U.S. Bank pilots new financial wellness program with Operation HOPE

April 28, 2021

We’re partnering with the nonprofit organization for the pilot program in Denver and Chicago.

Maria Ramos had never thought to check her credit report, and it wasn’t until she began working with HOPE Inside Powered by U.S. Bank financial wellbeing coach Laura Villalpando (pictured above) that she looked at it for the first time – and got an unpleasant surprise.

Ramos’ credit report showed that she still owed her bank a balance on a car she’d paid off long ago. Worried that the error would hurt her ability to get a mortgage, she worked with Villalpando for guidance on what to say to the bank to ensure the mistake would be fixed. 

“In my culture, credit is not a topic of conversation,” said Ramos, who needed to move to a larger home so her wheelchair-bound daughter can move around freely. “I would not have known about this error if it wasn’t for Operation HOPE, which provided me with a copy of my report, and for Laura, who explained how my credit actually works. I’m so hopeful and looking forward to giving my daughter a new home.”

HOPE Inside is a partnership with Operation HOPE, a non-profit organization that’s the leading global provider of financial dignity education and economic empowerment programs for low-to-moderate income youth, individuals and families in underserved communities. We have supported Operation HOPE for more than a decade, and the Denver branch where Villalpando works is one of two HOPE Inside locations we opened last year to help neighborhoods hit especially hard by the economic fallout of COVID-19. The other HOPE Inside is located at a U.S. Bank branch in the Pullman neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.

“U.S. Bank believes improving the financial well-being of its customers, employees and communities is core to the work we do, and an investment in our collective future,” said Kaori Yamada, senior vice president of financial  education strategy at U.S. Bank. “The HOPE Inside financial coaches at U.S. Bank are positioned to empower communities with the tools and support to move their lives forward by raising credit scores, transforming financial mindsets and reducing stress due to financial issues.”

For Villalpando, helping people understand their credit reports and credit scores – the rating drawn from credit reports that outlines borrowing and repayment activities – is one of her most common 1:1 coaching discussions and workshop topics in both English and Spanish. A credit score can have a significant impact on someone’s life, not only because it determines whether a consumer can qualify for loans and credit cards and what interest they will pay, but it also can be used by employers in hiring decisions and by landlords screening rental applications.  

Many of the clients Villalpando coaches at the Denver branch tend to fall into two categories – they’re either trying to break the cycle of accumulating overdraft charges and payday loans while living paycheck to paycheck, or they’re dreaming of buying their first home, car or paying for higher education and want help pulling together a strategy for their goals. Many of her sessions lately have also layered in discussions around the best way for clients to use their COVID-19 relief checks from the federal government.

“There’s a ladder for everyone when it comes to their finances, and each step means something important to the client – especially when they’re learning how to budget and save money,” she said.

Villalpando has been working virtually from home due to COVID-19 safety guidelines, but she’s received more than 400 referrals since November from the U.S. Bank branch where she will eventually be based along with additional ones from neighboring branches. 

“Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and a desire for a certain thing to happen, or a feeling of trust. That’s what HOPE Inside is for our community,” said Patrina Pettry, who leads the Consumer and Business Banking team for U.S. Bank in Denver. “It’s the hope that companies like U.S. Bank create places of access for all people to improve their financial health, and it creates a feeling of trust when the financial coach is someone from their own community who looks like them. This is not just hope in thought, it’s hope in action.”

Visit Operation HOPE’s website to schedule an appointment with Laura Villalpando or Felicia Adams, the HOPE Inside U.S. Bank financial wellness counselors in Denver and Chicago, respectively.

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