The State Of Black Banks In 2022: Can They Fight Off An Economic Downturn Or Crisis?

The State Of Black Banks In 2022: Can They Fight Off An Economic Downturn Or Crisis?


Cytonn Photography

Black banks have been struggling to stay afloat for the last few decades. There are just 42 left in the country, according to Investopedia. Between 1888 and 1934, there were 134 Black-owned banks. Since the so-called racial reckoning following the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020, some of the country’s largest banks committed to investing hundreds of millions of dollars into Black banks to help these institutions get through the financial hardships of the covid-19 pandemic. But can they survive an economic downturn or another crisis?

JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America made an estimated $300 million in equity commitments in minority-owned banks—mostly Black-owned firms beginning June 2020, Black Enterprise reported. Morgan Stanley also committed $14.6 million in equity grants, per the National Bankers Association (NBA), and more investments have come from other institutions.

As with other Black-owned businesses, the covid crisis hit Black banks harder than other banks But now, as the country faces a possible recession, Black banks could be facing another crisis.

Like other Back-owned businesses, a recession could be a major blow to Black-owned banks. “If we do slip into a recession, I predict that it will be bad for Black-owned businesses,” Robert Fairlie, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told Forbes. Black-owned businesses struggled through the pandemic “and don’t have large cash reserves, owner wealth, or access to bank credit to weather another recession.”

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Black-owned banks are still vital to Black America as they offer financial services to citizens who have been consistently discriminated against by other financial institutions. They provide more money to residents of low- and moderate-income status as they are more open to handling higher levels of risk. In 2016, 67 percent of mortgages made by Black-owned banks were either Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgages, which tend to serve riskier borrowers, or mortgages held “in the portfolio,” meaning they are liable to the risk of the borrower defaulting, according to Investopedia research.

Black-owned businesses tend to have better reception at Black-owned banks when it comes to lending.

“The Black community has for years been afraid of banking with traditional institutions. A lot of them live in banking deserts where there are no banks, which is also why you have credit unions, check-cashing places, and payday loans,” Tyrone Ross, chief executive officer (CEO) of Onramp Invest, a crypto asset integration platform solution for financial advisors, told Investopedia when discussing the need for Black banks.

Ross added, “I think we have a responsibility now to realize that—if you really want to be grassroots, and you really want to help Black Americans—get that money in Black banks and then have those Black banks fund the people.”

Some Black-owned banks have consolidated as a way to handle the fallout from the covid crisis, but this has not been enough to help them compete with the country’s big banks. Then there is the issue of attracting clients. Black households were about five and a half times more likely to be unbanked than white households, found a 2019 FDIC survey, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Even with the cash infusions from the big banks, Black-owned ones still have much smaller assets. Their assets have a combined total of just more than $7.7 billion, according to BankBlackUSA.

“Black banks are always going to have a need to raise more capital because we just don’t have access to public markets the way majority banks have,” B. Doyle Mitchell, president and CEO at Washington D.C.-based Industrial Bank, told Yahoo Finance.

Black banks also have fewer assets compared to others owned by different ethnic groups across the U.S., Black Enterprise reported. Black banks hold just roughly 2 percent of the $338 billion-plus for all ethnic banks examined. Asian banks, by contrast, hold around 51 percent, and Hispanic financial institutes have about 42 percent of those assets.

“Black banks will never be meaningful at this level,” William Michael Cunningham, an economist and owner of Creative Investment Research in Washington, D.C., told Black Enterprise. “They will always have limited impact.”

Cytonn Photography, https://unsplash.com/@cytonn_photography