A branch in Harlem wants people to be banked in Harlem.

Last week, officials at JPMorgan Chase celebrated its contributions to the Harlem community at its community branch on 125th Street between Malcolm X and 5th Ave.

Harlem was the prototype for the community branch model. The branch opened in September 2019 after a renovation that better reflected the community via contributions from local artists and local business. More community branches will open around the country this year (Minneapolis, Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans and Los Angeles) and bank officials hope to open 16 total by the end of 2022.

Each branch will house what’s known as a “Community Home Lending Advisor” who will collaborate with local organizations providing skills training to residents, small business pop-up shops in branches and live events at no cost.

According to JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, as of right now, the program has passed with flying colors.

“It’s been a fabulous success,” said Dimon. “If these things are good and they work, we’ll do more.”

“You always want people who are not banked to become banked.”

According to the FDIC’s “How America Banks” report, almost 14% of Black households are unbanked while 12.2% of Hispanics households are unbanked. Asian American households are unbanked at a in 1.7% rate.

This is why the workshops and seminars are more important said Chase’s first VP Community Manager Nichol King.

“Pre-COVID, we met the community where they were,” said King. “I hosted a lot of financial health workshops with faith-based organizations. How to budget. How to manage credit.

“Our best marketing is word of mouth,” King said. “In the community branch, when you come in, there’s a lot of Harlem artifacts. It gives the community residents a feeling that they belong here.”

An official at an organization that focuses on giving people the skills to getting back to work appreciates King’s efforts.

“At STRIVE New York, we help our students and alumni build generational wealth for themselves and their families through employment, entrepreneurship and financial resiliency,” said STRIVE’s Verna L. Hamilton, director of social enterprise and Terrence D. Byerson, community relations manager.

“The Chase team in Harlem, especially Nichol X. King, have brought authentic, knowledgeable resources to our program participants to demystify financial systems and help them make practical decisions to increase their economic mobility,” continued Hamilton. “We appreciate the time and energy of the Chase team and their commitment to help our neighbors achieve success and build brighter futures.”  

JPMorgan Chase officials said they held conversations with local residents, small business, non-profits and elected officials to getting a better picture of the unbanked gap in the neighborhood and the financial literacy residents need.

“We don’t just create a workshop and facilitate,” said King. “We listen to the community and hear about what topics they want to learn about. We’re helping close the gap on the unbanked population.”

While talking with the AmNews Dimon lamented that what his bank is doing for residents should’ve been done by the local public school system.

“I think it’s outrageous that we don’t teach nutrition, health and basic financial stuff in high school,” said Dimon.

While he’s upset over the lack of financial literacy lessons in school, Dimon and JPMorgan Chase are providing lessons of their own. Dimon said that at the end of 2022, he hopes to open 16 community-focused branches across the country like the one in Harlem.

“You just gotta work at it,” said Dimon. “If there’s a magical formula, we’re gonna find it.”