EMPOWERING COMMUNITIES THROUGH FINANCIAL INNOVATION
The Empowerment Awards recognize projects that provide or encourage access to safe, fair financial services in underserved communities. Promontory Financial Group offers these awards to highlight the unique promise of responsible finance to empower communities and deliver consumer-oriented financial innovations, as part of a stronger, more inclusive financial system. Innovations in financial technology have the potential to improve financial stability and create opportunities for families and communities across the country. By sharing best practices and lessons learned, we hope to inspire and support a new breed of innovators using technology to foster growth where it is most needed. We were heartened by the enthusiastic response to the awards in their inaugural year, and by the growth of the program in 2015. The number of applicants more than doubled â€” profound evidence of the many creative and practical products and services bringing responsible finance to communities that stand to benefit greatly from them. And, as with last year, the engagement by the community development financial institutions (CDFIs) was noteworthy. Their communal interest is proof that the awards are as much about collaboration as they are about competition. We are proud to recognize this yearâ€™s winners and finalists, grateful to all of the organizations that applied, and encouraged by their creative work and determination to promote community development and inclusive finance.
LINKING CONSUMERS WITH FINANCIAL-HEALTH RESOURCES
SPRINGFOUR, FORMERLY KNOWN AS MORTGAGEKEEPER, is a Chicagobased small technology S corporation that provides innovative Web-based applications that connect consumers to local assistance and financial-health solutions. Over the past decade, SpringFour has made more than 5.4 million referrals to local programs and financial products for homeowners in need. Today, SpringFour’s vision is to provide all consumers direct access to any available resources needed to create true and sustained financial stability. SpringFour is being recognized for two flagship products that provide consumers with referrals to 100,000 high-quality, vetted, and locally prioritized resources every month. Both S4Direct — accessed by consumers through their financial institution’s website — and S4Desktop — used by nonprofit financial counselors and loan-servicing professionals — provide simple, effective, and actionable direction for consumers in need. Additionally, in early 2016, SpringFour will release LifeKit, a free, consumer-facing mobile app designed to provide broader, on-demand access to quality financial-health solutions to an increasingly mobileactivated consumer base. SpringFour’s nationwide coverage of more than 9,000 resources helps improve its customers’ financial security, boost communication and retention, and replace loan default with lasting solutions.
PROVIDING OAKLAND YOUTH A PATHWAY TO COLLEGE WINNER:
Community Development Banking Category
HEADQUARTERED IN OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, Beneficial State Bank is a $400 million commercial bank dedicated to fostering prosperity in communities in California, Oregon, and Washington through beneficial banking services delivered in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner. As a community development financial institution, Beneficial State is being recognized for its Oakland Kindergarten-to-College Savings Program, which will offer Oakland kindergarteners educational-savings accounts with funding rewards to encourage saving. This project will build on Beneficial State’s existing individual-development account product and will be part of the citywide College-Bound Oakland initiative that the Oakland mayor’s office is developing to provide financial savings, scholarships, mentoring, and education to Oakland children and their families from birth through college. Beneficial State was founded in 2007 with a vision of providing banking that finances community-based businesses, builds the long-term prosperity of responsible consumers, and supports companies that have a commitment to the environment. Beneficial State is committed to ensuring that at least 75% of its loan dollars are to borrowers creating what the bank calls “the new economy,” an economy that is fully inclusive, racially just, and environmentally sound. Aiming to serve traditionally underserved populations, Beneficial State offers a full suite of deposit products to consumers, nonprofits, and businesses with different savings, checking, and cash-management needs — all priced transparently and affordably.
Founded in 1988, the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America is a certified housing-counseling agency and nonprofit mortgage broker at the forefront of fighting predatory lending. Through years of advocacy on behalf of low- and moderate-income people, NACA has set the national standard in providing affordable homeownership for both homeowners and homebuyers. NACAâ€™s American Dream events have assisted more than 250,000 homeowners in obtaining an affordable solution. NACAâ€™s purchase program provides mortgages with a low fixed interest rate and no down-payment requirement, closing costs or points, private mortgage insurance, or need for a perfect credit score. In 2015, NACA created its Detroit Neighborhood Initiative, a lending program designed to bring residential mortgage lending back to Detroit. This initiative offers Detroit residents all the benefits of the NACA program and introduces unprecedented mortgage features, including a 150% loan-to-value for both a 15- and 30-year mortgage term.
Founded in 1980 in Durham, North Carolina, with the mission of creating and protecting ownership and economic opportunity for all, Self-Help has grown to be one of the nationâ€™s largest, most experienced community development financial institutions. It is being recognized for developing a new approach to financial services that allows community lenders to use technology and strategic partnerships to transcend the limitations of the brick-and-mortar branch business model and reach more deeply into underserved communities. This innovative model integrates remote technology and strong, locally trusted partners to facilitate access to affordable financial services on a much larger and more sustainable scale. Select community partners are trained to use the newly developed online platform to accept Self-Help account and loan applications at their offices or other off-site locations, using tablets, laptops, or mobile phones. Partners include immigration service providers, faith-based organizations, labor unions, and other nonprofit allies.
Community Development Banking Category
BankPlus is a Mississippi-based independent community bank with more than $2.5 billion in assets and 60 locations in 34 communities throughout the state. It is being recognized for its Affordable Housing Program, which was launched in 2002 with the goal of helping low- to moderate-income families attain affordable home ownership. The program identifies sources of down-payment assistance and works to secure these dollars on behalf of low- to moderate-income families in Mississippi. Over the years, the program has evolved to meet additional housing needs of its communities, including partnering with local organizations and housing authorities to assist families after Hurricane Katrina, creating housing opportunities for the disabled population, and constructing a homeless shelter in rural Mississippi. Collectively, the Affordable Housing Program has helped more than 1,000 families in the state.
Based in New York City, Carver Federal Savings Bank is a community development bank whose mission is to increase access to responsible, effective financial products and services. Carver operates 10 branches in low- to moderate-income communities in Brooklyn, upper Manhattan, and Queens, and is one of the oldest and largest minority deposit institutions in the country. The bank’s lending activity, concentrated in New York City, consists principally of loans for commercial real estate, small businesses, and nonprofits. Through this lending, Carver reinvests more than 80 cents of every dollar on deposit with the bank back into the community. Carver also offers Carver Community Cash — a suite of five cash-transaction services — at below-market rates in recognition of community need as well the bank’s unique ability to draw customers into a branch where they may learn about, and develop trust in, traditional banking products.
Community Development Banking Category
Since its inception in 1985, Arkansas-based Southern Bancorp has regularly sought ways to expand access to responsible and responsive financial products that have the greatest impact and create the most economic opportunity. Southernâ€™s WorkplaceBased Financial Wellness Partnership achieves this goal through a combination of comprehensive financial development and banking services brought directly to workplaces across its target market in Arkansas and Mississippi â€” an area where most of the counties are classified as economically disadvantaged and underserved. The partnership offers in-person and Web-based financial education and counseling, and traditional bank-deposit services, including direct deposit and small-dollar employee loans. Southernâ€™s partnering organizations include a financial services provider certified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as an established community development financial institution. The bank serves more than 80,000 customers in its CDFI-certified market area, which includes 55 counties in southern and eastern Arkansas and western Mississippi.
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