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Why a former WH policy advisor and MLK’s daughter teamed up to buy a bank in Utah
“We have to take this moment and build institutions that can last,” Ashley D. Bell, CEO of Redemption Holding Company, told Supercreator in an interview.
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FIRST THINGS FIRST
When Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, there were over 135 Black-owned banks in our country. Almost 55 years later, that number is less than 20.
Redemption Holding Company announced today that it acquired Holladay Bank and Trust, a state-chartered commercial bank in the center of the business district that caters to the Holladay suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah area citizens and businesses.
RHC, a public benefit corporation formed for the purpose of acquiring Holladay, is the first Black-owned bank in a white affluent neighborhood and the first in the Rocky Mountains. It’s also the first Black-owned bank where the balance sheet is zero and there are no delinquencies. And the acquisition represents the first time in history that Black investors bought a non-minority-owned bank.
“It’s not lost on us that this is a very unique acquisition because it is Black investors investing in buying a white-owned bank,” Ashley D. Bell, RHC's executive chairman and chief executive officer, said in an interview with Supercreator. “And that in itself is something that we hope can be a blueprint for how we expand our influence and project it outside of just our urban areas where Black people are the majority.”
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Bell, a corporate lawyer and former White House policy advisor, added that RHC’s goal is to be able to reach all Black Americans and be a bank that Black people would want to bank at because it has better services than the bank they have right now.
“We feel as though this giant portion of America that does not have Black-bank representation is going to be a priority, but we are in Utah for a reason. Utah is a great state for building banking technology,” he said. “It is not about lowering our expectations of what you should get from a bank. It is about raising expectations of Black banks to a level that people will want to bank with us because our services are better and not just because we're a Black-owned bank.”
Bell is joined by Dr. Bernice King, the daughter of the late Rev. King and Coretta Scott King, who will serve as the bank’s senior vice president of corporate strategy and alliances and also sit on its advisory board alongside director, co-founder, former NFL player and investor, Dhani Jones.
“A great group of of partners coupled with an incredible purpose and an opportunity to make history, but to also fill a gap that we think has been a critical piece of the puzzle that has been missing when it comes to closing the racial wealth gap in our country,” Bell said.
Jones and Bell worked together on helping Black businesses get access to the Payroll Protection Program when he worked at the SBA and he was working at a bank in Utah. Bell said he and King, also a personal friend and classmate at Leadership Atlanta, a leadership group in the Georgia city focused on closing divides, shared a mutual interest in continuing her father’s legacy.
“In this final speech, he called for African Americans around the country to start a banking-in movement, where we would consciously move our money back into our own banks so it could be leveraged for our own opportunity. And that was his final speech,” Bell said. “She fundamentally felt that her father was pivoting towards a more economic-centered message at the twilight of his life before he was assassinated and felt this effort was sort of embodied in his last speech in April in Memphis.”
RHC is also what Bell describes as a sustainable answer to the grants and one-time offers of support and solidarity with the plight of Black Americans after the murder of George Floyd in 2020.
“We must harness that this brief moment in the sun of compassion for the struggle for Black lives and use it to create institutions that can last beyond America’s whimsical in-the-wind approach to dealing with the reconciliation of race in our country that that ebbs and flows depending on the heightened level of violence towards Black people,” he said.
Bell continued: “We have to take this moment and build institutions that can last. And we believe that there's no stronger institutions we can build than financial institutions that can provide us with the opportunity to grow our dreams and create opportunity for our community.”
In recent years, members of Congress have introduced bills to support minority-owned banks and increase access for consumers to affordable financial services.
But Bell said that Black-owned businesses should be allowed to invest in Black banks and it counts as a Black investment. Right now, all of RHC’s investors must invest from their personal accounts to be considered Black investors.
When funding is limited to personal investment though, it restricts the amount of Black capital that can be used.
“So I think there should be a conversation around extending the definition of Black to our businesses,” Bell said. “Any for-profit business that’s Black-owned should be allowed to invest in a Black bank and it be considered a Black investment. That would make pooling our capital as a community easier to create more Black banks and to put more money into black on financial institutions.”
RHC still must receive final regulatory approval from the state and the Federal Reserve, but Bell said the bank will be in a unique situation to address part of the country that has underserved Black people considering it’s in an area where there are no Black banks — the closest to the west is in Los Angeles; the closest to the east is in Houston.
And while he declined to speculate on how long regulators would take to approve the acquisition, he said RHC has a strong team and a change of control is a lot easier to pass muster than a new bank, which is part of why it bought a bank in Utah that is in a very affluent community that has zero-to-no delinquencies.
“So we’re not buying a troubled bank. This isn’t an acquisition of us buying a bank that needs our help,” Bell said. “This bank has been doing quite fine without us for the last 50 years. But we feel as though buying a strong bank with a strong foundation in a great regulatory environment can help us project opportunity around the country.”
In the meantime, he added that today is about announcing that RHC has the bank under contract with incredible capital partners, including, African American lawyers, business owners, and doctors from around the country.
“We've been purposeful about raising our capital from Black professionals around the country. And we've been just overwhelmed by the amount of support.”
Where in Memphis did Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver the speech Bell referenced during his interview with Supercreator?
IN THE KNOW
DEMS REINTRODUCE PRO ACT: Several members of Congress, including Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, joined workers and labor leaders to reintroduce the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize Act.
“The most important factor as to why workers are not advancing economically is the trade union membership has gone down by about 50 percent since 1983,” Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, said during a press conference. “And that is unacceptable and that has got to change. At a time when unions today are more popular than they have been for decades. We have got to make it easier for workers to exercise their constitutional rights.”
The PRO Act, named after the organized labor leader who died in 2021, would empower workers to organize a union and bargain for higher wages, better benefits and safer working conditions.
The group of lawmakers pointed to rising wage inequality that has excluded workers and middle-class families from earning their fair share of economic growth.
During his State of the Union address earlier this month, President Biden called on Congress to pass the legislation.
“I’m so sick and tired of companies breaking the law by preventing workers from organizing,” he said. “Because workers have a right to form a union.”
OSSOFF AND BLACKBURN TEAM UP: Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia and Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn introduced the REPORT Act that would strengthen the nation’s centralized reporting system for the online exploitation of children and toughen penalties on websites and social media companies that fail to report crimes against children.
BIDEN TAPS SU FOR TOP LABOR POST: President Biden will nominate Julie Su to be the next Labor Secretary.
Asian American members of Congress lobbied the White House in recent weeks to pick Su for the post. She also received the endorsement of the Congressional Black Caucus. Despite the votes of confidence, she’s expected to face a tough road to confirmation in the Senate where she was confirmed 50-47 for her current post as Deputy Labor Secretary.
“Julie has spent her life fighting to make sure that everyone has a fair shot, that no community is overlooked and that no worker is left behind,” Biden said in a statement.
Su would replace Marty Walsh who recently stepped down to serve as the Executive Director of the National Hockey League Players’ Association, the first member of Biden’s cabinet to resign during his presidency.
BIDEN REPRISES GOP ATTACKS IN VA: President Biden this afternoon traveled to Virginia to contrast his economic plan against the House Republican agenda that he warned would put social programs like Social Security and Medicare are at risk so the GOP can cut taxes for wealthy people and big corporations.
“In their own words, congressional Republicans keep proving President Biden’s warnings to the middle class right,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement ahead of the remarks. “[House Budget Chairman Jodey Arrington] now admits that the foundation of their approach will be a radical, ultra MAGA plan that takes health coverage away from millions of middle-class families, causes health care and prescription drug costs to skyrocket, and devastates rural hospitals.”
BIDEN TO TRAVEL TO SELMA: President Biden will travel to Selma, Alabama on Sunday to commemorate the 58th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, a march held in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 for the 600 people attacked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Selma last year where she announced a series of recommendations the administration will take to safeguard voters from native communities, those with disabilities and people who work for the federal government.
READ ALL ABOUT IT
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LAST BUT NOT LEAST
Dr. King delivered his final speech at the Mason Temple church in Memphis, Tennessee on April 3, 1968, one day before he was assassinated.
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