Key Thoughts From KeyBank: Financial Education Success in Indian Country

Mike Lettig

The first progress report is in, and the results for Keybank’s Expanding Financial Literacy Efforts in Native Communities Program are even better than anticipated.

KeyBank, a leader in meeting the financial needs of Indian country, launched the four-year financial literacy program last year with First Nations Oweesta Corporation as coordinator. Oweesta is a wholly held subsidiary of First Nations Development Institute and the first certified national Native Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) intermediary. Made possible by a $250,000 grant from KeyBank and KeyBank Foundation, the program teaches Native Americans how to manage their money, save toward financial goals, take advantage of financial resources and avoid predatory lenders.

Oweesta uses a unique train-the-trainer approach to teach local Native CDFIs how to conduct financial literacy programs for their tribes. Through June 2014, Oweesta’s educational events resulted in the certification of 131 trainers – almost 10 percent better than the goal – who will provide financial education in 82 different Native communities.

“Oweesta is also working with communities that have asked for on-site technical assistance and are participating in a project to evaluate the program’s impact,” said Chrystel Cornelius, Executive Director for Oweesta. “The results have been nothing short of extraordinary. For example, based on pre- and post-surveying at our sites, participants in the financial literacy classes reported a 100 percent increase in their willingness to review their credit reports annually and a 45 percent increase in their determination to save money as a routine habit.”

The financial literacy initiative has produced some unexpected bonuses. Based on input from trainers, the help desk was able to create a standardized toolkit that provides comprehensive educational and marketing resources for start- up financial education programs. In addition, certified trainers throughout the country are now able to network with their peers to share best practices and ideas.

“Financial education in Indian country fosters financial stability for individuals, families and entire communities,” said Mike Lettig, director of Native American Financial Services for KeyBank. “KeyBank is a leader in creating 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. We are delighted with the achievements in Oweesta’s financial literacy program and look forward to even more success in the future.”

Your Nation’s success begins with a strong financial foundation.

At KeyBank, we understand that every tribe is unique, not only culturally, but also when it comes to priorities and objectives. That is why we take the time to listen first to understand your needs, and then we tailor solutions just for you. From managing cash flow and accessing capital, to crafting a plan to safeguard your liquid assets, we can help. We’re proud to say, that’s what we’ve done for Indian country for the past 50 years.

To learn how we can help your Nation succeed, visit

Banking products and services are offered by KeyBank National Association. All credit, loan and leasing products subject to credit approval. is a federally registered service mark of KeyCorp. KeyBank is Member FDIC.

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