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Breaking Barriers: Alpha Kappa Alpha Makes History with the First Black-Owned Credit Union

Ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. are making their mark in the financial ecosystem after reportedly establishing their own credit union.

Photo: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority

According to WLS-TV ABC7, the credit union, known as For Members Only (FMO), has become the first digital financial institution in the United States that is Black-owned, women-led, and founded by a sorority.

Credit unions are not-for-profit, tax-exempt organizations and are limited to providing membership to “narrowly defined segments of the population (church groups, labor unions, specific occupations, etc.),” according to Investopedia.

While the sorority is introducing a credit union, the number of credit unions is down nationwide.

In December 2022, the National Credit Union Administration listed 4,759 credit unions in the U.S., down from 5,098 reflected on the 2021 list. More than 17 percent of credit union members are Black, compared with around 13 percent of bank customers, according to an analysis by The Credit Union National Association, CNBC reported.

For Members Only

The grand opening in the Windy City coincided with the annual sorority leadership conference held at its international headquarters. The 115-year-old organization, initiated by college-educated Black women, is one of the nation’s oldest service organizations, and boasts nearly half a million members worldwide.

President and CEO Danette Anthony Reed emphasized the importance of showcasing their financial impact on the communities they serve.

“Everyone doesn’t understand the impact we make financially, so you have to start doing things so folks know we know how to control our money,” she said to WLS.

The idea of the sorority launching a credit union has been in the works for some time, with a strong focus on empowering women of color to attain financial stability and economic well-being. This objective aligns with AKA’s six ongoing initiatives, which include economic wealth development.

FMO Federal Credit Union executive director Terri Bradford Eason highlighted a key feature of the credit union, affirming that every member becomes an owner. The financial institution is currently accessible to all AKA members and their immediate families as well as staff and credit union employees.

One member, Monica Teal, expressed her excitement.

“It’s just awesome to know we’ll have the opportunity to actually do something financial,” she told the television station.

Deardra Hayes-Whigham, another board member of FMO, shared why she and her family chose to become founding subscribers with the intention of investing back into the credit union.

The introduction of FMO signifies a milestone in the financial realm, particularly for marginalized communities that have historically faced limited access to banking services.

Beyond its immediate impact, FMO holds symbolic significance for the broader community. AKA’s initiative in setting a footprint in the financial sector serves as a powerful message, one that the sorority hopes will inspire women of color to take charge of their financial futures and contribute to a more economically empowered society.

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