Magazine article American Banker

OneUnited Says Its Online Savings Has Urban Appeal

Magazine article American Banker

OneUnited Says Its Online Savings Has Urban Appeal

Article excerpt

Boston's OneUnited Bank has launched a high-interest online savings account, making it the first African-American-owned banking company to compete in what has emerged as the fastest growing segment of the deposit business.

For OneUnited, the new account has more than one attraction. It sees the account not just as a deposit play but also as a way to put pressure on competitors that have resisted a consolidation that its executives have tried for years to press.

That drive to consolidate the market is, of course, not part of the new account's marketing pitch. Robert Patrick Cooper, the $540 million-asset OneUnited's chief counsel, said Thursday the bank's new Unity account is an affinity play, aimed mainly at African-American savers who also want to boost development in urban neighborhoods.

Kevin Cohee, OneUnited's chairman and chief executive called the Unity account "a tool for organizing the black community's financial resources."

Mr. Cooper said he thinks that urban development appeal will set the account apart from competitors such as EmigrantDirect.com, a unit of $12.5 billion-asset Emigrant Bancorp in New York, and online account pioneer ING Bank FSB, a unit of ING Group NV of Amsterdam, whose accounts offer higher yields.

OneUnited is the only African-American owned bank with a multi-state presence. It has branches in Miami and Los Angeles, as well as Boston, and it has long nursed an ambition to expand to other markets with large African-American populations. It made an unsuccessful hostile takeover bid for New York's Carver Bancorp, the nation's largest African-American-owned banking company, in 2000.

Mr. Cooper said the creation of the Unity account might speed consolidation.

"The other banks are going to see that this is the level they are going to have to play at, and if they can't, then they are going to have to think about partnering with someone who can," he said. …

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