A new banking option in Harlem
CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 12/21/2012, 12:18 p.m.
A new bank in Harlem aims to reach those who the financial world labels as "unbanked" in hopes to bring not only a new way for residents to manage and save their money, but also help out small businesses.
With one successful branch already in the South Bronx, Spring Bank opened its doors in Harlem earlier this month. The new bank sits on 111th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard in a location that used to be a Pay-O-Matic check-cashing branch.
Spring Bank officials told the AmNews that while the bank will continue to offer check cashing, money transfers and other services, customers will now have the opportunity to open a bank account and cash checks for $1,000 and under for $1.
"We are a bank for the under-banked," said Brian A. Blake, vice president of Spring Bank and Community Reinvestment Act officer. "All of our customers have direct access to our top managers, and we offer the right tools to support the growth of small and growing businesses here in Harlem and throughout New York City. We are committed to helping our neighbors gain financial literacy and build assets."
Spring Bank is partners with several city agencies geared towards financial literacy, including the Department of Consumer Affairs, Borough President Scott Stringer's office and the Financial Clinic. Programs including $aveNYC and NYC SafeStart are used by the Spring Bank.
According to the borough president's office, 38 percent of Harlemites have no bank account, and Spring Bank's arrival brings hope of changing that. Harlem Branch Manager Kathy Lasri said the bank wants to give people the opportunity to not only start checking accounts, but also savings accounts.
"We are traditionally a community bank," she said. "Everyone can have an account and we offer small business loans, and we are establishing relationships with nonprofits."
Lasri added that along with nonprofits, the bank is also reaching out to Harlem's West African community, which is not far from the branch. Spring also plans to work with local politicians and even schools.
Spring Bank offers an Access Card, which they call a "checkless checking" account similar to pre-paid debit cards but without all the fees. Customers with the card can enjoy a $1-per-month maintenance fee and no minimum balance.
Check accounts offer a $3-per-month maintenance fee with no minimum balance and a $20 initial deposit and can be used with direct deposit to put money in the account. Debit cards linked to the checking account can be used at several ATMs for free. Customers also have access to online banking.
However, Spring Bank's focus, when it comes to loans, is small businesses. Lending small businesses $100,000 to as much as $1.5 million, Relationship Manager and Harlem native Jason Ohene said the bank is looking to help create more small businesses that will thrive in the neighborhood.
"We specialize in small business loans. We engage the potential borrower and it's all about having a niche. What makes us different is that we want to get a full understanding of the actual customers," he said.
For more information about Spring Bank, go to www.springbankny.com.