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. 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. Coogler was eventually released, but this incident triggered public outrage and accusations of racism. Coogler’s experience is a part of a larger issue. 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.
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, many national banks announced efforts to address lower bank branch density in historically underserved areas. 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.
Because of the lack of access to in-person banking services, Black adults have turned to digital only banks to meet their financial needs. 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. To keep pace with Black consumers’ financial preferences and needs, banking providers must continue to evolve their digital capabilities.
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. 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. Several black-owned banks and credit unions have already taken steps to enhance their digital presence and attract customers. Although black-owned banks have historically been unsupported by our government, they are needed and wanted in the United States. 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.
 Black Panther Ryan Coogler Director Mistaken for Bank Robber, BBC News (Mar. 9, 2022), https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-60685146.
 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.
 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/.
 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/.
 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/.
 See Borady, supra note 4.
 McKinney, supra note 11.
Image source: https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/black-owned-banks-credit-unions