“It’s shocking that a bank like this doesn’t already exist,” said John Hope Bryant, CEO of Operation HOPE, a nonprofit that helps unbanked consumers open checking accounts and improve credit scores. Black consumers are underrepresented at traditional banks. Trust, Regions Bank, and others have partnered with Atlanta-based Operation Hope to assign branch workers to help consumers of color open accounts and to provide financial literacy lessons.
Black people are also largely missing from the largest banks’ executive suites. Ameris Bank, the second-largest bank headquartered in Georgia with 2,600 employees, has a total of two Black directors and executives. To address the issue, the Atlanta-based bank in August named Karlene Gordon its first diversity and inclusion officer.
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Greenwood has several Black executives, including co-founder and chairman Ryan Glover, founder of Bounce TV, and former Bank of America executive Aparicio Giddins. Render promoted Black-owned banks after the 2016 shootings of Black men in Minnesota and Texas. He has been outspoken about racial justice during this year’s riots and protests. He met with Gov. Brian Kemp last month to discuss a push to increase minority participation in state contracts.
Greenwood sees an opportunity to collect deposits. Costco and Netflix pledged to shift millions of dollars in deposits to Black-owned banks. The U.S. Treasury Department encourages local governments to deposit money at minority-owned banks. Deposits are the lifeblood of any bank, fueling lending, where banks make most of their profits. Greenwood plans to originate small business loans, car loans, and home mortgages.
“Georgia is a state that’s 30% African-American,” Render said. “We think we deserve 30% of the state’s deposits as well.” Its products will include the Apple Pay and Android Pay digital wallets, and peer-to-peer money transfer services like Venmo. Greenwood will use an unnamed larger bank’s regulatory charter to conduct business and access federal deposit insurance. It’s a common business model among digital banks like Chime and SoFi.
The new bank isn’t about just making a profit for Greenwood and its investors, Render said. Big banks will follow Greenwood’s lead, helping communities of color. “The big banks are going to have to do things” to keep pace with Greenwood, he said. “That’s the beauty of capitalism.”
By Andy Peters, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution