Banks reaching out to underserved communities.

South Carolina banks are increasingly reaching out to those who may not have taken advantage of banking services in the past, and there are indications that those efforts are paying dividends.

"It's one very important aspect of life in general that people aren't taught," said Antonio Lynch, financial literacy coach in Capital Bank's Main Street office in Columbia.

Lynch works with customers who may not have a bank account or banking services which address their financial needs.

"I've had situations where people are paying 18% on a vehicle paying twice as much as what a vehicle actually costs, and they just don't know what they're doing," he said.

Lynch, who said he once lacked financial literacy, said he started learning about the necessity of banking his money when he wanted to buy a house. Now he works at Capital Bank's Operation HOPE office, sharing his wisdom and experience with others.

Operation HOPE strives to help people improve their financial literacy along with their credit scores. It launched its first S.C. branch in Columbia last month, with counselors helping consumers establish what founder and chairman John Hope Bryant called "relationship capital."

"If you never got the memo on financial literacy or economics or ownership or entrepreneurship and no one in your household was in business,if no one ever taught you how money works, then it's what you don't know that you don't know that's killing you," Bryant said at a news conference celebrating the opening of Operation HOPE's Columbia office. "People don't understand why they're not getting the opportunity to become a homeowner, start a business, become an entrepreneur, to send their kid to college. Why are they being told no?"

Operation Hope is part of a partnership with Capital Bank's parent company, First Horizon. The Columbia location is Operation Hope's 22nd office within the First Horizon network.

"People that don't have a bank account are living check-to-check," Lynch said. "They're keeping money in their pockets, and the end result leaves them spending more money and not having a savings account. They don't have an opportunity or a way to build towards their future or their kids' future."

But the situation is improving for many facing those challenges. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households, 10.5% of South Carolina residents did not use banking services in 2013. The percentage of unbanked in the state fell to 6.7%...

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