Bridging the Wealth Gap through Comprehensive Minority-Owned Business Lending

By Carlisle, Corey | ABA Banking Journal, January-February 2019 | Go to article overview

Bridging the Wealth Gap through Comprehensive Minority-Owned Business Lending


Carlisle, Corey, ABA Banking Journal


In its 2017 report on small business credit availability, the Federal Reserve recognized that banks continue to be the leading source of external credit to small businesses. The report also profiled an increasingly common type of community reinvestment intermediary strategy used by banks to help promote economic vitality in low-income areas through small business financing and support.

Either because they lack expertise or are unable to bear overhead costs related to a special small business finance program, many banks have created or assisted intermediaries that support small businesses in their communities. These intermediaries often begin as formal or informal working partnerships among lenders, regional or neighborhood nonprofit organizations, and community-based development corporations.

The nonprofits often have specialized development experience serving low-income and minority communities, are adept at identifying prospective borrowers and, in some cases, also provide loan counseling. This kind of partnership is also effective in packaging financial resources from several public and private sources. In essence, they can enable banks to make small business loans that might not otherwise have been financially feasible.

With an ambitious goal of closing the wealth gap for growing minority populations within the bank's footprint, Boston's 200-year-old Eastern Bank is taking significant steps to address economic inclusion. In April 2017, the bank launched the Business Equity Initiative, with a three-year commitment of $10 million from the Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation. The initiative's goal is to mitigate wealth inequality by bringing together minority owned businesses, supplier partnerships and transformative community development as a means of addressing growing income inequality in Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. …

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