An online bank powered by Black Lives Matter

Black-owned banks have struggled to establish a national profile in the American financial landscape for generations. Now a new Black Owned Bank called Greenwood is poised to break through, thanks to the confluence of online technology and the persistence of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Greenwood Formula – Celebrity, Symbolism, and Bank with Purpose

Green wood shares some features with other new online banks, such as Leonardo DiCaprio Suction.

A key ingredient is a celebrity co-founder, which Greenwood has in the form of Michael Render, widely known as rapper and activist Killer Mike.

Another is symbolism. Greenwood provides this in the roots of its name, which refers to the historically black section of Tulsa, Oklahoma, a thriving and wealthy community known as the “Black Wall Street” of its day. In 1921 almost the entire population of Greenwood was arrested and taken into custody by white officials, and the area was destroyed by white rioters, acting under the ostensible but mistaken excuse that a white female elevator operator had been assaulted by a black youth.

At least 36 deaths have been attributed to the riots, and no white person has ever been arrested or charged for the crimes committed in Greenwood.

The third element is perhaps the most critical. Consumers today are increasingly realizing that their combined purchasing power can influence business behavior, and Greenwood engages them on a mission to focus on black and Latin businesses.

In an Oct. 8 press release announcing the launch of the new bank, Greenwood co-founder and chairman Ryan Glover explained that Greenwood will occupy a space that conventional banks have failed to fill.

“It’s no secret that traditional banks let the black and Latin community down. We had to create a new financial platform that includes our history and our future needs, a banking platform built by us and for us, a platform that helps us build a stronger future for our communities, ”said Glover. “Now is the time for us to take back control of our lives and our financial future. “

The role of the Black Lives Matter movement in financial security

The message of financial control is based on the work of financial empowerment of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and that rings with renewed strength during the Black lives matter time.

The Black Lives Matter movement merged in 2013 after Florida jury acquitted a self-proclaimed neighborhood warden in the murder of an unarmed black teenager named Trayvon Martin.

The influence of the movement grew over the following years, culminating in increased public awareness on racial injustice, inequality before the law and brutalization of people of color by police officers.

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Some companies have started publicly support the movement, Nike being a particularly interesting example.

However, much of the company’s business took place outside of the national media spotlight – until this year, when that all changed.

The floodgates opened full force last May, following the murder of George Floyd by Minnesota police officers.

Despite the efforts of some politicians and experts to undermine movement, it continues to collect both the public and business support, including among top professional sports leagues.

The commercial link

Some of the public support for Black Lives Matter was reflected in renewed consumer interest in black-owned businesses, and Greenwood offers its customers the opportunity to take a big step beyond shopping.

As a key part of its community giving program, Greenwood pledges a grant of $ 10,000 each month to a client who runs a small business owned by Blacks or Latinxes.

Greenwood also pledged to provide five meals to a family in need for each new client enrollment, and a donation to UNCF, Good, or the NAACP each time you use the Greenwood debit card.

In addition, the bank has expressed interest in supporting traditional banks owned by Black and Latinx.

Digital banking and culture

One of the problems that black-owned and Latinx-owned businesses have faced in the past is that of numbers. Their brick-and-mortar operations have been largely confined to their own communities, where walk-in traffic is mostly limited to local residents. During this time, these same residents can go to great lengths in the search for goods and services.

Michael Render pointed out this problem when he noted that “today a dollar circulates for 20 days in the white community but only six hours in the black community”.

Electronic commerce has brought about a radical change. Black and Latinx-owned businesses aren’t limited to local communities. They can reach all continents to connect with customers.

Another prominent Greenwood co-founder, civil rights legend and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew J. Young, who also served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, took note of the connection to online banking.

“The work we did in the civil rights movement wasn’t just about being able to sit at the counter. It was also about being able to own the restaurant,” Ambassador Young said. “We have the skills, the talent and the energy to compete anywhere in the world, but to grow the economy it must be based on the spirit of the universe, not the greed of the universe. “

This evocation of a universal community spirit establishes a cultural link that Greenwood underlines through its slogan, “modern bank for culture”.

In a sign of the Greenwood culture last summer, Mr Render told the music publication NME that the global Black Matter protests “had made him optimistic about the future.”

Instead of the audience looking like me, because it’s a black issue, it’s a combination of all the people, races and ethnicities that come out, ”he explained to NME.

Greenwood isn’t open for business until January 2021, but “tens of thousands” is the number of pre-account signups Glover has estimated since Greenwood launched its website last week.

It looks like Greenwood has already struck a note that resonates with people eager to use the power of their voices – and their wallets – to get messages of hate and violence out of public discourse.

Tomorrow, Thursday, October 15 from noon to 2:15 p.m. ET, Episode 2 of 3BL Forum: Brands Take a Stand – Businesses Choose to Lead will focus on one of the most important issues we as a society honestly face – racial and economic inequalities – and the importance of corporate leadership at a time when it is most needed.

In Episode 2, we’ll feature conversations with senior executives from BET Networks, Pizza Hut, Zeno Group, Newman’s Own, Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose (CECP), Fresh Energy, Porter Novelli, Northern Trust Asset Management, UnidosUS , The Cavu Group, Tides Foundation, Okta and Ben & Jerry’s. Registration is free.

Image credits: Greenwood /Facebook


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David A. Albanese