By Ryan Velez
Atlanta Black Star reports a Black-owned bank in Brownville on the edge of collapse has received a new chance at success from a rather unlikely source—a firm based in Ghana.
Groupe Ndoum has invested $9 million into the Illinois Service Federal Savings and Loan Association, now known as ISF Bank, Ghana Web reports. At the time, the Chicago-area bank was struggling to obtain capital in hope of infusing life into its operation.
According to a statement on the bank’s website, “Our mission is to be a viable, growing, community development financial services institution responding innovatively to our primarily underserved and minority constituency with customer service which ensures each customer feels they are our only customer,” the bank’s website reads.”
Groupe Ndoum operates out of West Africa and the United Kingdom, with over 3,000 employees. The firm is involved with entities in the tourism, financial services, media, cross border trade, and media industries.
Company president and chairman Dr. Papa Kwesi Ndoum mentioned that the acquisition of ISF Bank was not only a landmark for the company, but “a major step for Africans” as well, hoping that other African- Americans and Africans would work together.
“In the Jewish community, they find a way to help each other, and they have moved on,” Ndoum said at a Chicago town hall meeting of Africans and African-Americans. “The Chinese start with little and move on, and the Koreans also come here and move on,” he explained. “So, we have this idea: What is it about African-Americans, Africans, specifically Ghanaians?…. The African has talent, the African-American has talent, the Ghanaian has talent; the problem is a lack of opportunity.”
Former ISF Chairman and CEO, Norman J. Williams, was also happy to welcome the business’s new proprietors. “This marks a new chapter in the life of the bank, which will enable it to sustain the rigors of financial stress that have plagued many communities in Chicago and continue to provide much-needed banking services and access to credit,” Williams said. “Given the current climate in our country, the bank is needed more than ever to provide financial services and drive redevelopment in our market.”
Black-owned banks have been a important part of Black communities dating all the way to the Jim Crow era, providing essential support to Black entrepreneurs, businesses, and institutions. Despite this, they have slowly been declining over the years, from 130 between 1888 and 1934 to 48 in 2001, to only 22 remaining today.