Minnesota just got its first Black-owned bank as First Independence Bank opens in Minneapolis.
The bank opened its first Twin Cities branch on April 26 in southeast Minneapolis. A second branch is expected to open in June.
“I grew up on the south side; I am product of that,” Damon Jenkins, senior vice president and Twin Cities regional market president of First Independence Bank, told KSTP. “Selfishly, I wanted to be in a seat of influence to help people who look like me.”
Jenkins will head the new First Independence Bank branch in southeast Minneapolis.
“This is a real opportunity to really say how do we think different. It really gives us a chance to serve different and really bring access to communities that have been cut out of banking, but cut out of resources for some time,” Jenkins said.
Kenneth Kelly, Chairman and CEO of First Independence, says his company’s expansion is happening with the help of five major financial institutions — Bank of America, Bremer Bank, Huntington Bank, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo.
First Independence is the seventh-largest African American-owned bank in the U.S., and as of 2020 had total assets of $265 million. The bank was founded in 1864.
According to Kelly, First Independence started to look at bringing a branch to Minneapolis in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020. On top of this, the city’s Black leaders had been calling for banking alternatives after several high-profile incidents of alleged discrimination. A news investigation done by KSTP’s 5 Investigates aired body camera video from two incidents at U.S. Bank locations in Columbia Heights and Bloomington in which bank employees called police on Black customers who were trying to conduct simple bank transactions.
First Independence applied for and received FDIC approval to expand into the Twin Cities.
“We’re not coming in trying to reinvent the wheel, we’re not coming in with a silver bullet approach. It’s really saying, ‘how do we connect with the community?'” Jenkins said. One way, he said, will be to focus on closing racial disparities in homeownership in the Twin Cities.
The bank is partnering with local businesses and nonprofits to provide free financial literacy training and credit restoration services.
“That’s what makes this such a historic thing because it’s not the flavor of the day” Jenkins said. “If it’s an opportunity to think different, let’s look at that. If it’s an opportunity to bank different, let’s look at that because that’s the true way we’re going to give people access and power their potential so they can tap into this journey of generational wealth as well.”