At a time when there is increased doubt about the continued existence of several Black-owned banks, the nation’s largest Black bank, OneUnited, is making efforts not only to remain on the scene for the long term, but also to maintain and enhance their status in the future.
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OneUnited will unveil a large mural on the facade of its branch in Liberty City next month, according to Madame Noire. The OneUnited Mural Project, which was created by a local artist, Addonis Parker, and a group of 21 teenage interns, is aimed at developing and encouraging aspiring young artists. It is one of the ways through which the leading African-American bank aims to remain relevant on the banking scene in the years ahead, despite the challenges that threaten the continued existence of Black-owned banks.
“OneUnited does things in the community that’s different from what other banks do,” OneUnited President Teri Williams told Madame Noire.
Williams thinks Black banks need to continue to come up with new ways to serve for them to survive and remain relevant, especially because “Black banks have a history of servicing the communities” they are in.
OneUnited is working not only to improve its banking services, but also to take community service more seriously — the art internship program is a good display of this. The bank never provided subprime loans and has recently introduced a Unity Visa credit card to help its customers rebuild credit. It sponsors a summer school program and has announced that it will be sponsoring a startup event taking place in the Roxbury section of Boston.
In less than 30 years, unfriendly economic conditions have forced the majority of Black-owned banks in America to close up shop or undergo a change in ownership structure. In a piece for Crain’s New York Business, Aaron Elstein noted that three-quarters of the 91 African-American banks in the U.S. have disappeared between 1987 and now.
Carver Federal Savings, which was established in 1948, is the biggest casualty so far. Once considered a favorite among many African-Americans, the bank was forced to receive federal assistance after incurring significant losses as a result of harsh economic conditions and bad decisions. The federal government intervention effectively put an end to Carver’s status as the largest Black-owned bank, with African-Americans becoming minority shareholders.
The change in the ownership structure of Carver has now made OneUnited the largest Black-owned bank in the country. The institution has branches in Miami, Los Angeles and Boston, with $620 million in assets.
Williams said it is essential for people to bank with any financial institution they trust, adding that African-American banks are considered worthy of trust in their communities.