A passion for financial education

Truist actively commits to financial education among its teammates, clients, and the greater community as a way to promote widespread well-being and create pathways to greater economic equity.

Truist’s purpose is to inspire and build better lives and communities. And often, that can start with a solid financial education. Here are a few ways that Truist is trying to improve the financial literacy of our teammates, our clients, and the communities we serve.

It starts close to home

In 2016, CEO Bill Rogers set out to improve the financial well-being of his employees at SunTrust now Truist. He hired Ford, who was running an independent company called 8 Pillars, to launch an internal wellness program.

“We didn’t just roll out a program. We really put our money where our mouth was, with $18 million paid out to our employees over six years, helping them establish employer-sponsored emergency savings accounts, and giving them a full financial wellness curriculum,” says Ford.

The program worked so well that “we thought, what if we take this out to our corporate clients?” says Ford. Now, 270 companies participate in the program, called Truist Momentum.

Financial well-being for everyone

Ford, along with Bright Dickson, Truist’s resident expert on positive psychology, also launched a new content program intended to reach a wider audience.

“Money and Mindset is a website and podcast—a movement—where anyone can go to get unbiased, accessible information on financial education,” Ford says. “We said, ‘What can help someone get in a better place financially?’ We have the education, the principles, the rules … but are we really helping people get the right mindset?”

Any time, as a society, our level of financial literacy improves, just about every other aspect of our lives improves. It’s not just about dollars and cents or building a bigger net worth. It’s about improving our job prospects, our relationships, our health.

— Brian Ford, Truist’s head of financial wellness

Together, Ford and Dickson created Money and Mindset to help people create financial peace of mind. “All of a sudden, we’re reaching people in a way that hasn’t been done in the past,” says Ford. “This isn’t, ‘You need a spreadsheet for budgeting.’ This is a new approach.” Ford and Dickson do, in fact, talk about budgeting, but they talk about it in relation to the things you really care about—such as your family, pets, travel, and health.

“Let’s frame up your finances within the things that are important. Then sprinkle in some positive psychology and talk about the science behind optimism, the science behind a growth mindset. And it’s exciting, unique, and fun,” Ford says.

Financial literacy improves student retention

Like a ripple in a pond, the financial education that began with Truist teammates has expanded in ever wider circles, with long-lasting effects. Financial education helps build a strong foundation for economic mobility and well-being, according to Truist Foundation Director of Strategic Initiatives Meghan Pietrantonio.

For example, she says Georgia State University “learned that a significant number of students drop out of college because of a very small debt or bill—like $500 on their student meal plan,” not because of poor grades.

GSU is one of the most diverse universities in the U.S., and annually graduates more African American students than any other public or private institution. Many of the students who dropped out were from minority groups or the first in their family to attend college.

Building on the success of a grant from 2015, the Truist Foundation awarded $2.8 million to Georgia State University’s National Institute for Student Success, followed by an additional $2.5 million in May, 2021. The Institute for Student Success offers a universal self-service diagnostic tool for institutions to learn where they stand in terms of student preparedness and student success outcomes. It also offers interactive financial coaching to students. Both of these tools have been extended beyond GSU to a cohort of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

 

Setting up high school students for success

Another grant from Truist Foundation is helping Florida International University (FIU) launch a program to teach financial education to high school students. FIU partnered with the National Academy Foundation, a nonprofit organization that runs career academies within traditional high schools. Specifically, FIU will be supporting NAF’s Academy of Finance, which operates in 193 high schools with high minority enrollment in more than 140 cities across the United States.

As an educator, I wholeheartedly believe that education is the great equalizer. If we adequately prepare students from economically challenging areas to effectively compete on a level playing field, we may truly move the needle in a significant way.

— Flavio Carrillo, faculty director of the Capital Markets Lab and senior director of the Truist FIU Financial Wellness Clinic.

“One of our main goals is to revamp the curriculum for two classes: Principles of Finance and Applied Finance,” says professor Flavio Carrillo, faculty director of the Capital Markets Lab and senior director of the Truist FIU Financial Wellness Clinic. Another goal is to train teachers in the Truist FIU curriculum. Ultimately, Carrillo hopes the program will give high school students a strong foundation for financial success.

“As an educator, I wholeheartedly believe that education is the great equalizer,” says Carrillo. “If we adequately prepare students from economically challenging areas to effectively compete on a level playing field, we may truly move the needle in a significant way.”

Listen up

Listen to the Money and Mindset podcast to get tips and tools to help manage your financial progress.