If you plan to plunge into a job at any of the nation's 12,000 banks or 2300 thrift institutions, pay keen attention to Washington's vigorous watchdogging over banking.
The Clinton Administration has scared the wits out of big banks, forcing them to check whether they're living up to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) of 1977. The CRA is a federal law enacted to make sure that low-income borrowers have access to loans, and to keep bankers from shutting branches in low-income neighborhoods.
In October, for example, the Federal Reserve Board killed a merger between Shawmut National and another New England bank group because Shawmut has a history of rejecting more African-American mortgage borrower requests than it does white requests.
The industry is also holding its breath to see whether President Bill Clinton follows through on a plan to start a new agency that could parcel $2 billion in loans to African-American and other underrepresented groups' businesses and families via existing banks.
So Washington has certainly been busy lately in the banking business. The question is, will tough CRA enforcement and community reinvestment mean more jobs for this year's college grads? Some industry insiders whom THE BLACK COLLEGIAN interviewed made mixed predictions.
"Most banks with CRA compliance departments will need Black employees. But you can't focus on the CRA alone," says Willie Spears, an African-American banker who heads 17 branches for Hibernia National Bank in greater New Orleans. With some 250 employees under his aegis, Spears has to keep an ear to the ground for changes in hiring patterns.
"We've found that to penetrate upscale Black customer markets, we need more Black employees, too." …