By Ryan Velez
Around a year has passed since a Ghanian-American family took over the former Illinois Federal Service bank with a pledge to revitalize it. Black Enterprise reports that the newly named ISF bank has made major strides since then to make good on its pledge, but at the same time, this Chicago bank may be needed more than ever.
Started by 13 African Americans in 1934 in the Chicago historic neighborhood of Bronzeville, ISF bank now stands alone as the oldest and last Black-owned Chicago-based bank, following January’s exit of Seaway Trust and Bank, Chicago’s dominant Black bank for many years. After being closed by regulators, it was sold to the State Bank Of Texas. “The closure of Seaway and other black banks leaves us with a great responsibility to bear in Chicago because the black community will be looking to us to serve their needs,” says Papa Kwesi Nduom, chairman of ISF Bank. “So it’s a big responsibility, one that we accept.” The black population of Chicago is 910,899 with 78,010 Black businesses, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
Of course, part of the bank’s foothold is making sure that the Black community stands behind them. When asked by Black Enterprise what could be done to let Chicago’s Black community know that they can depend on ISF, Ndoum explained:
“We have been honest with people by letting them know that we’re doing what is needed so that the bank is there for them. We just had 80 small businesses show up for a National Mom and Pop Day we hosted. The bank has re-connected with the community through faith-based institutions, community groups, and events with small businesses. We’re making serious efforts to diversify our client base with the likes of youth, professionals, businesses, colleges, anyone in need of banking services. We are no longer a quiet bank. We plan to work with leading African American-owned businesses in Chicago to offer entrepreneurship counseling as well.”
When it comes down to the numbers, it looks like ISF’s initiatives are hitting their mark. Ndoum explained that “deposits have risen to $100 million currently, including about $2 million of new deposits that came from the #BankBlack movement. Deposits are poised to rise to $125 million by the end of 2017. We expect the increase to come from our community outreach efforts as well as residents and businesses on the South Side moving accounts to our bank from other banks. Loans have risen to $50 million currently and we expect to reach $70 million by year end. About 50% of that gain will come from money lent for home purchases and the rest from small business lending. Assets were at $110 million as of March 31, 2017, up from $106 million the same time a year ago.”