Denver-Based Bank Focuses on Serving Native Americans

Article excerpt

The banking industry is experiencing enough interest and growth in the Native American community that Bank2 founder J.D. Colbert recently left Oklahoma to head up a full-service bank with a focus on serving Indians extensively and expanding nationwide with that vision.

The economy in Indian Country has never been stronger, Colbert said from his office in Denver, where Native American Bank is based. It's become very robust and dynamic and encompasses much more than just gaming, and hence there is a corresponding need for a bank such as Native American Bank that has specifically targeted Indian Country as our market.

I'm particularly excited about Oklahoma and expanding our presence there, because of the 39 tribes there and that's where I come from, he said. I see a lot of potential for us there.

Only two banks are owned by tribes in Oklahoma, officials said: First National Bank and Trust in Shawnee, owned by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and Bank2 in Oklahoma City, owned by the Chickasaw tribe. The North America Native Bankers Association, which Colbert also founded in central Oklahoma, has identified about 10 banks nationwide owned by tribes.

According to the 2000 Census, Oklahoma had an Indian population of about 273,000, nearly 8 percent of the state's total population and the second-largest population nationwide after California.

The goal of NANBA, as stated on the organization's Web site, is to build a strong network of Indian-owned financial institutions throughout Indian Country - (and) to build relationships with government agencies, nonprofit organizations, existing financial institutions and other firms that share our vision of enhancing Indian economic self-determination through a strong financial network.

Given the 560-plus federally recognized tribes in the United States alone, NANBA believes the desire to have 50 tribally owned financial institutions in the U.S. and Canada in the next 10 years is an attainable goal.

Oklahoma Bankers Association President Roger Beverage said tribally owned banks are good members of this association. - Nobody has ever said anything to me to suggest they were unhappy with the way they operate.

I think they're looking to expand their holdings, definitely, Beverage said. …