Tag Archives: african american banks

African American Banks Reduced To 21 – North Milwaukee State Bank Closes


The state of Wisconsin has lost one of its two African American owned banks. North Milwaukee State Bank, which was almost three times the size of Wisconsin’s other African American owned bank, Columbia Savings & Loan Association, officially had its doors shutdown on March 11, 2016. It is one of only two American bank failures in 2016 thus far.

Per the FDIC, “To protect the depositors, the FDIC entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with First-Citizens Bank & Trust Company, Raleigh, North Carolina, to assume all of the deposits of North Milwaukee State Bank.” First-Citizens Bank & Trust is controlled by a bank holding company, First Citizens Bancshares, which is publicly traded on the NASDAQ. Its primary shareholders are the Holding family and Fidelity Investments.

For the entire FDIC official release click here.

The closure takes $67.1 million in assets and $61.5 million in deposits off the books of African American owned banks as a collective.

XULA FCU Growing, Virginia State University FCU In Crisis, And 2016 HBCU-Based Credit Unions Overall – Stagnant

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. – Martin Luther


2016’s HBCU-based credit unions are stuck in neutral. Eleven HBCU-based credit unions assets are unchanged from 2015 and still stand at $87 million. Membership saw a decline from just over 17 000 in 2015 to 16 546 in 2016. For comparison, Navy Federal Credit Union, America’s largest credit union has $73.3 billion in assets and 5.9 million members.

  1. Southern Teachers & Parents (LA) – $28.3 million ($28 million)
  2. Florida A&M University (FL) – $20.1 million ($19.6 million)
  3. Howard University Employees (DC) – $10.8 million ($11.3 million)
  4. Virginia State University (VA) – $8.6 million ($9.6 million)
  5. Prairie View (TX) – $4.8 million ($4.8 million)
  6. Savastate Teachers (GA) – $3.7 million ($3.6 million)
  7. Councill (AL) – $3.4 million ($3.4 million)
  8. Xavier University (LA) – $2.6 million ($2.4 million)
  9. Arkansas A&M College (AR) – $2.4 million ($2.3 million)
  10. Tennessee State University (TN) – $1.6 million ($1.4 million)
  11. Shaw University (NC) – $0.6 million ($0.5 million)

HBCU-based credit unions while having almost $90 million in assets are too top heavy as a collective. The top four HBCU-based credit unions have almost 80 percent of the group’s combined assets. Unfortunately, the fourth member of the group, Virginia State University Federal Credit Union, is dragging down the collective. Over the past two years VSU FCU has seen its assets decline almost 20 percent. VSU FCU is in the process of a transition in leadership after the long-term CEO Peggy Custis stepped down after a multi-decade run. In her place, Katrina Peerman, is serving as interim CEO while the board looks to make a long-term decision. That long-term decision, whether it remains Ms. Peerman or an outside choice could have a rippling effect that impacts the group as a whole. Can HBCU-based credit unions come into the 21st century? It remains to be seen whether they possess the leadership or aggressive vision required to facilitate

HBCU Money’s 2015 review and analysis of HBCU-based credit unions remain unchanged:

Unfortunately, there also seems to be no urgency by these credit unions to do the things necessary to increase their membership and assets. Students entering into HBCUs today may be more financially illiterate than a generation ago, but they have more complex financial needs thanks in large part to student loans playing such a large role into today’s higher education finance. Not to mention the reduced role that social security will play in their long-term retirement planning. An issue that should be prompting more HBCU-based credit unions to find ways to help students reduce student loan debt and start retirement planning while in college. A hard task to give this group given the limited financial products and services they offer leave HBCU-based credit unions minute opportunity to serve the needs of students, faculty, campus organizations, or even the HBCUs themselves. These limited products and services are largely an issue of lacking scale. Instead of a credit union with at least $87 million in assets, the median is $3.6 million amongst eleven with declining assets and membership. Instead of students, faculty, and institutions who travel more today than ever to conferences, tournaments, etc. being able to access their money at one of the eleven branches or through mobile app banking along the way, they are limited to just one insular branch with technology that at best reminds you of AOL dial-up. Holding onto students is even more difficult with most returning to their hometowns or nearest major city upon graduation and only returning to the campus at most once a year for homecoming. Incentive to keep banking beyond graduation? None.

Lauryn Hill has a wonderful song called the Ex-Factor that I think often describes African America institutional strategic behavior and with HBCU-based credit unions it seems no different. “It could all be so simple, but you’d rather make it hard. Loving you is like a battle and we both end up with scars.” I still believe with the right vision, an HBCU credit union could rival the Navy Federal Credit Union and give African America a place of financial safety instead of the scars we constantly end up with from predatory financial services that come into communities because we are left with such meager choices from our own financial institutions. It really all could be so simple, but more than likely we will continue to make it hard.

HBCU Money’s 2016 African American Owned Credit Union Directory


All credit unions are listed by state and in alphabetical order. In order to be listed in our directory the credit union must have an African American designation. Click on the state to view the full list available. If the credit union has a website you can click on the name and go directly to their website.

There are 318 African American designated credit unions with assets totaling approximately $5.8 billion in assets or approximately 0.51 percent of African America’s $1.1 trillion in buying power. African American credit unions have a total of 863 670 members.


  • African American credit unions comprise 49.6 percent of Minority Serving credit unions and 5.2 percent of all US credit unions
  • The total assets for all US minority credit unions is $36.4 billion, with AACUs controlling 16.2 percent of those assets. Total combined assets for all US credit unions are $1.2 trillion, with AACUs controlling 0.48 percent of total American credit union assets.
  • AACUs average assets: $18.4 million ($17.9 million)
  • AACUs average number of members 2 725 (2 688)
  • AACUs median assets: $1.4 million ($1.4 million)
  • AACUs median members: 505 (491)
  • For comparison, Asian American credit unions have approximately 362 000 members and $4.6 billion in assets. Average and median assets of $83.1 million and $30.0 million, respectively.

African American Owned Credit Unions by State:





District of Columbia












New Jersey

New York

North Carolina



South Carolina




Virgin Islands


West Virginia




Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase, And Others Plead Guilty – African American Banking Opportunity?

It isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog that counts. – Woody Hayes


I have to say if I was CEO at an African American owned bank or credit union right now I would be salivating at the news where two of America’s largest banks plead guilty to felony charges for manipulating currencies and rigging interest rates. Citibank and J.P. Morgan Chase control a combined $2.3 trillion in deposits worldwide. For perspective, total bank deposits in the United States total $9.3 trillion. This provides an opportunity to give a new narrative to African American communities about the value of banking with someone they know and trust. A bank/credit union owned by and for their community. Although not charged, I would also lump Bank of America and Wells Fargo into my attack, which given their recent settlements for predatory lending towards African American communities would not be a reach at all.

NPR reports, “Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, The Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS AG have agreed to plead guilty to felony charges and pay billions in criminal fines, the Department of Justice says. The offenses range from manipulating the value of dollars and euros to rigging interest rates.” The banks charged will be paying a $5.6 billion in fines combined, with Citigroup and J.P. Morgan Chase paying $1.26 billion and $892 million, respectively. Despite the heavy fines, no one will face actual criminal chargers. Bear in mind for perspective that Citigroup and J.P. Morgan Chase had 2014 net income of $7.3 billion and $21.8 billion, respectively. In other words, Citigroup will be paying 17.3 percent of its net income (profits) and J.P. Morgan Chase will pay 4.1 percent of its net income (profits). It is not clear however if they have to pay the fine at once or have been put on a payment plan.

By now, we have all heard the number – $1.1 trillion. That is the buying power of African America, but what we rarely hear is that less than 1 percent of that buying power sits in African American banks and credit unions (AABCUs). This continuously leaves African America in dire straits needing access to capital, but putting non-AABCUs like Citigroup, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America in a position to take our money and then use it as a predatory weapon against our communities. One of a bank’s objectives is move the risk from those that own it onto other groups. The aforementioned banks not owned by us are doing their job and doing it well. We just keep aiding them by giving them a larger deposit base which in turn gets loaned back to us at predatory rates so that the owners can secure loans at discounted rates. Our communities pay more so that their communities can pay less. In other words, we deposit $1.00 in the bank and they deposit $1.00 in the bank. The bank now has $2.00 it can lend out. They will borrow $0.50 at 4 percent and our community borrows $0.25 (but needs $0.50) at 8 percent. But why have AABCUs not take advantage of this telling this narrative?

African American banks and credit unions have as a collective not done a good job of expounding their benefits to the communities they are in. Not nearly enough community outreach or customer acquisition investment has been done by African American owned financial institutions. The question if its the chicken or the egg in this case remains in flux. Do you spend limited resources to market to get deposits or do you wait for deposits then market to get more customers? Whichever approach is taken, it must be done with resolute commitment to increasing the AABCUs deposit hold within our communities.  It baffles me the number of AABCUs who are not even on social media. Are you kidding me? It is FREE. If AABCUs created internships for HBCU marketing and communication majors each semester they could have a millennial team of four or five students rotating every three to four months. And while many do not like them, I would hire club promoters and street teams to get the word out. Incentivize the community to become your word of mouth advertising in exchange for perks. In an interview I did with Donna Shuler, co-founder of Answer Title in Washington D.C. and former bank CEO, she said, “More community outreach starting when students are still in school. Banks and agents should use more images of African Americans in their marketing.” One thing that continues to plague African American organizations and firms is the copycat complex that ignores cultural differences between the way our community consumes products and services and the way other communities do. We do this despite Nielsen, an American global information and measurement company, having an entire site dedicated to the African American consumer trends and behavior.

We also have to stop being afraid to use what in hip-hop is known as “beef” with our counterparts. This is a competition after all. My marketing campaign would go something like this – “You know who has NOT  been fined for predatory practices against African Americans – (insert AABCU name).” Or I would have a list of the non-AABCUs who have been fined for their practices against our community and call it a public service announcement. People love a good guy, bad guy scenario. A mentor always said to me once to use what you have. Whatever it is that draws people to you – use it. In AABCUs case, it is using what the others have done to our community to your advantage of getting those deposits to switch institutions. It is also being more engaged in community activities where you can have the captive attention to get financial literacy and marketing message out.

African Americans continue to lose ground in wealth accumulation, our communities and neighborhoods continue to be at risk of gentrification because of lack of development and access to capital, and these are all a reflection of a weak banking system. We know what happened to Harlem and what is happening to places like Third Ward in Houston  among other places. This latest behavior by the non-AABCUs is just a long list of a wedge that AABCUs should be using to distinguish themselves among their core consumer demographic. They have given more than an inch to exploit and it is time we take the mile.

Are African American Churches Derailing African America’s Economic Progress?

“You know our people, they want their leaders to be prosperous. One hand washes the other.” – Brother Baines (character from Malcolm X)


Recently in Third Ward, an area rich with historic significance to the city’s African American population there was a battle being engaged between the neighborhood of Oak Manor University Woods and their “neighbor” Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. WABC had already purchased one entire street of forty some homes in the neighborhood and was in the process of expanding once again as its membership had swelled. The church for all intentions appears on its way to becoming one of Houston’s mega-churches. For Oak Manor University Woods, they seemed to be getting closed in on all sides. The current president of the Oak Manor University Woods Civic Club Bettie Patterson said, “I thought the University of Houston would be our albatross, not Wheeler Avenue.” She was referring to the University of Houston’s presence in Third Ward, which itself has spurred a great deal of the rise in gentrification in the area as the school’s profile as a tier one university has attracted a lot of redevelopment in the area. Many homes in the neighborhood on the tax roles see their lots valued for more than the actual homes themselves. Inside Houston’s Inner Loop, land and affordable housing have become something of an oxymoron. Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States, has been booming with high oil prices spurring most of that boom. Unfortunately, African Americans inside the loop have been the primary victims of that boom. Sitting on what has been historically underdeveloped and depressed land and neighborhoods, many developers (or churches) come in and offer many African American home and landowners under market value prices to scoop up the land. Most lack the financial aptitude or savviness to deal with these fast talking developers or churchmen claiming to be doing God’s work and end up selling their land and homes. In the aftermath, they are not able to afford to stay in their community or forced to sell as taxes have skyrocketed due to rising values and payments they can not maintain, with many of the community’s senior citizens on fixed income. In the Oak Manor University Woods and Wheeler Avenue Baptist case, where the church could be working with the neighborhood to build affordable housing, it is instead engaged in battle that will eventually lead to over sixty homes being demolished and over 200 potential African Americans not in the area. The irony, those 200 may drive from some distance to attend the church and after church if they intend to eat or do any shopping, virtually none of the stores will be owned by African Americans in the area or community. It appears we have pushed all of our chips in on the church, and if it can not save us, then we do not want to be saved.

In some ways, I feel sorry for the African American church. It is essentially being asked to be everything institutionally in the development cycle for African America. Every institution whether it is a neighborhood, church, bank, lobbying group, etc. falls under one of three institutional categories of social, economic, or political. The SEP cycle of development follows that exact order in fact. Social institutional development comes first, then economic institutional development, and lastly political institutional development. A church, by its very nature, is suppose to be a social institution. It is a place where social norms and cultural capital is circulated amongst a community. Other social institutions are things like families, neighborhoods, and schools. All circulating a particular a set of norms and values. Economic institutions are businesses, investors, and even banks. The latter has the unique charge of helping circulate capital and exporting financial risk from the community that owns it onto other communities. An acute problem African Americans experience with predatory financial services from institutions like Wells Fargo who just settled for $175 million with the Department of Justice for its predatory behavior with African Americans. Political institution examples are political parties, lobbyist, and PACs. The institutional cycle always follows the same pattern. Currently, the black church though is being asked to be all three. A feat that no institution can pull off. College and universities are social institutions that often serve the needs of economic and political institutional development through their research, but ultimately are still social institutions. The last I checked, there is no research being conducted in the halls of black churches.

Yet, African America has put all of its stock into this institution and starving the independent development of a strong economic and political institutional development. Although many churches are profitable like businesses, they often lack the serious institutional infrastructure or aptitude to operate as such. Last year, HBCU Money’s first ever African American Credit Union Directory in 2014 uncovered some startling findings about the church’s role in African America’s economic institutional landscape. Religious affiliated credit union make up 5.6 percent of US credit unions, while African American religious affiliated credit unions comprise approximately one-third of all African American credit unions and almost one-fourth of all US religious affiliated credit unions. In California, all seven African American credit unions in 2014 were religious affiliated. The sensible thing for them to do would have been if they absolutely had to form their own (as opposed to banking at an African American owned bank or credit union) was for all seven to form one and call it the “Insert famous African-American religious figure from California” of California Federal Credit Union. It would have been a credit union with seven branches, 1 485 members, and $1.7 million in assets. Instead, the median membership and assets among the seven separately was 152 and $165 000, respectively. In other words, not worth the paperwork it probably took to form them and likely limited opportunity for any real scalability or sustainability.


It is both a gift and curse that one-third of African American credit unions are religious based. The gift is that any opportunity for African Americans that increases financial engagement is a benefit. The Center for American Progress reports, “For African Americans, the unbanked rate declined slightly from 21.4 percent in 2011 to 20.5 percent in 2013, and the underbanked rate decreased from 33.9 percent to 33.1 percent.” Nationally, the figure for unbanked and underbanked was 7.7 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Having more financial institution options is a good thing. The presence of credit unions, be they religious or not, in African America decreases the probability of predatory financial services like payday loans that are often prevalent in our community coming in to fill the void. However, the problem for having such a disproportionate amount of credit unions being religious based is that these credit unions have no ability to scale as the aforementioned example in California showed, which further means they are limited in the types and number of financial services and products they can offer. The reality is that churches are not equipped to be financial institutions and religious based credit unions are limited to the size of their congregation to their growth potential. They also tend to lack the intellectual expertise to grow and perform the functions that provide for stability of operation for their members and the communities they are in. Often times, these religious based credit unions come across as nothing more than the ability for the church to control more of and keep an eye on the congregation’s purse strings to make sure they are getting their cut. This is problematic after reporting two African American banks closed their doors to start 2015, thereby reducing the number of African American banks to twenty-three. A far cry from the 1990s, when there were over fifty African American owned banks.

African American churches are also siphoning off much needed capital from other institutions within the community where capital is vitally needed. Recently, an example of this was shared by Jarrett Carter, Sr. in an editorial for HBCU Digest where he shared, “Last year, I gave more than $10,000 to my church, $1,500 to Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., and $150 dollars to my alma mater.” In a 1987 study by Emmett Carson for Joint Center for Political Studies reported, “Over two-thirds (68 percent) of all dollars that are contributed by blacks to charity go to the church.” A figure at the time that was higher than the national average of 46.9 percent. It is hard to imagine that although the study is almost thirty years old that much has changed given the disclosure by Mr. Carter. Some may argue that it has in fact gotten worse. Unfortunately, such a disproportionate amount being given to churches with our limited income leaves little for investment in the rest of African America’s institutions. Over the past 100 years African American owned hospitals have decreased from 500 to 1, African American boarding schools have decreased from 100 to 4, the institutional gap in HWCU/HBCU endowments has grown from 46:1 to 106:1 over the past 20 years, HWCU/HBCU research expenditures gap is 30:1, Harlem and countless other African American communities have been gentrified, and the wealth gap among all other groups (except Native Americans) and African Americans continues to severely widen. Yet, the African American church continues to be a booming industry. As a result we see even the African American non-religous based credit unions and banks anchoring their “business” products to churches.

Let me be clear, I am not against the African American church. It has been a vital institution in our community. Its history and place in our communities is important, but it can not and should not be asked to solve all of our problems. A religious institution is there to be part of our community’s social institutional fabric, but it is not there to enrich and strengthen us economically or politically. Each institution in a community has a purpose and function. None more important than the other and all are needed. The acute investment that African America has put into its churches though has created a situation where all others starve and this has created an ongoing crisis that is on the brink of disaster. Church based credit unions are not setup to make small business loans, which are vitally needed to created more African American businesses and create jobs in our communities. They are not setup to decide which STEM and humanities research should be given grants that can one day be turned into private application or help shape policy, and nor should they be. That is not what their purpose is or ever was intended to be.


Overall, church attendance in America is declining (above) and has been for the past sixty years, and as is often the case we are behind the curve of change. This despite African American men and Millennials being one of the fastest declining groups in church attendance. African American men are almost twice as likely as African American women to not attend church. Financially, this is not so much of an issue for the church, since African American women lead virtually in every economic category. African America is the only group where the women outnumber the men in employment and are predominantly head of households. The irony if there is any, is that the vast majority of African American churches are still headed by men, but that is another article for another time. African American women hold the proverbial purse strings and they are in the church.

If African America is to ever progress economically, then it needs a lesson in portfolio diversification also known as do not put all your eggs in one basket, one stock, or one institution. Right now, we are overweight in church “stock”. For which I can already hear the rebuttal of, “You can never be to overweight in the Lord!”, but I did not say overweight in your spirituality. I said overweight in the church, and one does not beget the other despite how much we try to convince ourselves otherwise. In an interview on HBCU Digest by the aforementioned Jarrett Carter, I was asked if African America was culturally adverse to economies of scale and I believed then and I believe now that the answer is a resounding no. However, I also remember hearing Tavis Smiley speak once and he said there is a difference between hope and optimism. Hope much like faith does not have to be grounded in anything, but optimism has to be grounded in facts that show a favorable trend. I am hoping for some reason to be optimistic about our economic progress soon, but that will not happen until we decrease what we give and expect from our churches and increase investment into our other institutions, like our banks and credit unions, that are built to serve the purpose of our economic progress. I better pray.