With over 661 million dollars in total assets, One United Bank stands as the largest African American owned bank in America and is at the forefront of the #BankBlack movement. Based in Boston, Massachusetts, it is registered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and certified as a community development financial institution (CDFI) by the US Department of Treasury. Its six branches throughout the country, also serving communities in Miami, Florida and Los Angeles, CA.
The origins of One United started in 1968 as Unity Bank and Trust Company. With 1.2 million in capital, the banks aim was to lend exclusively to local businesses and homeowners to revitalize the Dudley Square neighborhood in Boston. Unfortunately in 1977 after 9 years of operations, the bank was considered a failure. In its place another bank emerged, The Boston Bank of Commerce.
With Boston Bank, not only did they keep the original cause of community development intact but they also formed partnerships with corporations and government agencies. In fact, the first Black American popularly elected to the US Senate, Edward Brooke, was one of the chairman of the board for the bank. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, Boston Bank continued to serve the Black communities local businesses, homeowners and provide financial help for those ignored or turned down by more mainstream banks.
In the 1990’s Boston Bank of Commerce was charged by the FDIC to increase capital and improve the quality of its loan portfolio, following an economic downturn that affected the banking industry in the northeast. At this time the bank had negative equity and significant asset problems. But the banks fortunes turned around when current CEO Kevin Cohee put in a significant capital infusion which helped save the bank initially. Then current President Teri Williams adopted a new practice of merging with other Black owned banks and thrift institutions in major cities throughout the country which helped them to grow its total assets. A couple of those banks were Peoples National Bank of Commerce of South Florida, Founders National Bank of LA, who’s principal owners were Magic Johnson, Janet Jackson and Jheryl Busby, to name a few. By the year 2000, in just 5 years, Boston Bank went from negative equity to over $157 million in total assets and $125 million in total deposits, and that was before it merged with Founders National Bank of LA, which on its own had over $107 million in assets and $98 million in total deposits and four branches. After the merger of Boston Bank with these four other banks, it was rebranded into what we know it today as One United Bank in 2001.
One United always stresses the importance of educating youth on finances. They hold an annual financial literacy essay contest and Teri Williams wrote a children's book titled “I Got Bank! What my Granddad Taught Me About Money” to teach financial literacy to Black youth in urban areas.
One United Bank has equity investments in many different companies and government entities. Two of those were Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. During the 2008/09 financial crisis these equity investments became worthless as those government entities were hard hit. They received $12 million in aid from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), and why not. All these other companies that helped bring on this financial collapse applied and was granted relief, so our African American owned financial institutions deserved the same. Over the last 10 years the bank has continued to be profitable and sustained that profitability with constant growth. One United has continued to move with the times and changes in technology. Using customer relationship management software allows them to improve customer service and streamline the banking process.
One United has also made strides to helping people with low credit scores to improve their credit by introducing the UNITY Visa secured credit card called the “Comeback Card.” The “Comeback Card” includes training on how to improve your credit for customers. They also designed an App called the “Me” app that’s connected to the UNITY card that allows users to open a deposit account to put money on the card.
One United Bank has been distinguished by the Treasury Department, numerous times winning its highest award, The Bank Enterprise Award in multiple years, and winning it every year from 2004-2008. One United Bank also spearheaded the “Bank Black” movement of 2016 where tens of millions of dollars were poured into Black owned banks as a form of social protest. Because of that movement more people are aware of the existence and more importantly the need to support Black owned financial institutions like One United Bank. For more information go the website OneUnited.com
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