Mission control: Bank founded to serve minorities grows to become a major player

Founded in 1948, Carver Federal Savings Bank had a mission to serve African Americans shut out of mainstream financial services.
Carver Federal Savings Bank

BY BILL EGBERT

Carver Federal Savings Bank was founded in 1948 with a mission to serve African Americans who at the time were shut out of mainstream financial services. Over the past seven decades as an historically minority-managed community bank, Carver has experienced firsthand the benefits of diversity throughout all levels of its organization.

Today, the bank boast eight branches across New York City, including four in Brooklyn, three in Manhattan and one in Queens, as well as a robust mobile banking platform. The bank is also a member of the Allpoint ATM network that allows customers to make cash withdrawals from ATM’s located in CVS, Costco and Duane Reade stores, among others, with no additional fees. 

Today Carver has grown to become the largest African American-managed, publicly traded Minority Depository Institution in the country.
Photo by Brad Hamilton

This year Carver is celebrating 70 years of successful growth earned while serving some of the most diverse neighborhoods in New York City.

“As the largest Black-managed, publicly traded Minority Depository Institution in the U.S., Carver continues to undergo positive change as we position ourselves to strengthen core profitability, enlarge our depository and lending base, and offer new banking products and services to our customers — all the while leveraging our designation as a Community Development Financial Institution by the U.S. Treasury Department,” said Carver CEO Michael T. Pugh.

Central to Carver’s mission — and it’s success — has been to establish branches and points of access in neighborhoods often neglected by more mainstream financial institutions.

“We’ve tried to put ourselves where our customers need us most,” Pugh notes. 

But the cost of doing business in New York remains high the city, and talent costs the same whether you’re a community lender like Carver or a major commercial bank. On top of that, many of the costs of compliance with regulations intended for Wall Street giants weigh even heavier on banks the size of Carver.

“When it comes to regulation and associated costs, there isn’t a line drawn between large and small institutions, and it obviously is harder for smaller institutions like us to meet these costs,” adds Pugh. “This is why we need the support of our communities more than ever. If you haven’t been to a Carver branch recently, please do stop by to see all that we have to offer.”

Carver certainly has its champions. Those who witnessed the challenges facing the banking system during the depths of the financial crisis have had considerable praise for the leadership at Carver, stressing the importance of the role Carver plays in the communities where it operates.

In addition to expanding banking options and providing financial education for low- to moderate-income communities across New York City, Carver has a strong history of empowering and supporting women in leadership roles going back to its inception. Indeed, approximately two thirds of the bank’s staffers are women. More broadly speaking, the bank’s staff is about 70 percent African American, 20 percent Hispanic, and about 10 percent Caucasian. In addition, 100 percent of its board members are African- or Caribbean-American. 

Diversity and all of the business benefits it creates are ingrained in Carver’s DNA.

Many of Carver’s customers appreciate intuitively that where they bank can have a significant impact in their local neighborhoods. In the case of Carver, the bank reinvests 83 cents of each deposit dollar back into the neighborhoods it serves, through competitively priced consumer and small business loans — that’s 83 percent of each deposit dollar the bank takes in. 

In recent years Carver has developed a laser focus on meeting the needs of Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises, which play a huge role in creating local jobs in the communities in which Carver operates. To date, Carver has provided approximately $23 million in loans to MWBEs through public and private partnerships like the MTA Small Business Mentorship Program. 

Promoting financial literacy and economic independence is likewise a big part of Carver’s mission. The bank designs all of its products to promote economic independence through their pricing, terms and conditions, and effective marketing to make sure people know about these products. The bank is also proud to have provided financial literacy training to more than 15,000 individuals over the past ten years.

Because the bank understands the business models that work in the communities it serves, it sees the potential of these entrepreneurs, giving the bank a chance to serve them and fill-in the gaps left by the blinds pots common to more mainstream institutions.

Carver has a strong value proposition for small businesses and consumers who wish to see their deposit dollars reinvested in their local communities — now, and for the next 70 years.

To learn more about the bank please visit: www.carverbank.com.

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