By Lloyd Williams, President and CEO, GHCC
One of the stark and most transparent messages resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic is that it is abundantly important to have well-established banking relationships in your own communities. These business and personal interactions should not only be with one of the major banking giants, such as Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo, and Capital One. Still, most importantly, you should have an account with your local community bank —Carver Federal Savings Bank, Popular Bank, or others.
The recent government stimulus funding debacle dramatically demonstrated the need to establish such business relationships. Many hundreds of billions of dollars for PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans and grants theoretically earmarked to assist and support small businesses and local not-forprofits did not get to the ones needing them most.
A vast majority of local businesses, churches, and not-for-profit community-based organizations found out very quickly they were deemed less than a priority to the major banks they had historically dealt with and loyally supported. They discovered that the presiding officers at their local branch of the mega-financial institutions had little or no access to the decision-makers at corporate headquarters—despite these same, loyal customers having banked there for years, and in some instances, decades.
The lack of access to and respect from the larger financial institutions shows that we must support local financial institutions to increase our economic value and attain the related respect the local business community’s customer base deserves.
You may recall the theme from the television show Cheers—“you want to go where everybody knows your name.” Carver, for example, has seven branches in New York City, predominantly servicing communities of color—four branches in Brooklyn, one in Queens, and two branches in Harlem.
Encouraged by the Chamber, many of the loyal, local customers rejected or ignored by the big financial institution they had been banking with for years went directly to Carver, even if they were not Carver customers. Carver professionals went above and beyond to assist with applications for PPP loans and grants, as did Popular Bank.
On behalf of The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, I give special thanks and recognition to Carver Federal Savings Bank President Michael Pugh and his extraordinary team. They stepped up to support our businesses and local not-for-profits in Queens, Brooklyn, and Harlem during these most challenging of times.
We strongly advise, invite, and encourage businesses, professionals, community-based organizations, churches, and others to open accounts at Carver Federal Savings Bank, Popular Bank, and other locally based banks servicing your immediate community as soon as possible.
Let’s not be caught unprepared for the next time. There will be a next time. Count on it. We need to bank with community-based financial institutions. By so doing, we will be creating local jobs and local stability, as well as garnering respect for you as a customer.