The Hill | Thursday, April 3, 2014

Angela Martin, a senior enforcement attorney at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told lawmakers at the House Financial Services Committee that she was discriminated against by managers. When she complained, she said, she was punished by being isolated from the workforce and stripped of responsibility. Martin also claimed that she had heard from dozens of other CFPB employees who felt similarly mistreated. Committee Ranking Member Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has called for a full committee hearing on issues at the CFPB with appearances from top management, including Director Cordray.

| Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Teri Williams, President & COO of OneUnited Bank stopped by Orlando Florida's Captain and Company Morning Radio Show to discuss the new Unity Visa Card, a program designed to help people build healthy credit: "That’s something important for people to not get upset or in the mindset that, you know, 'I have bad credit. I’m a bad person.' Absolutely not. What has happened, usually, is that something has happened in your life that in some cases you don’t even have control over. And so you have been doing fine, but you hit a bump in the road... [The Unity Visa] is a credit card, but more than that, it’s also information to help you figure out credit – to really get the skinny on how it works, so that you can better measure your credit going forward."

St. Louis Federal Reserve | Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A new study from the St. Louis Fed concludes that there is a strong future for community banks and that those most likely to prosper will be those most committed to maintaining risk control standards and whose business plans are well-tailored to their communities. The study uses balance sheet and income statement ratios to identify features that are most associated with thriving community banks. The banks most likely to thrive were small (less than $100 million in assets), rural (agricultural loans have been unusually strong lately), had lower total loan-to-total assets ratios, had more concentration in consumer loans, and had less concentration in construction, land development, commercial real estate, commercial and industrial loans.

New York Times | Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Big bank executives are opening experimental branches which use technology to provide more services in less space than a traditional branch. The pilot programs engineered by Bank of America and Citigroup resemble Apple stores, with employees holding tablets and tending to customers. JPMorgan found its customers headed to branches for advice rather than to simply go to the tellers. So their experimental branches focus on new express banking kiosks – A.T.M.s, with additional functionality and large flat screens – rather than the teller line. JPMorgan is also testing new ways of replacing debit card swipes at A.T.M.s, including technology that authenticates identity by scanning irises and palms.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Dividend | Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Minneapolis Fed profiled Sunrise Banks' investments in local arts and culture in a recent article. Since 2002, Sunrise Banks has worked with Free Arts Minnesota, an organization that uses arts-based mentorship to help at-risk youth express themselves. Sunrise Banks CEO David Reiling advocates a multifaceted approach to community development: “Banks can make loans, which is more straightforward. But they can also provide contributions or offer volunteer time.” Sunrise provides Free Arts a line of credit and operating accounts. The has bank also contributed through its corporate giving program and employees volunteer at the organization’s largest fundraiser.

New York Times | Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Assertions that virtual payments and currencies are on the verge of displacing greenbacks may be premature. More greenbacks are now in circulation than at any time in recent history. Since January 2006, the amount of United States currency in circulation rose about 64 percent, to $1.2 trillion. But at the same time, cash transactions are declining as consumers rely more on debit and credit cards, suggesting that demand for dollars may be driven by hoarders rather than spenders. Americans are also writing half as many checks as they did a decade ago. The number of bank branches, however, has remained relatively stable.

Bloomberg Businessweek | Monday, March 31, 2014

Alternative lenders such as OnDeck and CAN Capital still rely on old-fashioned loan brokers to find their borrowers despite their high-tech packaging. These loan brokers are independent agents who funnel cash-strapped business owners to be sold high-cost loans. They charge sky-high commissions, usually hidden from merchants, which can double the cost of the loan. Some worry the brokers steer costly loans to small businesses that can’t afford them. “It’s a direct parallel to what happened in the subprime mortgage space,” says Mark Pinsky, CEO of CDFI advocacy group Opportunity Finance Network.

The Helena World | Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Delta Bridge Project, an initiative backed by Southern Bancorp which coordinates community and economic development efforts in three Arkansas and Mississippi counties, recently unveiled new tourist-friendly way-finding signs in Helena, Ark. The signs are part of Civil War Helena, a tourism promotion which highlights Helena’s numerous Civil War attractions. Southern Bancorp and its partners have invested heavily in Phillips County’s tourism industry in order to diversify the economy and create new economic opportunities in the region. “Civil War Helena is expected to attract over 60,000 annual visitors and create over 40 tourism-related jobs,” stated Cathy Cunningham, a consultant with Southern Bancorp. 

American Banker | Thursday, March 27, 2014

Maria Contreras-Sweet, founder and chair of CDFI Bank ProAmérica Bank, has been confirmed by the Senate as the new head of the U.S. Small Business Administration. ProAmérica Bank, which she founded in 2006, serves small and mid-size Latino businesses in the Los Angeles area. Contreras-Sweet fills a role vacated by Karen Mills, who stepped down from the post in August. "Small Business will have a strong advocate in Administrator Contreras-Sweet, a leader with her finger on the pulse of small-business lending," Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said.

Time | Wednesday, March 26, 2014

When Carlos Schulte contributed $300 on Kickstarter to Oculus VR, a small but ambitious virtual reality gaming startup, he never expected it to sell out to Facebook for $2 billion. The $300 contribution bought him an early version of the company's gaming platform, but no equity in the company. The passionate online response against the Facebook purchase illustrates how the ethos of crowdfunding can clash with the corporate world. Some contributors fear the purchase will steer the company away from the gamer-friendly vision they had contributed to. Others argue that the sale is the most egregious example yet of crowdfunding's one-sidedness. Two venture capital firms which made early equity investments in the project received a 2,000% return. At that multiple, Mr. Schulte's contribution would have been worth $6000 today.