We are proud to serve the community of Harlem at our branch, just down the block from Frederick Douglass Circle.

“The Harlem Community is filled with a lot of history and culture. Many of the business owners know each other, and they’re always surprised when they bump into each other at Spring Bank to find out they also bank with us,” says Jason Ohene, our Relationship Manager.

Josefa Ruiz, our Harlem Branch Manager, recently helped a local business owner of a hardware store on 116th in Harlem move his accounts because he wanted a more personalized experience. Plus, the fees at his big bank continued to increase. He was ready to move his accounts to a smaller financial institution in his neighborhood.

“We work with many entrepreneurs in Harlem. They are conscious about the impact of their dollars and don’t want to put their hard-earned dollars with big banks who invest in fossil fuels and other exploitative practices,” says Josefa. “Many people bank with us because we are a B Corp, as well.”

As an ethical bank, the first B Corp bank in New York City, we take great pride in belonging to a community like Harlem. And as a small business ourselves, it’s been our pleasure to serve other small businesses.  Jason views his role—as the Relationship Manager at a community bank in Harlem as an opportunity to be a resource.

My focus is to help small businesses thrive, and I try to do so by providing unmatched direct personalized service to our small business customers.  I always work to serve as a resource and would never want to leave them feeling like they’re left out in a “banking abyss” with no viable support,” says Jason.

“It’s a very tight-knit community here,” Josefa says, echoing Jason. “And we have the privilege of knowing our neighbors, and to support their banking needs personally.”

Let us help you meet your banking needs. Visit our Harlem branch (2049 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY 10026) to say hello to our team. Let us know how we can help you reach your financial goals and grow your vision. We will do our best to help you get there. Contact our Harlem Branch Manager, Josefa Ruiz, for more information about Spring Bank at (718) 879-5110. Learn more about our mission in a recent blog piece: For the Financial Inclusion of New York City: Why We Exist  

 

Corporate social responsibility. Sustainably responsible investing (SRI). Ethical banking. Banks have joined the world of sustainable business. And the language about their on-the-ground environmental and social impact isn’t exactly clear. Banks know the growing LOHAS (Lifestyle on Health and Sustainability) and the conscious consumer movements value over 300B dollars. Creating a prime marketing opportunity for financial institutions, they brand products like “Clean Energy Savings” and “Green Checking” (check out the Spring Bank Checking account after you finish this blog!) So, it is greenwashing? Or is your financial institution legitimately leveraging their investments to make a positive difference?

Here are three tips to know if your bank is ethical:

  1. Your Bank’s Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) rating?
    Start by looking at your bank’s publicly available CRA rating. The CRA legislation was passed in 1977 to prevent the practice of redlining and to minimize systemic financial exclusion. We are proud to have received the highest available CRA rating from the FDIC, “Outstanding,” based on our record of meeting the credit needs of low and moderate-income neighborhoods in 2018.
  2. Is Your Bank a US Treasury Certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI)?
    Since 1994 the United States Treasury has certified a singular number of banks as CDFIs based on their use of deposits to provide low-and moderate-income communities the credit they need. If your bank is a designated CDFI, you can be certain that your money is lent to the communities that need capital the most. We proudly became designated as a CDFI in 2014 and have received numerous awards and recognition from the CDFI Fund.
  3. Is Your Bank a B Corp?

    B Corps, or Benefit Corporations, lead the way of metrics-based reporting and transparency to impact in the sustainable business movement. Businesses obtain B Corp status in two ways: completing the B Impact Assessment and through the legal business structure of a Benefit Corporation. B Corps receive a score through the B Impact Assessment which measures the impact on workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment. Stakeholder primacy drives B Corps to “build a durable and shared prosperity for all.”

    We are honored to be New York State’s first B Corp bank and to receive four awards as Best For The World among the top 10 percent of all B Corps—just last week! And to that point, next week marks the annual B Corp retreat in Los Angeles. We are excited to gather with the movement. If you are attending, we would love to have you join our CEO, Demetris Giannoulias, and our partners at Neighborhood Financial Trust for a Tuesday breakout session at 2:45 PM titled: “Employee Financial Health as Smart Business.” We will address the financial challenges faced by employers and employees and available tools by which to build healthy financial workplaces. Check the schedule on the retreat app on Sunday for more details.

    We’d be happy to talk with you about financial inclusion, affordable banking products like our Start Loan and Green Checking account and how together, we can build an economy that benefits all of us.

    Find the CRA rating of any bank in the USA. Learn more about ethical B Corp banks and their scores. Read about our 2019 Best For The World award.


There are rare moments in life when the path you’ve chosen is affirmed. The hard work, the commitment, and at times, the uncertainty are validated.  And this week, we at Spring Bank, along with 2500+ of our B Corp peers, experienced one of those moments.

Shareholder Primacy is No Longer Supreme
On August 19th,  The Business Roundtable, which represents CEOs of America’s largest companies, changed their shareholder primacy mantra with an announcement that they would work ‘to promote an economy that serves all Americans’, with commitments to fair compensation for employees; ethical dealings with their suppliers; support of local communities in which they work; protecting the environment by embracing sustainable practices. And an effort to foster diversity and inclusion. Included in this announcement are companies like Vanguard, Progressive, and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Yeah, we know. Let’s “Get to Work.”  
As the first B Corp bank in New York City, and a proud part of the global B Corp movement,  which started 15 years ago can’t help but say, ‘yeah, we know.’ Stakeholder primacy is in our DNA.

“It’s been a long time coming, and we applaud their statement, but its one thing to talk the talk and another to walk the walk,” says Demetris Giannoulias, our CEO. “We’ve been prioritizing stakeholders as a movement for years now. How will these companies change so that their actions match their words?”

Before we opened the doors to our headquarters in the Bronx in 2007, we took time to listen, to understand the needs of the residents in the Bronx. We formed partnerships with community-based organizations, whom we work with every day to build an inclusive economy. We continually develop new products and services, like our Start Loan, Green Checking and lending options for nonprofits and small businesses, as our clients’ needs change. Thankfully, we aren’t unique in this. Our B Corp colleagues use their businesses as vehicles for community, environmental and systemic transformation, too. So, when the Business Roundtable came to the “stakeholder table,” we were encouraged by their words and are hopeful that they will implement changes. The B Corp movement encouraged them to “Get to Work.” Thirty-three of our peers including Patagonia, Danone, Happy Family Organics, Beauty Counter, Ben & Jerry’s and Eileen Fisher, to name a few, signed a full-page letter to the Business Roundtable (in the image above) in a two-page spread in the New York Times last Sunday. The key point? It’s time to build a sustainable, durable and shared economy—together.

A New Economy: The Table is Big Enough for All of Us
We are so proud to be leading this shift in NYC along with Certified B Corps around the globe. We invite the leaders of financial institutions to walk the walk with us. We can create an inclusive economy—where people of all backgrounds have access fairly priced financial products,  to help them build wealth and create financially secure futures. The good news is that the inclusive economy table is big enough for all of us.

Read The Business Roundtable Announcement. Follow B the Change, the B Corp movement’s media outlet and dig into the movement’s response. Learn about our affordable banking products, designed to build credit, savings, and new beginnings for people typically excluded from our current economic model. And take your seat at the table by moving your money into a local, community bank.

One of the things we love most about being a community bank is our community partners. We are privileged to work with dozens of advocates and nonprofit leaders in a collective effort to redefine the economic narrative of the Bronx. And if you’re from the South Bronx, you’ve likely heard of one of our favorites: The HOPE program, parent organization to Sustainable South Bronx. Restorative justice is the core of its mission, creating jobs in the environmental/sustainability industry. They empower low-income residents of the South Bronx and beyond through job training focused on green construction and building maintenance and through a social enterprise that provides paid employment while making New York City more environmentally sustainable.

Started by the well-known social justice advocate, Majora Carter, Sustainable South Bronx, was created to put a stop to the environmental injustice occurring in Hunts Point. Fifteen thousand trucks drive through Hunts Point every weekday, the highest truck passage point in the city. As a result, Hunts Point experiences poor land use and brownfields, and poor health impacts for the residents.

The HOPE Program is shifting this narrative.

“The folks who live in the Bronx have lived with poor land use for years. And as we restore it, they have first access to these jobs,” says Kelly LoBianco, the Chief Program Officer of The HOPE Program about Sustainable South Bronx.

Sustainable South Bronx is one of three work readiness training programs The HOPE program offers. Over 12 weeks, 480 hours, and on-the-job training, students gain skills to address the green construction and environmental needs of  New York City and acquire sustainability certifications. From work readiness to job retention and career advancement support, The HOPE Program supports people in the Bronx starting over. And this summer, they launched a new financial literacy program that got us excited.

“We taught money management and banking skills to over 500 students. And with the support of on-site Spring Bank staff, we now help folks get banked,” says Linda Nguyen, Digital Literacy Director of The HOPE Program.

We are proud to have helped over 30 students open a Green Checking account this summer. The HOPE Program supports direct deposit by covering the $25 for each student, and their students are taking advantage.

Why is this so exciting for us? Because as people bank, they build wealth. Not only do they save money a few times a week by avoiding check-cashing fees, but they also begin to build credit and a relationship with a bank. The HOPE Program knows that banking the Bronx is key to the growth and flourishing of its hard-working residents.

The financial literacy program opened the door for many students to begin a new career journey through other programs at The HOPE Program.

“A lot of our students aren’t working. They need a job when they come to us. Employment not only helps them keep their housing, but we work to connect them to jobs that can help them build a meaningful career and give them dignity,” says Kelly. “We want to make sure the folks we serve have a fighting chance at succeeding. We are working to offer employer-based, industry informed training that will get folks jobs today for tomorrow’s economy.”

Learn more about the upcoming HOPE training programs. Open your Spring Bank Green Checking account and learn more what it means for us to be an ethical bank and one of the first B Corps in New York City.

showcase the Spring Bank mobile app

Financial inclusion. We hope that if you know about our humanized approach to banking, you also know that we are committed to building financially inclusive communities. We believe every New Yorker deserves an equal opportunity to build credit and long-term prosperity. We do this by creating access to affordable banking products– and, with the Spring Bank mobile app, you have access to our mission-driven products and services, regardless of where you live in the city. Yaguaba, a Spring Bank customer, describes his experience with our online platform and mobile app this way:

“Online banking has made my life easier. I can do many things from home. I pay my bills through the Spring Bank mobile app. I can transfer money from one account to another. The best part about the app is that I can lock my card every time I’ve misplaced it,” says Yaguaba.
Transfer money. Pay bills. And stay in control of your budget. Our free mobile banking app allows you to manage your Spring Bank personal accounts from your phone or tablet from anywhere in the world, anytime you want. The app allows you to easily and securely

• View Account Balances.
• Check Account History.
• Pay bills and send payment to other people with PopMoney.
• Transfer funds between eligible accounts.
• Find the nearest Spring Bank Banking Centers and free ATM locations (including all Citibank branch ATMs)
• Make mobile deposits (by submitting photos of the front and back of checks).

To gain access to your account information from your mobile device, first, enroll in our Online Banking platform.*
Download the Spring Bank mobile banking app available for iOS and Android today! Or for more information, give us a call at 718-879-5000 or go to hllp://www.springbankm.com to enroll. We’d be happy to set you up so that you have 24/7 access to your Spring Bank accounts!
* Standard mobile web fees may apply so do contact your mobile carrier for more information.

A piece by Oscar Perry Abello of Next City

A few weeks ago, we celebrated a milestone- surpassing the 1000 loan mark in our Employee Opportunity Loan program and providing credit to New York City and Westchester workers when they needed it most, helping them build or improve credit scores and accumulate savings.

One of the social enterprises we partner with is Greyston Bakery.

In his recent article “What If Your Job Could Be Your Credit Score?” in Next City, reporter Oscar Perry Abello, wrote, “You may not have heard of Greyston Bakery, in Yonkers, New York, but if you are a fan of Ben & Jerry’s Brownie Batter Ice Cream, you know its brownies.”

Not only is Greyston Bakery the supplier of the brownies you enjoy in Ben & Jerry’s ice creams, they’ve also established a unique employment model called “Open Hiring.” No background checks. No questions asked. People put their name on a list, and when a job is available, they get a call. Greyston Bakery’s employment model provides a second chance for people with a criminal record, among other barriers to employment.

In his article, Abello explains the impact our Employee Opportunity Loan for the employees of Greyston Bakery. As Abigail Saunders, the Human Resource Director of Greyston Bakery, noted, “A lot of HR professionals don’t understand financial problems at home might affect performance,” Saunders says. “The (loan) process is very painless. For whatever they need, it’s great. One of the employees took a loan out to help out a family member.”

We are incredibly proud to partner with Greyston Bakery as they support the financial health and new beginnings of their employees. Through its Open Hiring model, Greyston Bakery demonstrates equity, inclusion, and people-first business. It’s our privilege to stand with them as mission-driven, financial institution, and fellow B Corp.

Read the full story on Next City. Learn more about our Employee Opportunity Loan and the details of our Financial Empowerment Program, which includes free financial counseling with our partner, Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners. Or call Melanie Stern, Director of Consumer Lending, at 718-879-5198 to sign your company up today.

woman at desk, holding brochure Celebrating 100’s of Financially Empowered Employees with over 1000 Employee Opportunity Loans

Crave Fishbar and Grand Street Settlement. These are just two of the companies in New York City we’ve supported over the last few years as they support the financial wellbeing of their employees. Through our Financial Empowerment Program, these social enterprises offer their employees access to both free financial counseling via our partner, Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners, and our Employee Opportunity Loan. By offering their employees this financial employee benefit, they create healthier, more productive workplaces.  And we are proud to announce, we’ve provided over 1000 loans to New York City and Westchester workers when they most needed it and helped them build or improve credit scores and accumulate savings.

Why is this a milestone worth celebrating? Because half of American employees are very concerned about their financial security, and two-thirds don’t have enough savings to cover three months of expenses. Financial security—or lack thereof– impacts productivity. According to a January 2019 report from the American Management Association, “Employers are starting to realize that it’s not just the physical health that impacts employees but their financial health as well. Employees who are financially sound and without significant money worries at home are happier and more focused on the job.”

Whether businesses prepare for it or not, financial stress shows up at work. We know our Financial Empowerment Program offers a solution to ease not only this stress but also empowers employees with greater financial capability. We don’t claim to solve all the financial concerns of employees, but we do know we’ve helped working New Yorkers bridge the occasional gap between unexpected expenses and available savings and help to alleviate financial stress.

“Every time an employee has an emergency, they can use the Employee Opportunity Loan instead of going to an exploitative online, payday lender or borrowing against retirement. Through our Financial Empowerment Program, we seek to improve long-term financial outcomes for employers and employees. We feel we are making a difference,” says Melanie Stern, Director of Consumer Lending.

Our data tell us we are making a difference. On average, people who secure our Employee Opportunity Loan and make timely payments have seen their credit scores increase 56 points or see a first-time score of as much as 700 points after one year. Healthy credit scores create access people need to build wealth. Employers can play a huge part in this! Our vision is for every New York City employer to adopt a Financial Empowerment Program as part of their employee benefits package.

“Ultimately, our goal is for every employer to understand that financial health and security creates healthier, more productive workplaces,” says Melanie.

How does it work? The Financial Empowerment Program serves as a tech-enabled comprehensive financial health tool for an employee with two connected opportunities:

  1. The Spring Bank Employee Opportunity Loan provides up to$2500 with no minimum credit score requirement and built-in savings and credit building features. Payments are directly deposited from payroll to a savings account, and borrowers can seamlessly continue to make deposits into savings after the loan has been paid. We accept ID NYC to make it accessible for most New Yorkers.
  2. The Trusted Advisor program from Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners gives employees access to free, unlimited, and personalized financial counseling via phone, Skype, or text. NTFP counselors help their clients create financial action plans and provide weekly check-ins to assess progress

We know that financial counseling, when supported by access to an affordable, small-dollar loan provides a comprehensive financial health benefit for employees. Via our fintech platform employees can take advantage of either or both offerings. And it’s zero cost, zero hassle for employers. Learn more about our Employee Opportunity Loan or how you can support your employees with our Financial Empowerment Program by contacting Melanie Stern at mstern@springbankny.com or at (718) 879-5198.

Heidy De La Cruz, our Bronx Branch Manager, is in service to her team and her customers. With every interaction, her mission is to offer support, even if it’s not related to banking.  

“I always try to support a customer in any way they need it. Sometimes it’s offering a point of view or providing resources. I like to help people in any way possible even if it’s for only ten minutes,” says Heidy.  

When Heidy started working as a receptionist at Spring Bank six years ago, she knew she wanted to build her career in banking. But looking back she can hardly believe how far she’s come so quickly.  

“When I started at Spring Bank, I had a smaller mentality for life. I felt comfortable as a receptionist. But within a couple of years, I saw new opportunities, and I started asking for more work,” says Heidy.  

With the encouragement of colleagues, it started to click for Heidy. Not only was she capable of succeeding as a banker, but she was also in pursuit of becoming a manager.  

“I started growing. I asked the bankers if they needed help because I wanted to learn more. Working as a receptionist wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to learn all aspects of the bank so that I could easily solve any client problem,” says Heidy.

Heidy’s career development is no surprise to us. Her commitment to her learning and her leadership has paid off. In just a year becoming the Branch Manager of our Bronx branch, she led the effort to increase the size and effectiveness of her team. She gives credit to her colleagues and her hardworking team for their consistent encouragement and support.  

“I doubted myself so many times. But I have great support at Spring Bank. If I ask for help, they are always willing to answer my questions, “says Heidy.  

In addition to her role as Bronx Branch Manager, Heidy is also studying Business Administration with a focus on management. She receives her associate degree in the spring of 2020 and begins her bachelor’s degree at Baruch College that fall. Heidy is also the proud mother of three, beautiful girls.  

“My girls are my highest motivation. I can’t tell them to be someone if their mom isn’t someone,” says Heidy. “They tell me, ‘Mom, I want to be like you.’ I tell them, ‘No, you’ll do better than me. When life gives you an opportunity, make the most of it. If you do good by people, good things will happen to you,” says Heidy.

‘Doing good by people’ is the approach Heidy takes every day in her work at Spring Bank. She views each customer as part of the Spring Bank Family.

“We are not an ordinary bank. We know who you are, and when you bank with us, you become our family. We will offer you 100 percent of our attention, know your family, care about your future. That’s why you should bank with us,” says Heidy.

We are very proud of Heidy, her hard work and commitment to her growth and the “family” she’s grown at our headquarters in the Bronx. Learn how you can join the Spring Bank family by opening a personal checking account online. Check out our small business checking. And stop by our branches in the Bronx or Harlem. As Heidy puts it, “if we can do good by you,” in any way, let us know.

Hester Street Community Building Photo Credit: Hester Street

What does a neighborhood shaped by its people look like? How do communities take ownership over their schools, their streets, and how they change and develop? And how do we create the B Corp movement’s vision of a “shared and durable prosperity for all?”

This is what Hester Street, an urban planning, design, and development nonprofit, is committed to understanding and building. With a mission to create equitable, sustainable, and resilient neighborhoods and cities, Hester Street works to ensure neighborhoods are shaped by the people who live in them. They are laser-focused on understanding and elevating the needs of New York City neighborhoods by lifting up local knowledge and shifting power back into communities.

“Our work is to shift power from traditional government makers to people who work and live in their communities, the people who know best,” says Betsy MacLean, Executive Director of Hester Street. “We work to make sure people have a meaningful part in the future of their communities.”

A mixed team of urban planners, architects, and developers, Hester Street’s multifaceted work includes a combination of technical planning, design, and development with deep, meaningful community engagement. The result is increased civic participation and funding for projects that directly address community-identified needs and priorities. For example, they are currently engaging in a multi-stakeholder process with people in Bushwick and Harlem, where the city is rezoning neighborhoods. The goal is to avoid animosity and more importantly, inequitable decision-making.

“We map out the communication process so that the planning teams are talking to the community groups who are talking to the cops, parks, sanitation, developers and property owners,” explains Betsy. “With this process, we outline the equity choice points.”

Equity choice points include ensuring kids who live on the same block go to the same schools and creating finance opportunities for community organizations so they can own property.  Via their Technical Assistance for Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) program, they seek to buy, build, or renovate spaces to root organizations as community anchors of culture and critical service provision in their neighborhoods for the long-term. Through this program, they work with CBOs from project visioning to ribbon cutting to ensure built projects meet the needs of residents, strengthen key community institutions, and preserve cultural identity. This results in what Betsy calls “neighborhood preservation.”

“We help community groups secure a mortgage for their spaces instead of giving their money to landlords. This, in turn, helps to ensure community organizing—and the voice of residents– stays in their neighborhoods forever,” says Betsy.

Hester Street coordinates direct education from cohorts of community groups to municipalities so that before top-down decisions are made the possibility of course correcting for historical injustice–like redlining—is addressed. As Betsy describes it, low-income communities and communities of color are “plowed over by planners and developers.”

“We are not neutral. We have a very clear mission. We are about equity. We serve low-income and communities of color exclusively. History shows that wealthy white neighborhoods will take care of themselves. Our mission is to make sure that people who aren’t usually in the room—are there,” Betsy explains.

And their impact is expansive. In 2017, Hester Street engaged 300,000+ residents in shaping projects and plans; developed 200,000 square feet of community facility space: libraries, community centers, open space; and developed 22 plans and addressed ten urban health issues in partnership with 55 community-based organizations.

When we met Betsy and her team at Hester Street, we immediately knew we shared a mission and vision for New York City. Through our Community Impact Program, designed to meet the funding gap needs for nonprofit organizations, Hester Street secured a $200,000 line of credit. They use the line of credit as reserves to get them through funding gaps and months where cash flow is tight. Betsy explains that they had a hard time finding the right lender.

“As a non-profit, our search for a lender was exhaustive. Everywhere we looked we found onerous terms including sky-high interest rates and monthly fees. Just when we were about to give up our search, we found Spring Bank. Not only did they understand what we needed, they offered us reasonable loan terms – in other words, they did not punish us because we are a non-profit,” says Betsy.

Unfortunately, this isn’t news to us. Many traditional lenders avoid lending to nonprofits because of the lack of collateral or gaps in funding. But we know they are key to thriving communities. Through our Community Impact Program, we offer flexible underwriting and customized terms specific to nonprofit organizations. And, we always waive maintenance fees. We think those giving the most should be rewarded the most.

“I wish I’d known about Spring Bank a long time ago,” says Betsy. “Run, don’t walk to Spring Bank! They offer the tools you need to ensure the efficient, effective operation of your organization; deep understanding of the non-profit context, and; they are working to advance positive social change in neighborhoods throughout the city. We deeply appreciate knowing that our money is in the hands of a responsible steward.”

We are very proud to partner with Hester Street as both their local bank and a community ally. Read more about how you can uplevel your civic engagement with them. Join them on June 13th from 6 to 10 pm for their annual benefit gathering. Learn about our nonprofit lending opportunities, our personal checking accounts, and our online banking.