Financial Update (Second Quarter 2009)

Atlanta Fed Hosts Conference on Access to Banking in the Americas

Americas Center logoOne of the goals of the Americas Center—the Atlanta Fed's initiative devoted to greater understanding, cooperation, and coordination with Latin American, Caribbean, and Spanish financial institutions and markets—is to spur dialogue and collaboration among institutions and nonprofit groups that want to bring more people into the mainstream banking system.

The Americas Center's March 18 conference, "Access to Banking in the Americas," convened in Miami on the campus of Florida International University, was held to further this goal. "We want to continue our engagement in the development of strategies to increase access to banking," said Ana Cruz-Taura, the Atlanta Fed's community development director in Miami. "One of our primary roles in this initiative has been to convene and encourage collaboration among the organizations involved with developing and promoting responsive banking products and services."

Exploring the benefits of financial education for customers
Many of the conference's 120 attendees were unfamiliar with the range of products and services, including financial education, offered by Latin American and U.S. banks. Attendees learned that these programs are not simply a community service but that they are good business practices.

Americas Center
Conference agenda and presentations

A conference speaker from the Brazilian bank Banco Itau, Andrea Pinotti Cordeiro, detailed the institution's use of financial education to, for example, help identify customers who are delinquent on loan payments or have had checks returned. Those customers might need more counseling, so Banco Itau assigns a staff member to work with them and to make sure they are using appropriate products. That program has helped the bank keep customers and reduce losses, Cordeiro told the conference audience.

Initiative unites various groups
The Americas Center's new initiative will involve the Reserve Banks' Retail Payments Office, the Atlanta Fed's Research Department, and Supervision and Regulation's Foreign Banking Operations and Community Affairs groups. Since its founding in 2005, the Americas Center has concentrated on building collaboration among departments within the Bank. More recently, Cruz-Taura said, through projects such as Access to Banking in the Americas, the focus has expanded to include establishing partnerships with external organizations.

April 27, 2009