Our city has a lot to offer. I’m a “homer,” true enough. And I believe St. Louis is a great city doing great things. While there are lots going on, there is a quiet battle looming outside of the “what’s happening” pages, the “who’s who” columns, the sports page or the night life of our entertainment districts. Something we don’t talk about near as much.
St. Louis has no community development banks (CDBs). These are banks that focus on low-moderate income populations and specialize in re-investment into areas that, without them, tend to move toward blight at too rapid of a pace. Without CDBs, our city struggles.
As a point of clarification, I am using the term “bank” literally. SLCCU is a community development financial institution, but not a bank. While we are committed and loyal to our charge to serve the underserved, we need some help. The fields are fertile and there is plenty to reap for others who might choose to sow. Unfortunately, it’s just not as easy as a non-CDB showing up and plopping down a facility. It’s expensive and has countless variables in which to consider.
Why? It is difficult for community and regional banks to make the leap to serve those areas void of big depositors and A+ credit. Their business models are motivated by profitability, not necessarily mission. Quite frankly, profitability is much harder and investment is much further from return. Time for payback is extended and counter to the need for immediate shareholder return.
So, we have a solution. From SLCCU’s little corner of the world, we have established trust, products and services, risk-tolerance, locations, member/customer service, pricing structures and free financial education. We’re already in the community, well established and effective. We just need more of SLCCU and our mission. What we have more than anything else is energy and enthusiasm. We have an entrepreneurial spirit where risk is mitigated by a desire to achieve greatness.
If the regional, community and national banks – for that matter – want to satisfy their community re-investment requirements (CRA) service and investment tests, they can invest in the expansion of SLCCU. All parties benefit – the community, the Credit Union and the bank(s).
We’ll collaborate to strengthen the weakened link to social justice through financial services. We’ll do more of what the Credit Union is really good at (and they’re not). The combined efforts of their investment and our knowhow will begin a process to strengthen the least of us. Our city will become even better and stronger when we begin leveling the playing field related to wealth accumulation. That’s what we can do together.
The banking community does lots of good things in St. Louis. This is one more thing they can add to their list. Investing in SLCCU to serve the unbanked and under banked is the smartest way to make improvement.
Let the headlines shout: “St. Louis City Is Best Bet For ALL!”