By Najah Walker

 

Earlier this year, “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler was arrested after attempting to withdraw $12,000 from his Bank of America account in Atlanta, Georgia.[1] The teller told her boss that she suspected Coogler was attempting to rob the bank- even though he presented valid identification and had an account with the bank.[2] Coogler was eventually released, but this incident triggered public outrage and accusations of racism.[3] Coogler’s experience is a part of a larger issue.[4] Black communities are financially shut out and discriminated against everyday through the steady decline of black-owned banking institutions and the decrease in the number of banks in Black-majority neighborhoods.[5]

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, many national banks announced efforts to address lower bank branch density in historically underserved areas.[6] However, the problem persists with Black adults being more likely to have to travel more than 10 minutes to a bank branch, if there is a local branch at all.[7]

Because of the lack of access to in-person banking services, Black adults have turned to digital only banks to meet their financial needs.[8] A survey conducted by Morning Consult between July 2021 and January 2022 found that 14% of Black adults consider a digital bank to be their primary banking provider.[9] To keep pace with Black consumers’ financial preferences and needs, banking providers must continue to evolve their digital capabilities.[10]

Daniel Griggs, founder of ATX The Brand, suggests that digital transformation could even help black-owned banks and be a tool to keep them alive.[11] His hope is that the growing number of consumers will want financial institutions that provide digital services such as virtual account management, banking apps, and video meetings.[12] Several black-owned banks and credit unions have already taken steps to enhance their digital presence and attract customers.[13] Although black-owned banks have historically been unsupported by our government,[14] they are needed and wanted in the United States.[15] As black-owned banks continue to embrace new digital tools, one can only hope that the future of banking is more equitable and accommodating for black communities.

 

[1] Black Panther Ryan Coogler Director Mistaken for Bank Robber, BBC News (Mar. 9, 2022), https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-60685146.

[2] Id.

[3] Peony Hirwani, Ryan Coogler Fans Accuse Bank of America of Racism Over Robbery Fiasco, Independent (Mar. 10, 2022), https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/ryan-coogler-arrested-robbery-bank-b2032612.html.

[4] See Kristen Borady, Mac McComas, and Amine Ouazad, An Analysis of Financial Institutions in Black-majority Communities, Brookings (Nov. 2, 2021), https://www.brookings.edu/research/an-analysis-of-financial-institutions-in-black-majority-communities-black-borrowers-and-depositors-face-considerable-challenges-in-accessing-banking-services/.

[5] Id.

[6] Charlotte Principato, The Black Banking Experience is Digital, but Banking Leaders Must Understand Why, Morning Consult (Feb. 22, 2022), https://morningconsult.com/2022/02/22/black-banking-experience-is-digital-but-banking-leaders-must-understand-why/.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Jefferey McKinney, Digital Transformation Could Help Black Banks Survive and Not Surrender, Black Enterprise (Jan. 20, 2022), https://www.blackenterprise.com/entrepreneur-how-digital-transformation-could-help-black-banks-pull-through/.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] See Borady, supra note 4.

[15] McKinney, supra note 11.

Image source: https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/black-owned-banks-credit-unions

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