BY DEVIN HEFLIN, TIMES STAFF WRITER
CENTRAL FLORIDA - The industry of banking in the Black community has endured an interesting, and sometimes trying, history. Banking originated as the notion of storing one’s money in a safe place. In ancient societies, the priest, or shaman was the guardian of the wealth, and rationed the wealth to those most in need of it.
Such practices birthed the modern socialist, communist and Malthusian economic models.
The West African Dogon were especially practitioners of storing wealth, as well as the Jawaara people, a society which remains isolated from western influence to this day.
For many decades, “money in the mattress” was an older manner of storing money away for Black families, as well burying money in the backyard or in the walls of homes. This tradition continues in some families as there remains, as then, a distrust of banking institutions.
Today, wealth is divvied differently, and the untold wealth remains the wealth of Black America. Black America has led the United States four years straight in entrepreneurship and startup companies. Black Americans once led the nation in skilled labor and factory production.
In the second portion of the Industrial Revolution, many young to middle aged Black men were factory workers in major cities, controlling not only the job flow, but wealth distribution in those respective communities.
Many Brothers, like Jesse L. Benga, founder of the Benga bank in Chicago, established Black owned banking institutions, to instill financial independence within the Black community and to offset the segregationist lending practices of white banking institutions.
Prior to Benga Banks’ establishment, Booker T. Washington and eleven of the leading Black financial minds in the early twentieth century founded the National Negro Business League, which served as a regulatory arm for Black financial institutions.
The City of Chicago agreed days ago to deposit twenty million dollars into the city’s last Black owned bank, the Illinois Service Federal Savings and Loan Association.
Founded in Chicago in 1934 to help give the black community better access to credit, ISF Bank is one of just more than 20 black-owned banks in the country, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Whereas, there were once one hundred and fifty Black banking institutions, the de-industrialization of the Black community witnessed that number drop to twenty-one Black owned banks in the modern era.
How does the Black community bank in the modern era? What are trends in Black banking and how do these trends correlate with Black spending statistics? Where do Blacks in Central Florida bank?
Top Banks for Black Consumers in Central Florida
SunTrust - 48 % of Blacks Bank in the State of Florida. 40% of Blacks Bank in Central Florida
Bank of America - 42% of Blacks Bank in the State of Florida. 39% of Blacks Bank in Central Florida, primarily older demographic (45-65 y.o.)
Wells Fargo - 40% of Blacks Bank in the State of Florida. 37% of Blacks Bank in Central Florida
Navy Federal Credit Union - 34% of Blacks Bank in Central Florida (primarily veterans, which are afforded loans for their businesses/ housing)
Orlando Federal Credit Union - 32% of Blacks Bank in Central Florida
CFE Federal Credit Union - 30% of Blacks Bank in Central Florida
McCoy Federal Credit Union - 27% of Blacks Bank in Central Florida
The 21 Black owned banks have assets which total approximately $4.8 billion in assets or approximately 0.43 percent of African America’s $1.1 trillion in buying power.
Axiom Bank today stands as the only remnant of a Black owned banking institution in Central Florida. The Bank was originally established on December 31, 1984, as Washington Shores Savings Bank. The name was later changed to Metro Savings Bank in June of 1990. When the name was changed to Metro Bank in 1995, late Rev. Ann Brown Payne served as the Florida based institutions CEO.
“We all came together. It was a time in our community when we wanted to educate our people financially and give them leverage which other groups at the time had.” said W.D. Morris, another Co-founder of the bank and colleague of Payne.
After the bank’s purchase by BET Founder Bob Johnson in 2006, the bank was renamed as Urban Trust Bank, and for a period, left the Washington Shores Community to relocate headquarters to Washington D.C.
The bank’s policies were reorganized in 2008 and its headquarters were once more moved to Central Florida, where locations remain inside Walmart stores. The moniker was again changed to Axiom Bank in 2014 and provides checking, deposits and money market accounts.
“The community is our priority. We provide financial literacy courses and plan to provide many more for this upcoming year.” said Daniel Davis, the Bank’s President and CEO.
Axiom, Davis says, plans different community outreach models also for the upcoming year, which will provide financial literary education, investment education and small business workshops, in conjunction with local Chambers of Commerce’s.
Though the bank had its origins as a Black owned enterprise, Davis says the bank is now focused on marketing to its most needed demographic, students. “Getting to them and teaching them early on about the importance of smart finances is key.” Davis said.