Key Thoughts From KeyBank: Financial Education Empowers Native Families

May 28, 2013

A lack of resources to help Native Americans learn effective money management techniques has stunted the ability of many Native families to reach their full potential. But KeyBank is working to change that by expanding the delivery of financial education to Native communities across the country.

KeyBank, a leader in meeting the financial needs of Indian country, has launched a four-year financial literacy program coordinated by First Nations Oweesta Corporation, a wholly held subsidiary of First Nations Development Institute and the first certified national Native Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) intermediary. The program, made possible by a $250,000 grant from KeyBank and KeyBank Foundation, teaches American Indians how to manage their money, save toward financial goals, take advantage of financial resources and avoid predatory lenders. “KeyBank Foundation focuses its grant making on financial literacy and diversity, which help to drive job success,” said Foundation chair Margot Copeland. “We’re proud to be a leader in supporting Native communities.”

Mike Lettig

The program, “Expanding Financial Literacy Efforts in Native Communities,” takes a unique approach to financial education called train-the-trainer. Oweesta professionals teach local Native CDFIs how to conduct financial literacy programs for their nations. “[Our] financial education programs contribute significantly to the development of sustainable Native economies and healthy communities,” said Chrystel Cornelius, Oweesta’s acting executive director.

KeyBank is dedicated to helping communities that are traditionally under-banked. Since July 2008, the company has extended more than $4 billion in financing to developments in underserved communities and granted more than $40 million to nonprofit organizations. More than 28,000 individuals have taken KeyBank’s free financial education classes since the inception of KeyBank Plus in 2004.

“Financial success in life depends on good financial education, and we are dedicated to supporting programs that help people of the First Nations thrive,” said Mike Lettig, director of Native American Financial Services for KeyBank. “KeyBank was one of the first financial institutions in the country to create teams focused exclusively on serving Native Americans. We understand the importance of each Nation’s laws, culture and governance, and we make sure our recommendations are aligned with tribal traditions and values.”

To learn how KeyBank can help your Nation succeed, visit

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