First Independence Bank’s commitment to communities of color is unwavering—and evolving.
The bank, also known as FIB, was founded more than a half century ago in Detroit. After high unemployment, extreme poverty and racial segregation sparked deadly race riots in the city in 1967, FIB saw a need to create economic stability for diverse and underserved communities. The goal: democratize access to personal and commercial banking services.
Banks are beacons of hope. And one of the reasons that I was very interested in serving as chairman and CEO of this institution was to be sure that we could be as impactful as possible.
Once there was a- a decision made to really try and launch the bank, folks that were leading that effort, they walked around and talked to folks in the community. They were trying to gauge the level of interest and support that they would receive if they would stand up and launch a- a bank that would be a beacon of hope and provide financial, uh, services and a chance to invest to them. And it's just... It touches to a lot of the personal things that are important to me around serving the community and trying to help make individuals' lives better.
First Independence has been a great inspiration to the Detroit Metro area for 52 years. What was great about the founding and starting of this bank was that we saw that African Americans in this community started to get better jobs beyond being a janitor and a teller at the other competing bank. Uh, Byna Elliot actually shared a story with me that she actually worked here at First Independence as one of her first jobs. So we're very proud of that rich history and the heritage that we have in impacting lives.
We have to continue to be, uh, relevant and provide products that are relevant to, uh, the next generation of individuals that will need financial services. Towards that end, we decided to move to a digital platform that allows individuals to, uh, make banking transactions via their tablet, via their mobile phone. We are also, uh, providing, uh, financial literacy sessions to individuals that may not be as verse on how important and how useful technology can be. And we are continuing to look at our technology roadmap and identify ways that we can get our services out faster, uh, and make their- sure that they're continue to be competitive to what the bigger banks are doing.
When we look back across history, we will see this as a pivotal moment where the large banks decided it is important to the community to serve MDIs and CDFIs like First Independence Bank. It, as you can imagine, gives us a tremendous amount of credibility, not only in our own community, but across the economic, uh, spectrum. And so, we're hopeful that this will allow our bank to get beyond interest income opportunities to serve the communities that we care about the most.
The need to improve financial wellness in the communities that FIB serves hasn’t diminished. In fact, the potential spending power for Black Americans would be 64% higher—$1.6 trillion instead of $976 billion—if disparities in household income improved, according to recent estimates by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
Meanwhile, Black adults score well below white adults on all eight functional areas of financial literacy and wellness measured by the P-Fin Index, an annual survey developed by the TIAA Institute and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center at George Washington University. (Functional areas range from earning and saving to borrowing and investing.)
“Historically, there have been challenges when we look at the data along financial lines, along racial lines, along gender lines,” said Kenneth Kelly, chairman and CEO of First Independence Bank. “I'm hopeful that [everyone who comes] to the table to be a part of this discussion thinks about innovative ways to approach and tackle these issues.”
Today, FIB is one of the largest Black-owned banks in America. It’s also one of 148 minority depository institutions (MDIs)—and one of 22 Black-owned MDIs—operating in the United States, according to the most recent FDIC data.
FIB’s offerings range from checking, savings and investment accounts to loans that help owners of small and midsize businesses launch or expand their operations. FIB also has created more robust online and mobile tools that help users transfer funds more quickly, approve automated clearing house (ACH) files and explore account activity—all with the option of fingerprint login to boost security.
“Creating opportunities for financial literacy and wellness across the communities we care about is one of our core values. We are not only consistent in those values but try to replicate them for others. Education is an enabler.”
— Kenneth Kelly, chairman and CEO, First Independence Bank
FIB’s resolve and impact are strengthened by being part of the Empower share class initiative that J.P. Morgan Asset Management is leading. Offered across J.P. Morgan’s money market funds, the Empower share class allows institutional clients to support MDIs and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) by investing in an off-balance sheet vehicle they’re already comfortable with and receiving the same return on those investments. This, in turn, delivers a recurring revenue stream to MDIs and CDFIs.
What’s more, JPMorgan’s Commercial Banking partnership with FIB brings the full force of the firm, helping FIB thrive in a competitive market and deliver on the needs of the communities of color it serves.
JPMorgan Chase has invested more than $100 million in MDIs and CDFIs led by Black and Hispanic and Latino owners. These institutions—operating in 19 states and the District of Columbia—receive customized advisory support from the firm’s Advancing Black Pathways Fellows and Advancing Hispanics & Latinos Fellows. They also get access to the firm’s leadership and training programs to help build their capacity and solve emerging challenges.
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Financial well-being and literacy in a high-inflation environment, TIAA Institute and the George Washington University School of Business and Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center