Robert James II, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Carver State Bank, testified to the House Committee on Small Business on May 18. The hearing was convened to introduce Members of Congress to CDFIs and MDIs and to discuss the impact these institutions make in their communities, especially with respect to supporting local entrepreneurs. Mr. James' testimony begins around the 30:40 mark.
As bank CEOs serving side by side in local markets, we strive to create wealth, share risk and meet the financial needs of the entire community. We understand that our organizations exist to serve customers and we grow when access to the financial pie expands to include everyone. When groups and neighborhoods do not have access to the financial system it affects all of us. Last fall, our teams began a dialogue through a series of conference calls. The goal: to spur economic activity in communities where access to the financial system has historically been limited. Both of our banks — Regions Bank in Birmingham, Alabama, and Commonwealth National Bank in Mobile, Alabama — have resources that, leveraged appropriately, could create better outcomes. The ultimate result of those conversations is a greater understanding of how our institutions operate, the shared challenges we face, and a partnership intended to strengthen our communities and our own institutions in the process.
A white loan applicant and Black loan applicant each walked into a D.C.-area bank. But there's little humor to their outcomes — what one walked out with was far different from the other, per a study last year done at the height of the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program. It was in early in the second round of PPP funding, which started April 27, 2020. Both applicants were seeking information on the crucial forgivable loans that were keeping so many small businesses alive through the pandemic. Yet, the Black applicant was told by a local bank representative that no PPP information could be provided and was instead referred to another branch. The white applicant? Got a recommendation for a business line of credit and instructions on how to apply for a business credit card with the bank — a "great option," the bank representative said. City First Bank is mentioned.
The past 12 months were interesting for publicly traded companies, including those based in Mississippi. Nine of the top public companies on the Mississippi Business Journal's 15 top public companies list are banking institutions. M. Ray (Hoppy) Cole, president/CEO of The First, A National Banking Association headquartered in Hattiesburg, is also positive. “Our company performed extremely well during 2020, which is a testament to the commitment by our team members to focusing on client service and being nimble; that is being able to change quickly to maintain our high level of service,” he said. “We had a good year with solid asset growth, significantly improved earnings and strong credit quality metrics.”
Central Bank of Kansas City (CBKC) has supported small businesses and individuals for over 70 years. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the locally owned bank has supported its community by administering Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, feeding senior citizens, supporting local classrooms and sharing financial education resources. Since 1998, CBKC has been proud to be a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). The CDFI Fund is a U.S. Treasury initiative to increase economic opportunity and promote community development investments for underserved populations and in distressed communities.
CDBA and 9 other banking trades last week sent a letter to Acting Comptroller Blake Paulson supporting his efforts to add more objectivity and transparency to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) framework while also asking that he formally withdraw the June 2020 OCC Rule or delay its January 2023 compliance date.
Through the CARES Act, Congress ordered the Small Business Administration and the Treasury Department to issue guidance to lenders to ensure that the loan program "prioritizes small business concerns and entities in underserved and rural markets." Yet a Reveal analysis of more than 5 million PPP loans found widespread racial disparities in how those loans were distributed. In the vast majority of metro areas with a population of 1 million or more, the rate of lending to majority-white neighborhoods was higher than the rates for any neighborhoods with Latino, Black or Asian majorities.
Quontic, a bank headquartered in New York City, refers to itself as an "adaptive digital bank." Ever since CEO Steven Schnall purchased the former Golden First Bank in 2009, the entrepreneur and former mortgage banker has been molding the bank to reflect his vision. "Part of the thesis when I bought the bank was that brick-and-mortar retail bank branches were ultimately going to die out, and people, consumers in particular, would want to bank online," he said. The bank, a certified community development financial institution (CDFI), started off with a focus on nonqualified mortgage lending, Schnall said.
The Federal Reserve will conduct a national survey of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) from March 22-April 23. Participating CDFIs will be asked questions about their capitalization, capacity and the impact of COVID-19 on their organizations, clients and communities. The Federal Reserve Board of Governors, Federal Reserve Banks and the CDFI Fund intend to use the survey data to inform research and policymaking. The survey data will also provide important benchmark information on how CDFIs are faring in the COVID-19 crisis and how they are serving low-income and minority populations. Finally, responses will be used to update a national CDFI directory for business, government, community leaders, investors and policymakers.
The current movement for racial reconciliation has raised awareness of the centuries-long wealth gap in America between whites and people of color—and of the role Black-owned banks can play to bridge it. Even if you don’t have a team of money managers or hundreds of millions to shift to Black-owned institutions, you can still start an account with a bank dedicated to investing in underserved communities. Banks mentioned include Carver Federal Savings Bank, City First Bank, First Independence Bank, and OneUnited Bank.