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Case study: How Fifth Third promotes financial education

Fifth Third Bancorp is a diversified financial services company operating four main businesses: Commercial Banking, Branch Banking, Consumer Lending, and Wealth & Asset Management. Fifth Third works to deliver comprehensive and innovative solutions to challenges facing the people who live in the communities it serves  Tweet This!, including tackling a gap in financial education and workforce development.

This case study is based on the 2019 Environmental, Social & Governance Report by Fifth Third published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate what CSR/ ESG/ sustainability reporting done responsibly means. Essentially, it means: a) identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment, economy and society, and b) measuring, managing and changing.

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Future success is often dependent upon the opportunities and advantages individuals have when they are young. That’s why Fifth Third developed a suite of L.I.F.E. programmes that offer financial education beginning as young as the first grade. Fifth Third’s L.I.F.E. (Lives Improved through Financial Empowerment) programmes are offered at no charge and are designed to educate people in the ways of personal finance at every age and stage of life. In order to promote financial education Fifth Third took action to:

  • launch the Fifth Third Bank Young Bankers Club
  • support $martPath
  • introduce the Fifth Third Finance Academy
  • offer Fifth Third Empower U
  • launch Retirement University

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2019 Environmental, Social & Governance Report Fifth Third identified a range of material issues, such as business ethics and responsible banking, customer privacy and information security, inclusion and diversity, employee engagement and development. Among these, promoting financial education stands out as a key material issue for Fifth Third.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards              

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The reporting organization shall identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations and interests.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups Fifth Third engages with:

Stakeholder Group                Method of engagement
Shareholders

 

 

·      Annual shareholder meeting

·      Quarterly earnings calls

·      Investor conferences and presentations

·      Meetings with investor relations team and executive management

·      SEC filings and dedicated investor relations website

Customers

 

 

·      Focus groups

·      Conversations through branch interactions and phone calls

·      Satisfaction surveys

·      Social media interactions

·      Customer helplines and corporate website

Employees

 

·      Engagement survey

·      Executive leadership communications

·      Learning programmes

·      Performance and development initiatives and corporate intranet

Communities

 

 

 

 

·      Community Advisory Forum (national and five statewide groups in Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Florida and North Carolina)

·      Community needs survey and assessments

·      Financial education and outreach programmes

·      Philanthropic investments

·      Civic memberships

·      Volunteerism and non-profit board engagement and corporate website

Regulators

 

·      Exams

·      Continuous monitoring and other meetings with senior management

·      Interactions through regulatory affairs and government affairs teams and regulator-sponsored events and initiatives

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To identify and prioritise material topics, Fifth Third distributed a survey to representatives from its stakeholder groups.

What actions were taken by Fifth Third to promote financial education?

In its 2019 Environmental, Social & Governance Report Fifth Third reports that it took the following actions for promoting financial education:

  • Launching the Fifth Third Bank Young Bankers Club
  • The Fifth Third Bank Young Bankers Club (YBC) is Fifth Third’s signature programme developed in 2004 for fifth-graders. Over the past 15 years, more than 28,000 students graduated from YBC. Most were taught by Fifth Third volunteers who visited elementary school classrooms to teach the difference between needs and wants, money basics and to underscore the importance of their education. In 2019, the programme underwent an update and will transition into a newer, more dynamic programme in 2021 that will be more relevant to today’s students and better establish a strong financial foundation for the future.
  • Supporting $martPath
  • The Fifth Third Foundation has also supported $martPath, developed with the University of Cincinnati Economics Centre, for students from first grade through eighth grade. Since 2017, 430,200 students in Ohio, Florida and Michigan were educated through $martPath, an award-winning digital platform that uses animated characters and stories to impart critical thinking, math, economics and personal finance skills.
  • Introducing the Fifth Third Finance Academy
  • The Fifth Third Finance Academy offers two courses: foundational finance and entrepreneurship, to high school students throughout the Bank’s footprint states. The programme is focused on high-need students and schools, with over half of the students coming from underserved communities. In the 2018-19 school year, over 163,000 students completed more than 400,000 hours of learning through more than 2,200 Finance Academy courses. To date, more than 453,000 students have taken Finance Academy courses and completed over 1.1 million hours of learning. In the programme’s second year, Fifth Third reported a 73% learning gain in financial education and a 93% learning gain in entrepreneurship. In 2019, Fifth Third also offered Finance Academy to students at Florida A&M University, a public HBCU (Historically black colleges and universities) in Tallahassee. Fifth Third also provides $70,000 in scholarships each academic year to help students meet their education and career goals. At the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, this totalled $210,000 in scholarship awards. When schools were closed due to the lockdowns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Fifth Third worked to make all of its Finance Academy courses available for free to students throughout its Consumer Bank footprint—regardless of whether or not they were previously Finance Academy schools. This ensured that financial education could continue during the pandemic. Additionally, courses designed for adult learners, typically offered on Fifth Third’s eBus, were made available to the public at no cost, as was the NextJob Job Seeker’s Toolkit, job training services typically available only for Fifth Third customers.
  • Offering Fifth Third Empower U
  • Fifth Third’s financial education course for adults is called Fifth Third Empower U. These courses are taught by Fifth Third’s bankers on-site at various companies with Fifth Third’s community partners. They include a financial check-up, as well as classes that teach financial health, investments and planning, insurance planning, homeownership and college savings. Fifth Third has reached 123,000 people through the programme since 2012.
  • Launching Retirement University
  • Providing a holistic approach to retirement planning, Fifth Third’s Retirement University is a free educational programme to help consumers prepare for all aspects of retirement, from income needs to second careers. Lessons include planning and investments, retirement income, health care needs and life-stage planning. Fifth Third financial professionals also are available to answer attendees’ questions.

Which GRI Standards and corresponding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been addressed?

The GRI Standard addressed in this case is: Disclosure 413-1 Operations with local community engagement, impact assessments, and development programs

Disclosure 413-1 Operations with local community engagement, impact assessments, and development programs does not correspond to any SDG.

 

80% of the world’s 250 largest companies report in accordance with the GRI Standards

SustainCase was primarily created to demonstrate, through case studies, the importance of dealing with a company’s most important impacts in a structured way, with use of the GRI Standards. To show how today’s best-run companies are achieving economic, social and environmental success – and how you can too.

Research by well-recognised institutions is clearly proving that responsible companies can look to the future with optimism.



FBRH GRI Standards Certified, IEMA & CIM recognised Sustainability Course | Venue: London LSE

By registering for the next 2-day FBRH GRI Standards Certified, IEMA & CIM recognised course you will be taking the first step in gaining the many benefits of sustainability reporting.

Most importantly, you will gain the knowledge to use the GRI Standards, project manage your own first-class sustainability report and:

  • Identify your most important impacts on the Environment, Economy and Society
  • Begin taking solid, focused, all-round sustainability action ASAP

 

References:

1) This case study is based on published information by Fifth Third, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:

http://database.globalreporting.org/

2) https://www.globalreporting.org/standards/gri-standards-download-center/

Note to Fifth Third: With each case study we send out an email requesting a comment on this case study. If you have not received such an email please contact us.