First Independence Bank opens Twin Cities branch | Business


Detroit-based First Independence Bank, one of 18 full-service black-owned banks in the country, will open its first Twin Cities branch in November, becoming the only black-owned and controlled bank in Minnesota.

First Independence Bank is the 7th largest black-owned commercial bank in the United States. It offers a variety of banking services ranging from account management to personal loans, mortgages, consumer education and investments to meet the financial needs of its clients nationwide.

For First Independence Bank, the Twin Cities branch will be the 51-year-old’s first branch outside of its home state of Michigan. It will be located at 3430 University Ave. SE in Minneapolis. The location is a former bank branch that Wells Fargo donated to Project for Pride in Living (PPL), which is working with First Independence Bank on its expansion into the market.

“We are fortunate enough to find a site on a major thoroughfare, making it accessible to a wide range of residents and businesses that a bank needs to be economically viable,” said Kenneth Kelly, President and CEO of First Independence Bank.

“Being on a light rail line and a bus line is a plus for the underfunded communities we hope to serve, especially the black community. Another advantage is the ability to be part of an established shopping area with few banking options nearby, ”Kelly said. He said the site also has drive-thru for convenience and space to host education sessions and community gatherings.

The First Independence Bank emerged from the rebellions of the mid-1960s that ignited Detroit and the nation to protest police brutality and institutional racism. Now, a similar disruption protesting economic and cultural marginalization is emerging in the wake of the George Floyd murder, which sparked protests that cost millions of dollars in damage to businesses and public facilities last year here in Twin Cities. .

“Our story really began in 1967 in Detroit with the riots and rebellion based on police brutality. Market leaders decided that we needed an economic engine to really push our own destiny economically. And they created this bank. So we’ve been around for 51 years now and hope to tap some of the infrastructure and learnings over those 51 years in the Minneapolis market, ”Kelly said.

“At one point there were 70 black banks in this country. As recently as 2001, there were 48 banks controlled and owned by African Americans. Today we have 18, ”said Kelly. “So what he’s saying is we have to figure out how to create the dollar in a way that will support our efforts, whether it’s banking, media, life insurance, etc. With the (hurdles to) scaling businesses and the lack of capital in the African American community, many of our businesses have gone bankrupt. So what we’re trying to do in the Minneapolis market is create a spark. We know that bankers are beacons of hope. Hopefully we can harness some energy from an economic point of view that could help African Americans and other unrepresented minorities. “

Kelly discussed the need for new narratives about the black community’s wealth building.

Insight News asked, “What should we be talking about at the dinner table? What should mothers and fathers talk about in front of 10 and 12 year olds about commerce, business and finance? How can we make this part of our normal daily conversation? “

“This is a topic we need to talk about more. Sometimes when you survive you are embarrassed to talk about money. But I think collectively, the African American community could certainly be served well by making it a cornerstone of our discussions at the table, and in front of the televised discussions and in our discussions on the Internet. We need to have this conversation more often. We know that money in a capitalist society is the oxygen that sustains us, ”said Kelly.

Greg Cunningham, vice president for global inclusion and diversity at US Bank, provided the information that led to the expansion of First Independence Bank into Twin Cities. He said, “There was a time in this country when black leaders got together every year to talk about our common agenda and how we could move forward together. And what struck me as really critical, following the George Floyd murder, was that we had to catalyze people to come together around a common agenda. Guided by the clarity of the moment, a number of us have come together to create this alliance to do three things: 1. Create a common agenda; 2. Make sure we are committed to the long term; and 3. Make sure it was centered on black in its design.

The opportunity to expand to Minnesota, Kelly said, reflected “relationships that naturally evolve because there were leaders in your market who said, ‘let’s put our brands aside and find a way to work together to the well-being of those less fortunate in our community, especially the African American community.

As a result, five banks in the Twin Cities – Bank of America, Bremer Bank, Huntington Bank, US Bank and Wells Fargo – collaborate with First Independence Bank by providing capital, research, marketing and other services to ensure its start-up and its long-term success.

“Each of our companies has doubled its investments in racial equity within our own organizations and the communities we serve over the past year,” said Tim Welsh, vice president of personal and corporate banking. US Bank companies. “The events of that year also showed us the value of thinking and acting differently. So we wondered what we could do, working together, beyond what we were doing on our own? Helping to support the expansion of an established black-owned bank in this region rose to the top of the list. ”

Damon Jenkins, former Wells Fargo district manager for Minneapolis, joined First Independence Bank as senior vice president and president of the Twin Cities regional market.

Kelly said First Independence Bank’s decision to open in the Twin Cities came easily after talks that began in April with several black business leaders, clerics, nonprofits and other communities in the region.

“As the First Independence Bank prioritizes services to the black community and to underfunded businesses and individuals, it was important for me to listen to these leaders about the needs of the community and how the bank could do it. the difference. They welcomed me generously and offered me important advice, ”said Kelly.

As a result, housing will be a major focus for First Independence Bank in the Twin Cities. “Our innovative home loan programs will help reduce one of the biggest disparities in the country between black and white homeowners,” Kelly said.

The branch will also offer customers the use of ATMs and debit cards at any Huntington and Wells Fargo ATMs with no service charge, a loan program to help build a credit score or repair credit. personal, virtual financial education sessions, and more.

Laurie Nordquist, Regional President of Wells Fargo, said: “… the matter is clear. Black households are more than five times more likely than white households to be unbanked. We need to continue our outreach and inclusion efforts while supporting a black-owned bank. It is not an “one or the other” proposition – it is a “both and” proposition. Supporting a bank like First Independence Bank, with its history and know-how, is part of the change that we are collectively working to make in the financial services ecosystem ”,

Wells Fargo invested earlier this year in First Independence Bank.

Jeanne Crain, President and CEO of Bremer Financial, said: “Although black-owned businesses exist in many industrial sectors in the Twin Cities, the region lacks an established black-owned bank. First Independence Bank is able to tap into a special CDFI fund from the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) which allows more favorable lending rates to individuals and businesses in low income areas. This is a gap that First Independence Bank is particularly able to help fill.

“Several of our banks also already have relationships with First Independence Bank,” said Michael Jones, chairman of Huntington for Minnesota and Colorado. “First Independence Bank has a strong track record and Kenneth Kelly is well regarded in the industry. “

Prior to its merger with Huntington, TCF and First Independence Bank had a partnership in Detroit, which continues today as Huntington.

The U.S. bank has worked with First Independence Bank under the Federal Treasury Protected Mentorship Program since 2019.

“The First Independence Bank branch will also be a point of pride for the entire region,” said Katie Simpson, president of Bank of America Minneapolis / Saint Paul. “Of more than 5,000 banking institutions in the United States, only 18 are black-owned, up from 48 in 2001. Few metropolitan areas can say that a black-owned bank is part of their community. From now on, the Twin Cities will be one of them.

Bank of America provided a low cost deposit to extend lending and took a stake in First Independence Bank in 2020.

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