Black Owned Credit Union Partners With Netflix To Highlight Bank Financial Discrimination In Limited Series


Credit: Bill Bynum

Blacks have had a strained relationship with banking institutions throughout history. Discrimination, failure and misfortune have marked black customer interactions with banks since the 1800s. The reverberations are still felt today.

In fact, CNN recently reported that a black couple received a home appraisal that was almost half a million dollars higher than their previous estimate by other appraisers. What changed? They simply removed all the artwork and photos that could show that they really belonged to a black family.

Additionally, Zillow reported that the majority (59%) of black home buyers fear qualifying for a mortgage, while less than half (46%) of white buyers. This is mainly because lenders are turning down mortgages to black applicants at an 80% higher rate than white applicants, according to 2020 data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.

Count on us, a new 3-part limited series from Netflix’s Strong Black Lead, addresses these key questions with help from Hope Credit Union, a black owned and operated financial institution in Mississippi.

Hope CEO Bill Bynum recently spoke to Essence to talk about his partnership with Netflix, the credit union‘s mission to empower small business owners and build trust with the black community.

Bill, you have built a long and powerful career empowering black people to take charge of their financial future. Did you have early conversations about money in your family?

We didn’t really have any conversations about money in my house growing up. My family was a lot like the families we serve in Hope – people who pool their resources to help each other. That’s what got us through. In fact, I remember when I was very young, my grandmother would take me to the credit union located in the garage of the assistant principal of my school. This is where the blacks in the community would recover. We couldn’t go to the local community bank and be treated fairly. So that was our reality.

Because of this particular experience with money, how do you think it shaped your choice of career and your own relationship with money?

I knew it was clear that not everyone had equitable access to financial education and rewarding opportunities, so I thought this was something that needed to be addressed. And luckily, I really stumbled upon a career that allowed me to do that. I was put on a waiting list for law school and found a job with an organization that provided support to businesses that were shutting down and tried to convert them into employee-owned businesses. But when we went to the bank for funding, people of color, women, blues, people just didn’t have the same access to capital as everyone else. So we decided to create our own credit union and support these businesses. It grew and is now one of the largest financial institutions in the country

In fact, you touched on a subject I wanted to ask you about: the complicated relationship black people have with banks. What kinds of challenges have you encountered in gaining the trust of your customers?

It was complicated, no doubt. We don’t have the advantage of being as well capitalized as our non-black and brown peers. I’m not really in a position to market and advertise the services that we provide. You see the billboards, radio, and television prominently that have black and brown faces on them, but when they go to those places, they’ll find their services don’t match the advertisement. In Mississippi, black households earning $ 150,000 are more likely to be denied a mortgage than a white household. That is $ 40,000, which shows that there is systemic discrimination in the traditional banking system. We have a small hill to climb there. This is why the opportunity with Netflix was so important to us.

Yes I can imagine. The series did a great job of exposing some of the obstacles that stand in the way of black wealth creation. But they also asked a question that made me think, and I would like you to weigh in on that. The show asked if black people are the reason our community doesn’t seem to be reaching its full potential. Did you have any thoughts on this?

I think the answer to this is literally black and white. It’s not black or white honestly. Granted, there have been contributors who have undermined economic mobility in the black community, but I think the more we can increase asset ownership, get people to go back to where they have an interest in the game, we can. help right some long-standing wrongs.

The series has done a fantastic job highlighting the fact that Hope has really been instrumental in helping black business owners access these P3 loans during the height of the pandemic last year. As we enter another year of pendant, in what other ways is Hope helping marginalized communities move closer to financial freedom?

I think if a successful entrepreneur is honest they would admit that they haven’t gotten to where they are on their own. We try to play the role of the private banker to help them seize the opportunities. Whether it’s helping manage big contracts or navigating difficult financial situations they’ve never faced before, we hold their hand and help them get through. It takes longer and is more labor-intensive and cost-intensive, but it’s what it takes to bridge the financial opportunity gap in communities of color.


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