Black-owned Banks are hard to find. The fact that Washington, DC– based industrial Bank, founded in 1934, is still around is an accomplishment in and of itself. The bank was the brainchild of Jesse H. Mitchell, who ran it until his son B. Doyle Mitchell, Sr., succeeded him as president in 1954. The family passed the torch again in 1993 when B. Doyle Mitchell, Jr., became CEO and president and sister Patricia became executive vice president. With assets of approximately $384 million, it is among the larger of the couple dozen black-owned banks. Longevity hasn’t come easily. Mitchell reflects on what has contributed to Industrial Bank’s sustainability. It comes down to people—their employees and their customers. Both are fiercely loyal, says Mitchell. “There is a subset of customers that have been with the bank for 30 years or longer.
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They feel like they can trust us, and they feel like we care as much about them as we do making a dollar. They are committed to black business and black banks. We need more of that today.” He’s not alone in his thinking. Last summer, in the heat of the killings of blacks by police, there was a #BankBlack movement on social media encouraging black folks to put their money in black-owned banks. In one month, Industrial got 1,500 new accounts with balances of roughly $2.7 million. While the movement lost its gusto, black banks are still benefitting. Mitchell makes the point that opening an account is the first step. Banks thrive on relationships. “Take advantage of everything we have to offer, get a credit card, let us refinance your mortgage. Then get others involved. Let us have an estate-planning seminar at your church.” People have to get over the notion that black is inferior. “The question is why wouldn’t you want to do business with us? It’s psychological; we think the ice is colder somewhere else.
When you do business in the black community, the money gets recycled in our community, which leads to jobs. If black businesses don’t grow, we can’t get black men off the streets.” Another plus: Industrial is profitable. “We’re taking the right risks, we’re measuring and mitigating risks,” he says. “We can’t say yes to every loan, but we actually like to loan money. It’s gratifying to close a loan. In many cases, it’s a milestone, say a refinance that saves someone $300 to $400 a month or money to help a business grow.” However, it has not been all smooth sailing. The bank experienced pain during the last recession; customers lost jobs and couldn’t pay loans. Industrial modified and restructured loans. In 2009, the bank revised its budget downward twice. He says those days were “scary.” What’s keeping him up now? Increased regulatory pressures. It’s a different world. He has four children, and he’s not sure about a successor. “I told them to do what makes them happy. I’m forcing some to learn, but truthfully, I’m not sure I wish this on them with all the regulations. It’s sad. I’m a third-generation banker, and I wouldn’t wish this on them.” Changes aside, he takes pride in the family legacy. “We hear all the time from people who say we made a difference in their lives.”