Detroit-based First Independence Bank, one of 18 Black-owned full-service banks in the country, has filed an application to open a branch in Minneapolis.
Five banks in the Twin Cities — Bank of America, Bremer Bank, Huntington Bank, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo — each are supporting First Independence Bank’s arrival with capital, research, marketing, and other services to assist its start-up.
“We are thrilled to be working with these five banks to open a branch in the region,” says Kenneth Kelly, chairman and CEO of First Independence Bank. “Banks are beacons of hope in their communities, and we intend to be that for the people of Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the rest of the Twin Cities (area), particularly those who are unbanked or underbanked throughout the region.”
For First Independence Bank, the Twin Cities branch will be the 51-year-old enterprise’s first outside of Michigan. It will be located at 3430 University Ave. SE in Minneapolis. The location is a former bank branch that Wells Fargo has donated to Project for Pride in Living (PPL), which is working with First Independence Bank on its expansion into the market.
“We are fortunate to find a site on a major thoroughfare, making it accessible to the large cross-section of residents and businesses that a bank needs to be economically viable,” says Kenneth Kelly, chairman and CEO of First Independence Bank. “Being on a light rail line and a bus route is a plus for the under-resourced communities we hope to serve, particularly the Black community. So is the opportunity to be part of an established commercial area with few nearby banking options.”
He added that the site also has a drive-through for added convenience, and space to host education sessions and community gatherings. The branch is expected to open early November. A second location at Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue is possible in the future, Kelly notes.
First Independence Bank’s decision to open in the Twin Cities came after discussions that began in April with several Black business, religious, nonprofit, and other community leaders in the region, according to Kelly.
“Since First Independence Bank prioritizes services to the Black community and under-resourced businesses and individuals, it was important to me to listen to these leaders about what the community needs and how the bank could make a difference,” says Kelly. “They welcomed me generously and offered important guidance. As a result, housing will be a major focus for First Independence Bank in the Twin Cities. Our innovative home loan programs will help reduce one of the largest disparities in the country between Black and white homeowners.”
One of the leaders with whom Kelly met was Marcus Owens, executive director of the African American Leadership Forum, who began his career in financial services. “The addition of a full-service Black-owned bank will open more opportunities to build wealth, which is critical not only for the Black community but for the entire region,” he says.
The new bank branch also will offer customers ATM and debit card use at any Huntington and Wells Fargo ATM location with no ATM service fee, a loan program to help establish a credit score or repair personal credit, virtual financial education sessions, and more.
Damon Jenkins, formerly Wells Fargo’s district manager for Minneapolis, has joined First Independence Bank as senior vice president and Twin Cities regional market president.
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