, but out of reach for many low- and moderate-income senior citizens. Supporting seniors’ ability to obtain small-dollar loans will help them stay away from costly retirement centers and homes by enabling them to age in place with the proper equipment.
Lastly, accessibility features such as biometric authentication (using fingerprints, face screening) and easy-to-read credit and debit cards are also important features for older adults experiencing cognitive decline. Biometric features remove the need for remembering excessive and long passwords, as well as protecting customers from fraud by specializing their account by a fingerprint or face scan. Easy-to-read credit and debit cards eliminate confusion and make it easier to complete transactions.
Age-friendly banking initiatives are mutually beneficial for both the financial institution as well as those the services are provided to. Initiatives like these not only help banks meet their Community Reinvestment Act requirements and give them a stronger reputation among the senior market, but they also help improve customer satisfaction while giving seniors a safe and trustworthy place to complete their banking.
Emily Orminski is a NCRC Special Initiatives summer intern.