Students learn to manage money during Bank Day

Jessica Sims, 18, a senior at Skyline High School, listens to Elizabeth Cottrell, chairman of the board, speak during Bank Day at First Bank's Operation Center in Strasburg on Tuesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – First Bank invited area high school seniors from Shenandoah, Warren and Frederick counties to learn about the banking industry, financial services and the role banks play in their communities as part of the Virginia Bankers Association’s Bank Day scholarship program on Tuesday.

Dennis Dysart, First Bank president and chief operating officer, spoke to the students about the changes happening within the banking industry and how community banks give back to their communities through community service projects.

First Bank, he said, was founded in 1907 and operates 14 branches, one loan production office and an operations center, employing about 150 people serving the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia.

He told students that the number of banks nationwide is decreasing due to consolidation, but financial assets are increasing. In 1985 there were about 15,000 banks, now there are about 5,000 banks due increased regulations on banks.  Another major change in the industry is the increase in non-personal delivery options, including online and mobile banking.

Dysart added the bottom line isn’t everything to small banks. Many community banks, including First Bank, find ways to give back to their communities and help the people they serve.

Elaine Mintschenko, assistant vice president/resources manager at First Bank, gives interview tips to area high school seniors during their visit to the bank's Operations Center in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

In 2017, First Bank gave $46,000 to United Way, donated over 200 hours of community service, donated over $33,000 in charitable donations and donated over $5,000 in scholarships.

First Bank Chief Financial Officer Shane Bell explained how the students can begin to think about their financial future and how to earn, save and invest, protect, spend and borrow smart.

He said to begin building credit early in order to be better prepared for life events, such as college, buying a car, renting and buying a home. He also advised them to be aware of identity theft.

Money isn’t everything, he added. As the seniors begin to think about possible career options, they shouldn’t focus on finding a job with the highest salary. Enjoying what you do is more important, he advised.

“Think about what you love to do,” he said.

Elizabeth Cottrell, chairman of the board for First Bank, speaks to a pair of Skyline High School seniors during Bank Day. Rich Cooley/Daily

Elizabeth Cottrell, who was elected chairwoman of the Board of Directors to First National Corporation and its banking subsidiary First Bank last year, spoke about ways to save and why the banking industry needs informed, talented people.

“We certainly need you in the industry,” she told them, noting they provide value, both professionally and personally.

Cottrell is the first woman chairperson on the board.  “I brought a real love and knowledge of the community,” she said about why she believes she was selected as chairwoman.

“I am both humbled and honored,” she added.

She said another reason she was selected to the board was because she showed up to every meeting prepared and served as an ambassador for the bank to the community.

Amelia Guthrie, 18, a Strasburg High School senior, listens to a speaker. Rich Cooley/Daily

Also on Tuesday, Cottrell gave tips on managing money, such as pay yourself first through saving, spend your money wisely and urged the students to know themselves and their attitude about money. She advised that they practice self-discipline when spending.

Elaine Mintschenko, First Bank’s Human Resources manager,  prepped the students for future interviews in today’s job market. She advised them to complete the application with correct punctuation and professional references because “this is representing you.”

She also said first impressions matter. Dress in appropriate clothing, maintain engaged body language, be aware of facial expressions and begin and end with a firm handshake.

Mintschenko also advised students to research the company and job position before the interview and to be concise and show enthusiasm about the job.

“Be excited about the opportunity,” she said. “Be genuine, be yourself.”

Lisa Rutherford, director of human resources, told students how to apply for the Virginia Bankers Association Bank Day scholarship.

The students are expected to write an essay for a scholarship about what they learned during Bank Day. Seven scholarships will be awarded, along with six honorable mention scholarships, totaling $26,000 in scholarship money. The essay topic is, “What did you learn on Bank Day that will help you manage your financial future and what did you learn about how banks support their communities?

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com