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The Big Bank Theory Brings Real World Finances to Central Florida Teens

October 27, 2022
Tim Coop
Tim Coop

Should I purchase a new luxury vehicle to travel to work, or should I ride the bus? Can I afford to live in a downtown apartment alone, or will I need roommates? These might be common questions for a 25-year-old, but across Manatee County, Florida this fall, it will be high school seniors evaluating these options during The Big Bank Theory.


The Big Bank Theory

Hancock Whitney bankers provide financial guidance and advice to participants in The Big Bank Theory, an immersive financial education program for high school students in Manatee County, Florida.


Presented by the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Hancock Whitney, The Big Bank Theory is an immersive financial education simulation that introduces students to the realities of being a financially responsible adult, challenging them to make real world decision about housing, transportation, food, insurance, childcare and more. 


Business-Led Solution

The Big Bank Theory was born in the early 2000s from the local Manatee County business community who at the time was encountering new, young employees who lacked confidence managing their financial lives. Businesses realized that by ensuring students at local high schools mastered basic money management, they could develop stronger employees and consumers. “The business community brought forth this idea to the chamber and have been champions for the last decade,” shared Manatee County Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Jacki Dezelski. “This was an opportunity for the business community to be part of the solution and make a difference for local students.”

In 2010, after two years of research and prep work, the Manatee Chamber piloted The Big Bank Theory at one Manatee County high school. Now, more than a decade later, the program reaches more than 3,000 seniors at each of Manatee County’s eight high schools. More incredible is the business community support and the 400 volunteers representing 100-plus companies who participate annually.


Real World Experience

The Big Bank Theory is best described as a real world version of The Game of Life. Students receive a random profile with a career, salary, marital and family status. Then, they must navigate through a series of financial decisions by visiting 14 different stations where they encounter various life scenarios.

“The goal of The Big Bank Theory is to create a higher level of awareness about budgeting and financial-decision making, which students may be facing on their own within a few months of participating in the program, whether at college or in the workforce,” said Dezelski.

Students face decisions such as choosing between buying a home, renting a home, or sharing an apartment with roommates; owning a vehicle or taking public transportation; and purchasing insurance or not. Students are also required to visit the "that's life" booth, which deals them a random life event ranging from an unexpected trip to the ER to winning the lottery. Hancock Whitney bankers volunteer at the financial institution booth and are able to provide guidance and advice to students based on their specific profile.

“It is absolutely an eye opening experience to the realities of adulthood,” said Dezelski. “Many students will have that aha moment and say ‘I had no idea my parents had to make these decisions every month.’ It brings about a level of understanding and appreciation for parents and guardians. We also hope the experience generates a ripple effect with students sharing their learnings with their families.”


Partners for Strong Futures

For the last five years, Hancock Whitney has proudly served as presenting sponsor of the Big Bank Theory. The partnership supports the bank’s purpose of creating opportunities for people and the communities it serves. The Manatee Chamber agrees that the partnership is mutually beneficial. “Hancock Whitney not only supports The Big Bank Theory through associate volunteers—they are great about getting their local team involved and can share expertise on the fly with the students of the realities the simulation brings to life—but they also provide critical funding to help ensure we bring this to all high schools in Manatee County,” said Dezelski.

Hancock Whitney Manatee/Sarasota Market President Mike Moschella adds, “At Hancock Whitney, we understand the importance of financial education and how it can positively impact someone’s future. We are proud to be involved in such a unique initiative and hope these efforts help empower the next generation of business owners, homeowners and fiscally responsible citizens.”


Learn more about Hancock Whitney’s community commitment.