A Beneficial Bank Born During a Banking Crisis

This post celebrating timeless values for small business is brought to you by GOOD, with support from UPS. We’ve teamed up to bring you the Small Business Collaborative, a series sharing stories about innovative small businesses that are changing business as usual for their communities and beyond.

This post celebrating timeless values for small business is brought to you by GOOD, with support from UPS. We’ve teamed up to bring you the Small Business Collaborative, a series sharing stories about innovative small businesses that are changing business as usual for their communities and beyond. Learn how UPS is helping small businesses work better and more sustainably here.

It was July 2007. The housing bubble was about to burst. The subprime mortgage crisis that would precipitate the Great Recession was at very edge of falling into its downward spiral. Kat Taylor, her husband Tom Steyer and a team of politically frustrated, financial experts were launching a triple bottom line bank. They planned for a foundation that would hold the economic rights to the bank and by mandate, would reinvest all profits in the local community and environment.

It was a crazy time to start a bank, but perhaps just the right time to build one that prioritized community right alongside profits—rather than the model so many would come to disdain that pursues profit at all costs.

One PacificCoast Bank (then called OneCalifornia Bank) opened in Oakland, California, modeled after socially conscious financial institutions like Chicago’s ShoreBank and Muhammad Yunus’ Grameen Bank. Initially, the bank aspired to support its community by building a mortgage strategy, because as Taylor puts it, “for many, many families, homeownership is the only wealth-building tool they will ever have. . . we intended to be a mortgage lender in our own way, but we never had the chance.” Only one of the bank’s mentors, Martin Eakes, Self Help Credit Union’s CEO, read the tea leaves accurately. Taylor remembers, “He showed us the rate sheets where there’s all sorts of fraudulent stuff going on, and he said, ‘Hold onto your hats.’ And sure enough, we became a bank… and then we watched the credit market burn down around us.”

Mortgage markets tanked. Instead of helping families invest their money in new homes, the new bank spent 18 months and one million dollars trying to design a foreclosure prevention program. But that was when, as Taylor puts it, “the banks were still in denial. They had been disobeying basic underwriting for a long time and nobody was going to get them to admit that they’d had a hand in this at that time.” One PacificCoast Bank attempted to invest its money as a “silent second” investor in mortgages, as leverage to get banks to modify their terms. “We tried very hard,” as Taylor puts it, “but couldn’t get one done. You’d think if you were waving money around like that…” She sighs. Instead, One PacificCoast Bank lent in distressed neighborhoods dotted with foreclosed properties, helping for-profit and nonprofit entities renovate housing stock to stop blight—with a goal of getting foreclosed homes back on the market at affordable rental rates or with reasonable lease-to-own situations.

A certified Benefit Corporation, One PacificCoast Bank finances community-based businesses, with about 75 percent of its commerical customer loans going to organizations focused on overtly impact-related sectors. Ashara Ekundayo, co-founder and chief creative officer at co-working space Impact HUB Oakland, called One PacificCoast Bank “an amazing resource in our community. As a very diverse and very non-traditional group of social entrepreneur founders with a commitment to economic and cultural equity, at Impact HUB Oakland it was very important to us to partner with a financial institution that was also committed to not doing business as usual.” It’s not the same many of us would say about our banks.

And because its profits were designed to only be distributed through One PacificCoast Foundation, the community is the shareholder the bank serves, not the special interests of any one group. This year alone, the Foundation will give away $100,000 in sponsorships of organizations and their events, all while supporting organizations that promote financial literacy, hosting events for youth like one through Game Theory Academy, working with other credit counseling agencies, grant-making, and running impact evaluations to ensure the bank’s investments are bearing fruit in the community, sustainably.

One PacificCoast Bank has also been working to create an alternative to dodgy and exploitative payday lenders, through its pilot Pac Pal program. Through the one-year pilot, $1.1 million was loaned to 1,100 borrowers who found an easy and more manageable alternative to payday loans, pawn shops or auto title loans. The product will relaunch in 2014.

While One PacificCoast Bank grew in its ability to support its community, the financial crisis was taking down established banks all across the country. A number of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), as Taylor puts it “really started tripping on the curb, because they tend to not be well-capitalized.” The CDFIs were mission-based, but had low returns because they often lend to the low-income communities that the Recession disproportionately hit.

“We recognized that we really need a strong sector of honest community banks, and we didn’t want to just stand by and watch banks go down.” One PacificCoast Bank changed its moniker from OneCalifornia Bank when it negotiated to buy (and salvage) ShoreBank Pacific before its parent company closed. In Portland, Albina Community Bank made it through the downturn, but like many other small CDFI’s was under-capitalized. One PacificCoast Bank is in an agreement to buy, when approved, 90 percent of new stock issued by the bank to recapitalize it. Albina will operate autonomously—because a community bank’s strength is its local ties.

That sort of values-first perspective is vital to many of One PacificCoast Bank’s customers. An upgrade in mobile offerings this fall is timed to reach a new Millennial customer base and affinity credit cards allow another 2,000 to 2,500 customers to support organizations like the Sierra Club and Salmon Nation. Taylor says they’ve seen considerable support from financial reformists, young people and mission-minded people who are coming to see that if financial reform doesn’t start at home, it can certainly begin just down the road, at a community-minded bank.

Image via Flickr (cc) user Sam Beebe

via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

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For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

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In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

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In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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