2003 Citizen Services

Nelson Hernandez and the Community Affairs Team

Helped disadvantaged Americans learn how to benefit from personal banking services and better manage their money.

Nearly 13 million Americans lack access to mainstream banking and financial services, falling prey to costly check-cashing services or payday lenders for short-term loans. Many are the victims of scams. All miss the benefits of having a banking relationship—the ability to establish a credit record, to accumulate savings, to own a home and build equity. Nelson Hernandez and the Community Affairs team at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) are working to change this.

The FDIC Community Affairs team designed a comprehensive multimedia adult teaching tool called the Money Smart Program to help guide the economically disadvantaged toward financial security. Offered free of charge in multiple languages, its user-friendly interface allows virtually anyone to learn an introduction to banking services and credit, how to choose and keep a checking account, effective ways to keep track of finances, and other money management techniques.

Supervising 40 team members across the country, Hernandez has developed partnerships with 350 financial institutions, nonprofit organizations and government agencies to better deliver the program’s benefits since its July 2001 inception. “Nelson was really looking creatively for connections outside FDIC,” said Doug Dylla of the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, a partner organization. “He saw that he had one piece of the puzzle and how it could fit into a larger existing system.”

Dylla had expected it to take years for anything to come of the partnership between his organization and FDIC, but Hernandez and the team were able to deliver Money Smart within two months. “Nelson and his crew were really the driving force to make sure Money Smart didn’t just sit on a shelf somewhere,” Dylla said.

The program is continuing to reach more Americans in need. FDIC has trained more than 1,700 representatives from banks, community organizations, local governments and faith-based agencies in how to use Money Smart. The program has also been adopted by the extension divisions of the University of Delaware and Texas A&M, as well as public housing authorities, affordable housing organizations, military bases and workforce preparation agencies.

Money Smart makes a difference in the lives of thousands of disadvantaged people across the nation. The program is the result of the work of dedicated public servants who thought creatively and acted decisively to help their fellow Americans. “When you trace back who was responsible, that team deserves the credit,” acknowledged FDIC Director of Supervision and Consumer Affairs Michael Zamorski. “They are not in it for the glory; they are in it to help people.”