Fifteen years ago, the Senate passed a resolution recognizing the month of April as a time to "highlight the importance of financial literacy and teach Americans how to establish and maintain healthy financial habits." However, research may now suggest that such programs may not be that impactful. Moreover, for many people the issue is not lack of financial knowledge, but rather the conditions of extreme inequality and income volatility that keep them down. The reality is, people who have money woes tend to already be keenly aware of their problems. For this reason, Jennifer Tescher, CEO of the Center for Financial Services Innovation, argues that we need more than uplifting content to guide people back to financial health.
Banking has radically changed in recent years with technology giving rise to mostly virtual, impersonal interactions. However, community banks, and their characteristic personal touch, are still vitally important to many across the nation. And they should be, because even though they are traditionally smaller banks, they make up a staggering 92 percent of all banks in the nation. So what is it about these institutions that make them so popular? Here, Abrigo's Kylee Wooten seeks to answer that question in five ways.
The Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund was created under the Clinton Administration, but its roots are much deeper than that. No one knows those roots better than Clifford Rosenthal, who recently completed "Democratizing Finance: Origins of the Community Development Financial Institutions Movement," a 556-page history of mission-driven lending and investing in the United States. "What is totally unique about the CDFI Fund in policy history is that it provides capital — not loans, but discretionary capital — to build your balance sheet," says Rosenthal.
Earlier this month, Next City and CDBA member Community Bank of the Bay joined forces to host the annual Spaces and Places conference. This event, designed as an "unconference," intends to shine a light on community development issues affecting communities of color. These are issues often ignored by urban planners and design communities, but are nonetheless in dire need of attention. This year's workshop explored collective and cooperative power, affordability in housing, homelessness, climate change displacement and environmental justice, and the needs of black cultural districts. The recorded stream of the event is available here.
The recent #BankBlack social media campaign has brought black banking back into the national consciousness. The movement has inspired thousands of people across the country to transfer or deposit millions of dollars into black-owned banks for the first time. With this support, black-owned banks invest in urban communities, employ African Americans, and inspire black home ownership. For those considering making the change, here is a list of 13 banks to consider, including CDBA members United Bank, Industrial Bank, Harbor Bank of Maryland, Broadway Federal Bank, OneUnited Bank, Carver State Bank, First Independence Bank, GN Bank, and Metro Bank.
Washington, DC's historic U Street has served a long tenure as the vibrant heart of African American culture and entrepreneurship in the city. And after countless historical turning points and ensuing riots, three black-owned businesses have weathered decades-long hurdles to offer a glimpse into the tight-knit community and bustling neighborhood as it once stood. Ben's Chili Bowl, Lee's Flower Shop and CDBA member Industrial Bank all opened their doors in the mid-1900s and are still run by the second, third, and fourth generations of the same families. They maintain tight, intertwining bonds as they've grown and endured challenges on U Street over the years.
This month, South Carolina Community Bank officially changed its name to Optus Bank. The bank will also complete its conversion to a new core banking system and upgraded products and services on May 13th. The new brand is designed to highlight progress made by the bank, which was removed last March from the FDIC's troubled bank list. In 2018, the bank realized its first year of profitability and growth in 10 years, according to a news release from Optus. "We purposefully delayed the name change until the bank was healthy, profitable and able to deliver on our brand promise," said Optus president and CEO Dominik Mjartan. "The progress we made in 2018 positions us to fully live our new brand."
At first glance, a "video teller" installed in New Hebron may seem more impersonal than a traditional bank branch. However, for Peoples Bank this new bit of technology has allowed bankers to personally interact with a whole new set of customers. The machine, stationed in a location far from a physical branch, allows customers to live video chat with a real teller at another nearby Peoples Bank location. "We typically have two to three different employees who are serving that role as a live teller," said Ashley M. Jones, vice president of marketing. "The tellers on our end are enjoying the relationship that they have established...And for our customers, it is always nice to see a familiar face on the other end. It is comforting."
Many bank executives are excited about the benefits created by Opportunity Zones. However, other banks are still wondering if participation in them is even feasible. CDBA's Jeannine Jacokes offers her insights in this special report from American Banker. The article also features CDBA members Dominik Mjartan of Optus Bank, Tom Nida of City First Bank, Adam Northup of Virginia Community Capital, and Bill Dana of the Central Bank of Kansas City, all of whom support stronger regulations for Opportunity Zone projects.
Banks have made more than $1 trillion in community development lending from 1996 to 2017, benefiting low- and moderate-income communities, as a result of Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) requirements. While this level of financing is impressive, we do not know enough about where it is going in order to determine whether it is targeted effectively to the most underserved and distressed communities. In other words, we need better data. In a recent speech at the 2019 Just Economy Conference, Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard suggested that data on community development financing is crucial to assess whether banks are properly responding to neighborhood needs with their CRA financing.