Detroit-based First Independence Bank, one of only 18 Black-owned, full-service banks in the country, has filed an application to open a branch in the Twin Cities.
The Twin Cities branch, 3430 University Ave. SE in Minneapolis, will be the 51-year-old enterprise’s first outside of its home state of Michigan. This location is a former bank branch that Wells Fargo has donated to Project for Pride in Living (PPL), which is working with First Independence Bank on its expansion into the market.
“We are fortunate to find a site on a major thoroughfare, making it accessible to the large cross-section of residents and businesses that a bank needs to be economically viable,” First Independence Bank chairman and CEO Kenneth Kelly said.“Being on a light rail line and a bus route is a plus for the under-resourced communities we hope to serve, particularly the Black community. So is the opportunity to be part of an established commercial area with few nearby banking options.” He added that the site also has a drive-through for added convenience, and space to host education sessions and community gatherings.
The branch is expected to open early November. A second location at Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue is possible in the future, said Kelly.
Damon Jenkins, formerly Wells Fargo’s district manager for Minneapolis, has joined First Independence Bank as senior vice president and Twin Cities regional market president.
Five banks in the Twin Cities — Bank of America, Bremer Bank, Huntington Bank, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo — are each supporting First Independence Bank’s arrival with capital, research, marketing and other services to assure its start-up and long-term success.
“We are thrilled to be working with these five banks to open a branch in the region,” Kelly said. “Banks are beacons of hope in their communities, and we intend to be that for the people of Minneapolis, St. Paul and the rest of the Twin Cities, particularly those who are unbanked or underbanked throughout the region.”
Kelly said First Independence Bank’s decision to open in the Twin Cities came easily after discussions that began in April with several Black business, religious, nonprofit and other community leaders in the region.
“Since First Independence Bank prioritizes services to the Black community and under-resourced businesses and individuals, it was important to me to listen to these leaders about what the community needs and how the bank could make a difference. They welcomed me generously and offered important guidance,” said Kelly. As a result, housing will be a major focus for First Independence Bank in the Twin Cities. “Our innovative home loan programs will help reduce one of the largest disparities in the country between Black and white homeowners.” The branch also will offer customers ATM and debit card use at any Huntington and Wells Fargo ATM location with no ATM service fee, a loan program to help establish a credit score or repair personal credit, virtual financial education sessions, and more.
“Each of our companies has doubled down on investments in racial equity within our own organizations and the communities we serve over the past year,” said Tim Welsh, vice chair, U.S. Bank consumer and business banking. “The events of that year also showed us the value of thinking and acting differently. So, we asked ourselves what could we do, working together, beyond what we were doing on our own? Helping to support an established, Black-owned bank’s expansion into this region rose to the top of the list.”
Helping to bring a competitor into the market might seem counterintuitive, Laurie Nordquist, Wells Fargo’s Central lead region president, observed. “But for the five of us, the case is clear. Black households are more than five times more likely than white households to be unbanked. We need to continue our efforts for outreach and inclusion while also supporting a Black-owned bank. This is not an ‘either-or’ proposition—it’s a ‘both-and’ proposition. Supporting a bank like First Independence Bank, with its history and know-how, is part of the change we are collectively working to make in the financial services ecosystem.”
Jeanne Crain, president and CEO of Bremer Financial, added that, as a qualified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), First Independence Bank is able to tap into a special CDFI Fund that allows for more favorable lending rates to individuals and businesses in low-income areas. And, although Black-owned businesses exist in many industry sectors in the Twin Cities, the region lacks an established, Black-owned bank. “That’s a gap that First Independence Bank is uniquely able to help fill,” Crain said.
First Independence Bank is the 7th largest Black-owned commercial bank in the United States. It offers a variety of high-quality banking services from managing accounts to personal loans, mortgages, consumer education and investments. First Independence bank has three locations and offers banking solutions online and digitally through its mobile app. Established in 1970, the bank continues to be a responsible leader, efficiently serving the financial needs of its community, its businesses and its customers nationwide. First Independence Bank is a member of FDIC and Equal Housing Lender.