Hip-hop artist and activist Killer Mike launched a digital bank for Black people in October 2020 and his efforts recently received a major financial boost in the form of $40 million in funding.
Atlanta-based digital bank platform Greenwood was launched by a group that included former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and Bounce TV founder Ryan Glover. When they announced the launch, tens of thousands of people signed on immediately.
Killer Mike—whose real name is Michael Santiago Render—unveiled plans to launch Greenwood, whose name references the historic Tulsa, Oklahoma-based business district that was the heart of Black entrepreneurship. The district known as Black Wall Street was burned down and destroyed in 1921 by a white mob.
Greenwood was founded with a $3-million investment. It now has corporate backing from six of the seven largest U.S. banks, the top two payment technology companies and others including Truist Bank, Bank of America, PNC, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Mastercard, Visa, Banco Popular (the largest Hispanic-owned bank in the U.S., PNC and Soft Bank, NewsOne and Bank of America reported. Venture Capital firms TTV Capital, Quality Ventures, FIS, and Lightspeed Venture Partners and FIS, a leading provider of technology solutions for merchants, have invested in Greenwood too.
It also has high-profile individual investors including NFL player Alvin Kamara and actor Jesse Williams.
Killer Mike is hoping Greenwood will give more Black people access to banking services; 17 percent of Black Americans don’t have a bank account, compared to 3 percent of white households, according to a 2020 Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. report.
The bank will help close the racial wealth gap, Killer Mike said in a statement. “The challenge of the racial wealth gap can only be effectively addressed by a coalition focused on the mission of financial equity.
“Greenwood’s Series A funding round is a major step towards economic empowerment to Latino and Black individuals, families, and businesses by assembling multiple parties in finance and financial services to act in concert.”
Glover, chairman of Greenwood, said, “The net worth of a typical white family is nearly 10 times greater than that of a Black family and eight times greater than that of a Latino family. This wealth gap is a curable injustice that requires collaboration,” said. “The backing of six of the top seven banks and the two largest payment technology companies is a testament to the contemporary influence of the Black and Latino community.”
But many on Twitter had questions about Greenwood’s corporate backers.
“so its bank of america basically…..,” one person tweeted.
Another asked, “The big Q: How will account opening policies be different than existing banks such that those with ChexSystem blemishes don’t get scoped out?”
Greenwood said it aims to help the Black community at large. Every time a customer uses a Greenwood debit card, the said it will bank will donate to the United Negro College Fund, Goodr (an organization focused on food insecurity), or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, TechCrunch reported.
Each month, the bank said it will provide a $10,000 grant to a Black or Latinx small business owner who uses Greenwood’s financial services.
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