Operation HOPE is an Atlanta-based nonprofit that promotes financial literacy in partnership with banks, aiming to improve and empower the lives of people with poor credit or little understanding of investments, loans and other products.
First Horizon National Corp., which operates mainly as First Tennessee Bank, has opened the first HOPE Inside location in North Carolina in a north Raleigh bank office. First Horizon spent $2 billion to buy Charlotte-based Capital Bank last year. Since the Memphis-based bank started working with Operation Hope in 2014, more than 10,000 people have participated in the program. An opening ceremony is planned in Raleigh on Wednesday.
Business North Carolina asked Rick Manley, Capital Bank’s mid-Atlantic region president, about the program. Comments were edited for clarity.
Why did First Tennessee get involved initially?
In 2014, the bank was looking to put in place a consistent level of financial education in its communities through its branch network. HOPE Inside offered a structured curriculum to achieve just that and also allows each financial counselor to augment as needed based on any local factors.
First Horizon CEO Bryan Jordan and John Hope Bryant, who founded Operation HOPE, met through this initiative. Jordan says he has “tremendous respect for Bryant’s commitment and passion for improving financial outcomes for people in need of help.
What are the key elements of “financial literacy”?
Bryant has written two books around this subject: “How the Poor Can Save Capitalism” and “The Memo: Five Rules for Your Economic Liberation.” Here’s a synopsis of The Memo:
Building on his personal experience of rising up from economically disadvantaged circumstances and his work with Operation HOPE, Bryant teaches readers five rules that lay the foundation for achieving financial freedom. He emphasizes the inseparable connection between “inner capital” (mindset, relationships, knowledge, and spirit) and “outer capital” (financial wealth and property). “If you have inner capital,” Bryant writes, “you can never be truly poor. If you lack inner capital, all the money in the world cannot set you free.”
Bryant gives readers tools for empowerment including achieving basic financial literacy, investing in positive relationships and approaching wealth with a new attitude. He makes this controversial claim: “Once you have satisfied your basic sustenance needs — food, water, health, and a roof over your head — poverty has more to do with your head than your wallet.”
Bryant wants to restore readers’ “silver rights,” giving them the ability to prosper no matter what roadblocks society puts in their way. “We are the CEOs of our own lives,” he writes.
Do users of this service view it as a one-time visit?
HOPE Inside counselors typically work with an individual for at least 6 months or even longer depending on the specific situation. While one can of course attend a single education session, the instruction series builds on previous educational themes. Often the counselors come to be trusted as a de facto “personal banker” for participants, which sets the stage for longer term success. There is no cap on the length of time someone can partake in the program. Some of the bank’s HOPE Inside initiatives such as improving one’s credit score to 700 — which is seen as the minimum for creditworthiness — requires as much as two years.
Why open this in a fairly affluent north Raleigh office instead of a lower-income area?
Our HOPE Inside counselors are based at a Raleigh location that is centrally located. They will focus on outreach across Wake County and travel to area companies and community groups to administer the program.
When will you expand to other cities?
Plans call for four more HOPE Inside centers in the state within the next year: Fayetteville, Siler City, Winston-Salem and Salisbury.
Operation HOPE has ties with several other banks, right?
Operation Hope partners with multiple partners in addition to the First Horizon group of companies and we applaud this. Our view is that there can never be too many people working to support financial literacy efforts of all kinds. We look forward to the day when such customized financial education services aren’t needed.