The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) today named Sultan Meghji as the agency's first Chief Innovation Officer, charged with leading the FDIC's efforts to promote the adoption of innovative technologies across the financial services sector. Mr. Meghji co-founded Neocova, a financial technology firm providing secure, cloud-native, artificial intelligence-based software for community banks and credit unions. In addition, he worked on an aid mission to help implement digital banking in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, and worked with fintechs and central banks to create peer-to-peer banking solutions for hundreds of thousands of people in underserved areas of Africa and Central Asia.
City First Bank is pleased to announce that Sonja Sanders Wells has been promoted from Senior Vice President, Interim Chief Lending Officer to Executive Vice President & Chief Lending Officer (CLO), leading the commercial banking group. Sonja Wells is the only African American woman to hold a CLO position at a bank in Washington, DC. In fine tradition, Ms. Wells follows in the trailblazing footsteps of City First’s selection of its first CLO, Ms. Kim Saunders in 1998, alongside the founding President & CEO, Ms. Debbi Baptist Hurd -- rare Black women executives positioned in the C-suite echelon of the banking industry.
An NBC News analysis last year of PPP data, census records and a leading economic distress indicator show that struggling American communities received less from the PPP program proportionally than the country's wealthier and more vibrant neighborhoods. Economically distressed communities — in which minorities make up a greater share of the population than more prosperous communities — fared worse than the country's wealthiest communities when it came to getting Paycheck Protection Program loans. Shortly after the PPP got more funding from Congress in late April, the SBA began to position CDFIs as the ticket to reaching minority small-business owners. The second infusion of capital, which came in April, allocated $10 billion in PPP loans for CDFIs alone. When the second round reopened last month, CDFIs were given the first draw of funds from the SBA.
For the second time in his career, entrepreneur Ken LaRoe decided to start a bank after being inspired by a book he read. This time it was "Drawdown" by Paul Hawken, and the new bank LaRoe seeks to open, to be called Climate First Bank, would enact some of the environmental principles it lays out. LaRoe chose Finastra as his primary tech partner based on its commitment to climate change as well as its ease of use and overall customer experience. The bank is expected to open in St. Petersburg, Fla., in May, provided it receives the necessary federal and state approvals, LaRoe said. In an interview, LaRoe shared how he plans to incorporate environmental principles at his new bank and how and why he chose the new company's core system.
Black-owned businesses were among the last to receive paycheck protection loans last year. Now, some businesses are turning to banks that specialize in working with Black and brown customers. Carver State Bank, was founded 94 years ago with a goal of building financial freedom for its African American customers. Eighty percent of its loans go to Black-owned businesses. Robert James, who sits on the bank's board, says he received PPP applications from around the country, most looking for less than $50,000.
Of the roughly 30 million small businesses in the United States, 22 million are individually operated, meaning the owner is the sole employee, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There are few concrete numbers for how many of those businesses have permanently closed in the past year, but some early estimates have put the figure anywhere from 80,000 to 160,000. It will likely take years for the full extent of damage from the pandemic to be felt in the broader economy. The pandemic has shaken even the most prepared business owners, and nonwhite business owners have been hit especially hard. If the incoming Biden administration and the banking sector want the country to bounce back from this crisis, there will have to be a renewed focus on how we approach small-business credit in general, and how we foster nonwhite business creation in particular.
The American Dream has evolved just as America has evolved, but today, homeownership has emerged as the primary public policy tool for helping Americans achieve wealth and self-reliance. Nearly two-thirds of the nation's 140 million housing units are owner-occupied, conferring an average net housing wealth to those owners of over $150,000.
This is a statistical way of saying that buying a home is the main way Americans obtain real, tangible wealth. But white Americans today enjoy the equity-building benefits of homeownership at significantly greater rates than nonwhites. In the third quarter of 2020, 46% of Black households owned their own home, compared with 51% of Hispanic households, 61% for Asians and 76% for whites, according to data from the Census Bureau. And that racial gap in homeownership is actually greater today than it was in 1968, when the Fair Housing Act outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion and national origin.
NCIF invited 10 partner CDFI and Minority Banks to identify small business customers that are integral to their local communities and needed support to sustain their respective businesses through the pandemic. NCIF used over $100,000 of its own funds to pilot an unrestricted microgrant program as gap funding to these customers. Our first batch of microgrants was given to social entrepreneurs, retail businesses, community facilities, affordable housing organizations, arts nonprofits, and other small businesses across the country. These CDBA members are First Southwest Bank, Carver Federal Savings Bank, City First Bank of DC, Community Bank of the Bay, First Eagle Bank, Industrial Bank, Native American Bank, Providence Bank & Trust, Southern Bancorp, and United Bank.
Structural racism and the persistent racial wealth gaps are at the forefront of many public policy debates today, and a big part of that debate is how to increase diversity in employment practices. These problems — and debates over remedies — are alive and well in the financial service industry. A recent report of the majority staff at the House Financial Services Committee noted that the financial services industry "remains mostly white and male," concluding that "more work is needed." Numerous research reports show that racial and ethnic diversity leads to greater productivity and profitability, attraction of more talented employees and greater innovation, among other benefits.
When people come to live in the U.S. from other countries, they often don't have an American credit history, identification or other typical requirements of the account-opening or loan process. But community banks are finding ways to serve this growing population while mitigating credit and compliance hurdles. Spring Bank and Sunrise Banks are featured in this article.