It was a community effort!
The first ever Black-owned Minnesota bank has opened in Minneapolis, MPR News reports.
First Independence Bank is a Detroit-based financial institute and one of only a handful of Black-owned banks in the country. Recently, the company expanded outside of Michigan for the first time ever, opening a location in Minneapolis and making history as the first ever Black-owned bank to open in Minnesota.
CEO Kenneth Kelly said the motivation in bringing First Independence to Minnesota was to tackle the city’s wealth disparities head on. Minnesota has some of the widest income gaps in the nation and a long history of discriminatory loan practices that have disproportionately affected Black families and stunted Black wealth in the city. That’s why it was really important to First Independence to see if they could be of help.
“You know, we’re really going to be a servant to the community and what that looks like is really striving to build stewards of banking,” said First Independence vice president Damon Jenkins.
But before anything could take place, it took a community effort to help bring First Independence to the Twin Cities, starting with the location. Wells Fargo donated the building to Project for Pride in Living, a local nonprofit. That organization then decided to lease the building to First Independence. Business advocacy group Great MSP and four other banks, including Bank of America, Bremer Bank, Huntington Bank and U.S. Bank, also came together to help convince First Independence to expand to the area, despite the potential competition. The idea is that it’s going to take a long list of corporations in finance working together to ensure diversity comes to the financial sector.
“It’s really, really important to understand that to close the racial wealth gap, it’s going to take all of us. It’s not a one-bank solution, it’s not a five-bank solution, heck, it’s not a 20-bank solution. So we all need to work together to help institutions like First Independence grow and succeed and thrive. There’s enough business to go around,” said Danielle Squires, head of diverse segments for corporate investment and banking at Wells Fargo.
Wells Fargo has also invested $50 million into banks owned and operated by people of color, a gesture they hope will help move the needle forward. While that may be one aspect, Jenkins, a previous Wells Fargo executive in the Twin Cities, says the focus for First Independence is financial wellness and home ownership.
“First pillar is financial wellness. We have to get the resources in people’s hands, so they can understand banking, but more importantly so that they can trust banking again. And then the other thing is homeownership, you know we’re really striving to get more Black people into homes, knowing that here in the state that’s our biggest opportunity, with us having the worst discrepancy for homeownership in the nation for Black people,” Jenkins explained.
Project for Pride in Living’s CEO, Paul Williams, spoke about the importance of the expansion for the area, noting that he hopes it inspires even more offerings in the region like affordable housing and various amenities.
“We view this expansion as an effort that builds capabilities and muscle in communities of color, in the Black community for the long haul…Our folks deserve to be here,” said Williams.
The new First Independence Bank is located near Highway 280 and University Avenue. Already the company is planning to open a second branch at Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue in south Minneapolis this coming June.
Photo Courtesy of Tim Nelson/MPR News