Real Money, Real Experts

Financial Inclusion as an Avenue to Building Community with Janie Bright, AFC®

March 29, 2022 AFCPE® Season 2 Episode 6
Real Money, Real Experts
Financial Inclusion as an Avenue to Building Community with Janie Bright, AFC®
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This week, Rachael sits down with longtime AFCPE Member, Janie Bright, AFC®. Janie is a self-described passionate credit union employee who has worked in the industry for nearly 30 years. She began her journey as a Credit Union teller, where she saw firsthand the issues that individuals and families face in relation to their finances. Today, she serves as the Vice President of Financial Inclusion and Community Strategy and shares all that she's learned along the way.

In this episode, Janie reminds us about the power of mentorship – there are coaches all around you; the importance of financial inclusion – the only thing that separates us from others is our situations; and the value of doing well by doing good. 

Show notes:
2:17 Into her career journey
6:10 Working in the credit union & banking space
8:42 How being an AFC® has enhanced her impact
9:46 Her experience serving on a nonprofit board
12:01 Symposium memories and highlights
14:52 How Janie defines financial inclusion
19:16 Janie's final 2 cents

Show note links:
Email Janie
Connect on LinkedIn
Local Government Federal Credit Union
Join the Membership community
AFCPE Connections Fair: Gain Experience. Find a Job. 


Speaker 1:

Welcome to real money, real experts, a podcast we're leading financial counseling and coaching experts share their stories, their challenges, and their advice for helping people manage money and the real world. I'm your host, Rachel da own interim executive director of the association for financial counseling and planning education or AF F C P

Speaker 2:

E . And I'm your co-host Dr. Mary Bell Carlson, an accredited financial counselor or AFC , and the CEO of Carlson consulting. Every episode, we're taking a deep dive into the topics that personal finance professionals care about helping clients, building community in your professional growth .

Speaker 1:

Today, we are excited to welcome Janie bright to the podcast. Janie is the vice president of financial inclusion and community strategies of local government, federal credit union, or LG FCU in North Carolina. Janie began her career there in 1998 as a finance counselor earning her AFC certification. Soon after, before being promoted to her current role at LG FCU, Janie served as the education services manager, where she traveled the state of North Carolina offering financial literacy workshops as the financial solutions manager. She assisted clients with , with exploring financial solutions to help them meet their personal financial goals. And as the financial inclusion and community strategies manager, where she helped her organization become a community development, financial institution illuminating key impacts that LG FCU is doing to improve lives. Janie is married the retired commandant of the North Carolina state highway patrol, and they share four sons. She's actively involved in volunteer community service with her sorority and church, and she considers her credit union's mission of improving the lives of its members to be her professional and personal calling. Janie , thank you so much for taking the time to join a us here today.

Speaker 3:

Hey Rachel, thank you so much for having me. I was super excited when you asked me to sit and, and join you on this podcast. And I had a whole lot of things I wanted to share. So I'm super excited about the questions that you might be asking today.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. We can't wait to learn a little bit more about you. Can you tell us a little bit about your own career journey? How did you get to where you are today?

Speaker 3:

So as you've read in the VI , I actually started my journey in , in 1998 and one of the first things I wanted to do, because it was so important to me, if I was gonna be serving our members, I wanted to serve them well. So I started researching organizations that offered accreditations and debt to individuals that might be offering financial literacy. And the first thing I saw was the association of financial counselors in planning education or what we refer to today as a F C P E . I have to admit that I have a deep love for a F C P E I am personally and professionally indebted to the organization because it's given me the direction that I needed to plant seeds in financial counseling. And so immediately, immediately to give myself credibility with our members. I, I had to, to practice that due diligence and earn that professional designation. So I earned my AFC in January, 1999, and I have been consecutively active with a S C P since that time with the exception of about two years when I lost my father. And even during that tough time, when I lost my father, my a C P E family, yes, I did say family cuz that's how I feel. <laugh>

Speaker 1:

We feel the same way

Speaker 3:

<laugh> they were there for me, offered me, you know, opportunities to chat, got me back active with the organization, just like I never left. And I just have a deep, deep appreciation and love with this organization. But anyway , I happen up on the a O C P E organization. And then I thought it was very important for me to become well connected with the leaders of the organization, because getting connected with an organization like a F C P E , it was very important if I was gonna be offering that remedial counseling to credit em members, I needed that credibility and connectivity with other financial, for professionals who I believe would serve as coaches to this important work that I was going to be doing. And so, as you said earlier, my career is my passion. Every day when I get up out of bed, it , it's not a hard thing to do because going to work and doing something like I'm doing now, I , I currently now serve as the vice president, a financial inclusion and community strategies. So in that role, what I'm tasked with doing is providing resources to families and making sure that some of the people that are described as a disproportionately disadvantage families is very essential to me is very important that I'm doing everything that I can as a financial professional to offer resources that they otherwise didn't even know existed. So I may not have answered your direct question, but I'm so passionate about what I'm saying. That's part of my career, a F C P is a big part of my career. And, and, you know, being in those, uh , manager roles really helped me sort of understand who I was as a leader, because if I was gonna go out and educate people, I needed to make sure I had the materials to get out there and do it and do it well. Right . And then it was a very beautiful experience to me because, you know, traveling across the state of North Carolina, it , I was offering financial literacy workshops to over 100 counties and that's well over eight and local government workers, but that was just scratching the surface . There are so many more, and this role was key in bringing financial inclusion to those families that otherwise may not have had access to the financial mainstream. So you could see Rachel, how it was so important for me to get out there and do all that I can learn all I can and then get in there and, and provide those services to people that just didn't have access to it. So that's why financial inclusion is just so very important to

Speaker 1:

Me, Janie . That's so great. And you've had a really impressive tenure at L G F C U since 9, 18 98 . I think you said

Speaker 3:

That's correct.

Speaker 1:

And you've held so many interesting roles throughout that time. I'm curious for someone who's interested in working in the credit union at the banking space, what advice would you give

Speaker 3:

For me? It was again, just knowing what I wanted to do. So I served as their very first financial counselor in L G C , but prior to that, my story is very similar to Ady . I started my career with the credit union as a teller, and that was by choice. I was offered a loan officer position , but I wanted to be a teller because I felt like it was very important to just to really understand, like what , what are some of the concerns that people bring to the credit union or just to the banking arena? Because so many people just were not balancing those checkbooks correctly. They were thinking that somebody was taking their money. I mean, we've all heard those kinds of stories, but it was really not that at all. So just working in that capacity helped me to understand what are some of the main causes of financial problems and it's just not managing the finances well, so, so yeah, I mean, I've been in the credit union for since 1998, but one piece of advice that I would give someone is to just go in there and learn about the organization that you wanna work for. Credit unions are a great organizations to get a , a start actually. And so, and then get connected with an organization like a F C P E because they provide so many services for aspiring financial literacy and coaches and counselors that, and , and even planners that want to provide this type of service. So just getting out there, understanding, you know, the credit union and, and how they can, you know, help you get to where you wanna be and then how you can help the credit union become a better organization.

Speaker 1:

I love that Ann and I think that's so important for anyone starting out just to be in the space and really, you know, listen and start to understand the concerns that people have. I think oftentimes there can be a disconnect between the teller and the executive leadership at the top. And how do you learn by doing bring that into the organization? I think that's so smart.

Speaker 3:

It is, and credit union are just different animals all the way around because we do listen to our members. We wanna know what their concerns are. So we, you know, when we have our annual meetings, we open the floor to hear it from them. And a lot of them now is speaking up and then we're taking that , you know, their concerns in and creating new program, Rams and services to address those needs. Absolutely.

Speaker 1:

I really love the way that credit unions are really focused on community and the impact they can have. I'm curious how becoming an AFC has enabled you to better work with the community and , and enhance that impact.

Speaker 3:

I have to just, just really think back to when I first became an AFC, you can't build community with anyone or, or any organization until you understand those community needs and concerns. So the AFC taught me that the only thing that's different between, uh , one person and another is their situations. So learning about those situations really equipped me to help my credit union become a community development financial institution, because now I can look at all those concerns that I've dealt with with the various members who bought , you know , their concerns to me and I create programs and those programs could be better served in the community. So it really helped me put a focus and a lens on doing better and doing well by doing good

Speaker 1:

Janie . One thing our listeners may not know about you is that you previously served on AF CPE's board and as our treasurer, what would you say to a list ner who might be interested in serving on a nonprofit board?

Speaker 3:

So I would honestly say Rachel, that nothing beats a failure, but a try when I first became a member of a F C P E back in 1999, I was just overwhelmed with the group overwhelmed in a good way though, because a small group, but they were just so caring and they were just, it was so they were so welcoming. And so, as I said to you earlier, that's the first thing I did is I , I wanted to learn the leaders of the organizations cuz these folks would service my coaches. And it was just going out there getting to know the leaders of a F C P E board. These people were just so open. And so it just made life a lot easier for me. So my advice to someone who wants to serve is to just go and introduce yourself. Don't be afraid if you see someone just stop and, and put your hand out, hopefully we'll get back to, to being in person one day, but just put your hand out and say who you are. And, and just say, I, you know, I I'm really interested in serving, you know, how I get started and, and getting on a committee is easy. I was a reviewer once. I mean, I've done a lot with a F C P since 1999, and I'm proud to serve this organization. So I would strongly encourage anyone that wants to participate with a F C P just to do it, just to go out there and, and reach out to you. Rachel , you're very open. You're one of the nicest people I've ever met. I'm just so excited for you in your new role. And so I would just say to people, reach out to you , Rachel da on , and Rachel , you'll probably put them in touch with someone who can get them right on their way. Right?

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. Dana had such good advice. And I, I know, you know, with us not being in person the last couple years, that does make it a little harder to feel connected, but I just really wanna encourage people who are listening, whether you're involved in our membership, our certification programs, we have so many virtual opportunities and sometimes it may feel outta your comfort zone, but I just invite you to lean in and reach out. We are all about connecting here. And so, as Janie said, you can send me an email. I will get you connected, whether that's someone on staff or within the membership to support you Janie . I don't know if you've been on our connected community message board yet, but I do think that is a really just new and interesting way to get some of those questions answered and network with people outside of that. What I like to consider our family reunion every November, <laugh> wherever we're located for symposium.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. I mean, I , I was just gonna say I have no issue to this day finding folks to connect myself with as , as well as share stories and , and learn from each other. I mean, every year at the symposium, even though it's been virtual, you , you guys have created very innovative ways to get to know folks. So, you know, I've been participating in the little competitions, you know, trying to figure out how many, you know , how you get to the top and then people recognize who you are. It's just been great. And I mean, yeah, the in persons symposiums were stupendous, but doing the virtual one have been even greater. So just like any other organization, you guys create financial inclusion just by virtue of who you are. And so you bring people together, those folks come together, they learn together in a virtual environment and you're just shifting and pivoting and creating these ways for folks to just connect. I mean, it's just a great connection. And just one , one last thing I wanted to mention is said being a part of the a M C P E , and holding a membership with the organization is definitely essential to my professional standing. I look forward to the symposium every year and I enjoy serving as a mentor and still to this day, I also receive mentoring. So thank you for that connection, Rachel.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. I love that you bring that up and I'm gonna give you a little , little shout out there too. Cuz Jan very generously last year was very involved in our symposium and actually paid it forward. She won a prize for being so active within the virtual environment. And instead of using that registration for herself, she paid it forward as a mentor. And so doing something like that is, is really out. And I just really appreciate, not only have you seemed to gain a lot from , from a F C P E , but you really give a lot back and, and we really appreciate that. Well ,

Speaker 3:

Thank you, Rachel . I think any, anything starting with purpose sort of puts you is that critical first step. And, and to me a F C P E sees people first and it's just a natural way to discover design, develop solutions for our clients and, and , and to help professionals like myself. So being rooted in purpose, provide those reference points, even in challenging times, like what we're experiencing today with this global pandemic, most of us have pivoted made necessary shifts to address the needs of people and a C P continues to do that. And I think you do it because it's in your DNA.

Speaker 1:

Well, Janie , you , you did talk a little bit about a F C P E , and our passion for financial inclusion. Um , but I know this is really something you're passionate about as well. And you touched on it a little bit earlier, but I'm curious, how do you define financial inclusion and how are you advancing this work in your current role within the credit union?

Speaker 3:

Sort of like what I was saying earlier to me, financial inclusion is sort of an avenue to build community and you do that via innovative avenues for all human beings and you do that so that they can access into mainstream and do so affordably for me, it's also eliminating the impacts of what financial professionals do to help their clients make better money decisions. And so I see a FCP as a , sort of like an incubator for these types of financial leaders. And it , so , like I said before, adding a C P as a resource for financial inclusion is also key. When you think about the unbanked and underbanked population out there, they use alternative methods for financial transaction. That's very expensive and time consuming for them, you know, but something like a basic need that we take for granted, like staying in a hotel or replacing tires on your are, these are all difficult and sometimes impossible things that folks that are unbanked or underbanked experience. And it makes, you know, paying bills very difficult for them. And they pay high fees for checking accounts and, or even just making deposit. It just makes it so terribly hard for them. So having an organization like a credit union providing financial inclusion is essential to me is it is my passion. It's making sure that everyone has access to affordable financial services. Rachel , this is what gets me out of bed in the morning. And I consider myself to be a passionate credit union employee. And this is why I've remained in this industry working for, for almost 30 years

Speaker 1:

Now. I love it. And I think a lot of our listeners can relate to that as well. If you're involved in this work in this community, you're really connected to your why. And, you know, we believe that anyone, regardless of income background, you know, raise ethnicity, gender, everyone should have the same access and offers unity for financial wellbeing. And we work really hard to ensure that we're training people to, you know, meet the people we serve, where they are, look at their values, look at their goals and treat them as an individual that deserves the same opportunities as anyone else.

Speaker 3:

I couldn't have said it better. That is a great recap of why we do what we

Speaker 1:

Do. All right , Janie . So, you know, you've been part of this organization for so many years that I would be remiss to ask if you had any fond memories or stories to share, <laugh> putting you on the spot.

Speaker 3:

<laugh> yes. I do have some fun memories to share one of my most fun memories. I , I just have, I would tie 'em together. One of them was the, it was the strategic planning, gathering

Speaker 1:

Uhhuh ,

Speaker 3:

And we all had to get together as a team. And we came up with these recommendations and I created what we referred to as a F C P E connect, anytime <laugh> . Yeah . And back then we were all meeting in person and I thought, why don't we have a virtual process? This is what we need. As, you know, as an organization, we have to be innovative and we have to be open to change and look at us now. So that was one of my greatest fondest memories. But another one is one that I will always cherish. And that was meeting Cecilia Hao . She was a former a S C P E president. And when I was sitting at dinner one day and I was chalking with a friend of mine about some challenges that I had, you know, working in the field and, and how I felt like we needed some, you know, like a , a counselor needs a coach or a coach needs a coach or , or whatever. And Celia just got up with H cane and walked over to me and she said, well, if you don't ask for a coach, you won't get one. And I said, are you offering to view my personal financial coach? And she said, here's my card. Give me a call anytime . And it was the best thing that ever happened. And I wrote her a daughter, a poem because Cecil Cecilia was very, very important to me. And she always will be,

Speaker 1:

Oh, I love that. You know, March is women's history month. And as we're sort of thinking back on the meaning of, of this month, it is incredible how many wrong really incredible women helped build this organization? And a Cecilia Hao was certainly one of those.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely absolutely

Speaker 1:

Janie . At the end of each interview, we like to get the guests 2 cents or your biggest takeaway for our listeners. If you add one piece of advice to offer our financial professionals, what would it be?

Speaker 3:

I would suggest to our financial professionals to always remember that the only thing that separates us from others are our situations. When situations change, we pivot and we shift accordingly and always remember that people that are in those situations wake up just like we do. They go to sleep just like we do. They're no different from us. The only thing that makes them different are their situations.

Speaker 1:

I love that. It's so powerful. Janie , thank you so much for being on the show today. If our listeners wanna reach out, where can they connect with you? They

Speaker 3:

Can call me directly actually, or they can reach out to me@janiedotbrightatlgfcu.org .

Speaker 1:

Wonderful. Thanks again, Janie .

Speaker 3:

Thank you, Rachel.

Speaker 1:

Thanks to everyone that tuned in today. It was such an honor to interview Janie . She's been such a long time active member of the organization and offers so many great ends sites on her work in the credit union space and within the community for anyone who's been enjoying this series. I just wanna remind you that our career week is the last week in April. And at the end of that week, we will have a virtual connections fair , where you can meet with different employers to find experience hours, to earn your AFC or look for new jobs and opportunities within the field. So we encourage you to visit our website, check that out and tune in next time. Thanks so much.

Into her career journey
Working in the credit union & banking space
How being an AFC® has enhanced her impact
Her experience serving on a nonprofit board
Symposium memories and highlights
How Janie defines financial inclusion
Janie's final 2 cents