Faculty News

Exploring Barriers in Banking

Terri Friedline, associate professor in the School of Social Work, focuses her research on banking and finances—specifically how banks and the financial system create barriers that make it more difficult for people to get access to things necessary to participate in an economy, like a bank account.

In this episode of Michigan Minds, Friedline explains the research she has been conducting for the past few years about those barriers and who they impact. In March, she began working with colleagues to interview bank tellers, branch managers, and other general bank employees about how they were responding to their customers.

“We interviewed bankers around the country. We asked them about their customers and the financial difficulties they were having, and what they were doing to respond,” she says.

Friedline says they found that bank employees were providing recommendations to customers to overdraft their accounts if they need to pay bills or need extra credit, which is something that has longterm implications—especially for customers who are already financially struggling.

“A lot of the ways that banks apply overdraft is discretionary. We know that kind of discretionary decision making is a really slippery slope to discrimination. Some of my past work has found that banks tend to charge higher overdraft fees, higher costs, and fees more generally when they have branches that are located in black and brown communities relative to those branches in white communities,” Friedline says.

Through her work, she wants to help people understand the financial institutions that are taking advantage of marginalized groups, and share ways that people can advocate for a financial system revolution that changes the policies to be more fair for everyone.

Learn more from Friedline in this episode of Michigan Minds.