Photo Credit: Ultranauts, NY Times

As a mission-driven, community-based bank, we prioritize our neighbors and the unique financial needs of the Bronx and Harlem. Since the day we opened our doors in the South Bronx over thirteen years ago, we have been grateful for the partnership of many small businesses and values-aligned organizations, including some of New York City’s oldest and most reputable nonprofits.

When COVID-19 hit, we responded by supporting our small business and nonprofit partners when they needed it most. Hours after the CARES Act passed in April of this year, our lending team got to work to assist organizations with their applications for a Payment Protection Program (PPP) loan.

We are proud to report that as of this month, we secured 360 PPP loans–valued at $86.8 million–for small businesses and nonprofits in the New York City area.  With these funds, organizations retained over 5,000 jobs.

 At the height of the lockdown, we helped Callen Lorde Community Center– a primary care center dedicated to serving the LGBTQ and homeless communities–secure a PPP loan that allowed them to continue their critical work on the frontlines of New York City’s battle against COVID-19. Our partnership helped them retain 80 of their employees, all while running a temporary hospital out of a hotel in Queens.

Additionally, our lending team supported other major nonprofits organizations like Grand Street Settlement–a social services agency that helps thousands of New Yorkers–and The Forward–one of New York’s oldest Jewish media publications. In total, we secured PPP loans for 53 nonprofits valued at $35 million, funding that they otherwise may not have received if they had gone to a larger bank.

But we didn’t stop there. We also partnered with values-aligned companies that are revolutionizing the business world. We take particular satisfaction in our work with Ultranauts, a company that mainly employ autistic workers for technology jobs.

With 75 percent of its workforce on the autistic spectrum, Ultranauts uses a unique set of operational policies and practices. Recently featured in The New York Times, their remote work model and unique accommodations have become a model for businesses looking to foster inclusion. And yet, pivoting to 100 percent remote working could not shield them from the economic downturn caused by the global pandemic. Ultranauts lost business as their clients made cuts to cope with the impact. To cover these unexpected costs, they partnered with us to secure a PPP loan that allowed them to adapt to the changing market, and soon, they were flourishing once again. Ultranaut acquired new clients and has plans to expand its workforce from 90 to 200 employees in the next two years.

We are proud to support organizations that, like us, are working to build an economy that includes and nurtures every individual’s talents. We are proud to help small businesses and nonprofits continue their work during this historic time.

If your small business or nonprofit requires financial support during this time, we can help you secure a lending option that best suits your organization. Do not hesitate to contact us at 718-879-5000. And we can set up a small business checking account or a nonprofit checking account so that you keep your money local, investing in communities in New York City that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Check out the article about Ultranauts in The New York Times. Read about our work with Callen Lorde Community Center, Grand Street Settlement, and The Forward. Open a small business checking account today.

Last year we announced that we became carbon neutral! With the support of fellow B Corp, Carbon Credit Capital, we worked to offset our carbon outputs. Today—we are prouder than ever to support small businesses in the green and sustainability space, like cleantech startup, Conamix. Conamix was one of Spring Bank’s earliest recipients of a PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan.

Located in Ithaca, New York, Conamix develops cobalt-free materials for lithium-ion batteries used to power clean energy solutions like grid storage, electric vehicles, and, eventually, electric flight. They have grown quickly, with many partnerships in sustainable and cleantech around the world.

How does an Ithaca-based company become a customer of a Bronx-based community bank? Founder and CEO, Charles Hamilton, was looking for the right kind of community bank because he knew prioritizing excellent service would be good for his business.

“As a small business, I knew a small community bank would provide the personal human touch we need and offer the ability to work more directly with the management staff. We’ve had amazing service at Spring Bank,” says Charles.

When the SBA lending options became available, we knew Conamix would qualify.

“I sailed through the PPP application process with Spring Bank. I got notification within days that we were approved, we quickly moved to closing, and the funds have already been disbursed.”

For Conamix, the SBA PPP loan has been critical.

“Because of the personal service at Spring Bank, I was approved for the PPP before much larger banks were accepting applications,” says Charles.

As an SBA preferred lender, we remain committed to prioritizing the needs of small businesses in New York City, and beyond. We know the COVID-19 health crisis has forced hundreds of small companies and startups to lay off employees or close their doors. We will continue to do what we can to change that story.

“For us, as a startup, the decision to bank with Spring Bank was timely. I didn’t anticipate when we would need good service, but I knew a community-based financial institution was the right choice,” sayhttps://spring.bank/the-cares-act/s Charles. “And I love that Spring Bank is a B Corp. They know they can do good in the community, generate returns, and provide good service. What’s not to love?”

Read more about Conamix. Read about our journey to carbon neutral. Learn more about the CARES Act.

Photo Credit: The New York Times

With over 20,000 patients across the city, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center has provided outpatient health care to New York City’s LGBTQ and homeless community for over 50 years. So, when COVID-19 infections in New York City spiked in early March and the emergency rooms and hospital beds were overflowing, Charles King, the CEO of Housing Works, knew who to call. Wendy Stark, the Executive Director of Callen-Lorde, quickly took him up on his proposition to work together.

“We quickly pivoted to be part of the city’s front-line health care response. And under very dire circumstances, our staff turned a hotel into a field hospital to serve COVID patients. We’ve needed more staff than we thought because people were sicker than we expected,” says Wendy.

In a matter of hours, Housing Works and Callen-Lorde converted a 133-room hotel in Queens into a hospital, pharmacy, and testing center. In addition to managing their telemedicine program for current patients, the Callen-Lorde team worked day and night to support the influx. And they were running out of money. The volume of their services increased, but payment and government support did not.

When the SBA CARES Act funding became available, Wendy immediately applied for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) with a large financial institution; they were not successful. Three days before the SBA portal opened for the second round Wendy held an all-team meeting to announce that Callen-Lorde had no choice but to furlough 80 employees— that’s when one of their employees referred them to us.

“It’s been incredibly emotional. The Spring Bank team worked over the weekend to help us secure the PPP loan, and by Monday morning, I delivered happy news to the team that we did not have to furlough anyone right now,” says Wendy. “We had a staff call with the Spring Bank team to celebrate.”

The PPP loan provides Callen-Lorde with two months of funding and time to secure longer-term fiscal support as their team continues to work, day and night. The transformation of the health care system, one that is accessible for all New Yorkers, is also of the highest priority for Wendy.

“People have talked about this moment as an equalizer. It’s not. COVID-19 has impacted people of color, and people with less access to ongoing services most acutely,” says Wendy. “We need a centralized, single-payer, unified system that works to the benefit of our entire society. We need a total transformation.”

Callen-Lorde and Housing Works continue to operate the working hospital at the hotel in Queens. They plan to serve as many people as they can for as long as they can. Partnerships with other health centers, affordable housing providers, and community-based organizations have been crucial to their journey. We are humbled and grateful to be one of those partners.

“As a result of COVID-19, we are now connected with a financial institution oriented to serve people who are underbanked. Our overnight partnership with Spring Bank shows the beautiful way a community can organize during a crisis. It’s important that we raise our voices together,” says Wendy.

Raise your voice on behalf of Callen-Lorde by donating to their emergency fund. Read a feature piece about Callen-Lorde in the New York Times. Learn more about their COVID-19 services. Read about PPP Loan forgiveness on our website.

 

Governor Cuomo Announces a 2020 Statewide Proposal for CDFIs

At the beginning of this new decade, we shared our 2020 vision: To continue to explore ways we can invest our dollars responsibly, so more people have access to the financial tools they need to build wealth. Thankfully, we aren’t standing alone in this work. We proudly share our mission of financial inclusion with the 83 other US Treasury Certified Community Development Financial Institution Funds (CDFl’s)– mission-driven financial institutions, banks, credit unions, and nonprofits–in New York State. And, Governor Cuomo does too.

Governor Cuomo recently announced the “21st Proposal of his 2020 State of the State: Expanding Access to Safe and A/fordable Financial Services.” In partnership with CDFls, his proposal includes the following strategies:

  • $25 million in new funding over five years to increase access to affordable financial products in underserved communities across New YorkState through, New York’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI)
  • The launch of a statewide “Office of Financial Inclusion and Empowerment” as a single-stop provider of financial services and providers across housing, student loan, debt, and general financial literacy
  • The expansion of access to safe and affordable banking services, credit and financial education, particularly for women and communities of color, typically excluded from the current financial systems.

To execute these strategies, Governor Cuomo proposes to work with CDFls, who, like us, are often the sole providers of banking and other financial products and services in low-income communities. Under the Governor’s proposal, participating CDFls will leverage this funding, providing upwards of $300 million in targeted investment in underserved communities in New York for consumers, affordable housing, and small businesses.
Governor Cuomo’s vision includes expanding access to low-cost bank accounts to low-income New Yorkers who often find that the only accessible banking service in their communities are high-cost check cashers who take huge finance fees out of people’s paychecks. According to the FDIC, approximately 25 percent of New York households do not have bank accounts or seldom use one and rely on costly non-bank services for their financial activities. Expanding financial literacy education and access to microcredit for small businesses is also part of the proposal.
In a press release announcing his strategies, Governor Cuomo acknowledged the prevalence of exploitation by predatory lenders in low-income communities in New York:

“We’ve made significant strides expanding access to banking services for low income New Yorkers, but too many people still live in banking deserts,” Governor Cuomo said. “As a result, these New Yorkers often turn to costly check-cashing services or take out illegal predatory payday loans because they can’t access affordable small business loans at community banks. These sweeping proposals will provide New Yorkers with the services they need to build their credit, improve financial literacy, and take charge of their economic futures – helping build a fairer and stronger New York.”

Linda MacFarlane, the Executive Director of CDFI, Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region and chair of the New York State CDFI Coalition of which we are a proud member, has been discussing the proposal with the Governor’s office, the New York State Department of Financial Services and Empire State Development Corp. and has “high hopes” for the Governor’s new proposal.

We do too. We are proud to serve New York City as one of 83 CDFIs in the state who helped shape the New York State CDFI Fund to expand access to safe and affordable products. Creating access to credit and wealth-building financial tools for communities typically excluded is why we headquartered in the Bronx—and why we continue to explore ways in which to serve New York City as a mission-driven, ethical bank.

We invite you to join us in the mission. 

Register for this year’s NY State CDFI Conference in Albany, March 30-31st. You will learn more about how you can join CDFIs in making a difference every day in New York, State. Invest your dollars locally with us. Open a Green Checking account with us today. When you bank in your community, you support the credit and wealth-building of your neighbors and local businesses.

Read our 2020 Vision and follow us on LinkedIn, where we share stories about what it means to be an ethical bank, and our vision for a shared and durable prosperity for all.

When we opened our doors in the Bronx over twelve years ago, we did it with Ariva, a community-based, nonprofit organization. We have been on this journey together. Not only do we share headquarters at our Bronx offices on 167th street, but we also share a mission to strengthen financial stability and expand the financial inclusion of  New Yorkers.

Ariva provides free tax preparation and free financial counseling to low-income residents of New York City. In December, Ariva received one of eight designations from the Department of Consumer Affair’s Office of Financial Empowerment as a New York City Financial Empowerment Center—one of two in the Bronx—and we are, of course, excited to share this news.

“As a New York City Financial Empowerment Center, we can extend our reach and better serve our clients. It also adds a new dimension to our work and the impact we make,” says Irene Baldwin, Executive Director of Ariva.

Since 2003, Ariva has prepared free tax returns for over 100,000 clients, returning more than $150 million in total refunds. Returns vary in dollar amount, and many of Ariva’s clients return year after year. They often count on their tax return to support their annual household income. Eighty-eight percent of Ariva’s clients earn less than $30,000 annually; Ariva knows that even a small refund can prevent one of their clients from using predatory financial services and can help a family start saving.

\Witnessing families gain confidence in their financial knowledge, make more informed financial decisions, and increase their financial security are a few of the reasons Ariva’s hardworking staff and committed volunteers know their work matters. We are proud to host one of their year-round tax preparation sites and one of their financial counselors in our branch. For Irene, the host matters:

“Spring Bank is the perfect host. We share values and mission. As one of the only banks in the neighborhood, people come to the Bronx branch for their financial needs. We provide complimentary services and offerings and refer clients to each other“.

Ariva’s services are available to all. Their winter hours for their free tax preparation program are (69 E. 167th Street)

  • Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays: 4 to 7:30 pm
  • Wednesdays: 12 to 7 pm
  • Saturdays: 10 am to 4 pm

The hours for free one-on-one counseling are: (until April 30th)

  • Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays: 11 am to 7:00 pm
  • Fridays: 2 to 5 pm
  • Saturdays: 9 am to 5 pm

Clients are invited to walk-in, and no appointments are needed. Read this checklist to make sure you bring the proper paperwork before arriving.  For more information about Ariva’s mission, services and locations across New York City, visit www.ariva.org

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.

The property at 645 Barretto Street in the South Bronx was so far behind on taxes that its owners were facing foreclosure. A 48-unit building incorporated as a Housing Development Fund Corporation co-op (HDFC), the property had not been fully occupied for years. Its unpaid water bill alone was close to half a million dollars. And it had a history of maintenance issues that went back years — a boiler collapsed shortly after it was incorporated as a co-op in the early 1980s, says Ann Henderson, who has worked at UHAB, the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, since the late 1970s.

UHAB, a nonprofit that develops low-income co-op housing and assists existing co-ops, had tried to help the Barretto Street group resolve its tax arrears in 2002 and 2008, but they were having trouble filling the vacancies, so it was tough to secure loans, Henderson says. In 2014 the property was up for auction, but a city councilmember pulled it off the list at the last minute.

“And so we had to come up with a plan to resolve it or they would get foreclosed,” Henderson says.

As an HDFC co-op, the Barretto Street property’s owners are income-limited, earning up to 120 percent of area median income. HDFC co-ops also get reduced tax bills for adhering to income caps and certain rules about renting, subletting, and reselling units. New York’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development had money available for co-ops like theirs through its Green Housing Preservation Program. Quite a bit of money, in fact — $2.4 million from the housing department, according Juliet Pierre-Antoine, a department spokeswoman. And the grant came with a retroactive tax exemption through Article XI of the New York Private Housing Finance Law. That would get the co-op close, but not the whole way. Money from the housing department can’t be used to pay down water bills. So, working with UHAB, the co-op got two more loans, from Habitat for Humanity NYC and the Bronx-based Spring Bank, to cover the water debt.

“That’s what we try to do, is sort of combine this and that and come up with a plan,” Henderson says. “Our main goal is to make the maintenance [payments] affordable for the current residents.”

Henderson says there are around 1,200 HDFC co-ops in the city, many of which were turned over to residents by the city as landlords were abandoning properties during the 1970s. Many of them have been lost to foreclosure, she says. And many others have struggled to keep their properties maintained. Groups like UHAB have been a lifeline, offering technical assistance and help finding loans and grants to co-ops like 645 Barretto Street. This helps stabilize co-ops so that low- and moderate-income owners can stay in their homes.

“The reality is that the city sold these unrenovated buildings to the lowest-income people in the city of New York and said, ‘Bye, have a nice life,’” Henderson says.

Henderson says that most co-ops are stable, but there are around 150 HDFC co-ops that might need help. They might need a new boiler, or have to clean up after a fire, or they’ve had money stolen. But many are “allergic to loans,” Henderson says. In the case of the Barretto Street property, UHAB met with the board repeatedly to walk the shareholders through the finances of the deal it structured, which will require the board to pay back loans for years. The vote to approve the deal was unanimous, Henderson says.

“In most buildings, the shareholders have a deep, deep sense of ownership,” she says. “And it’s not based on ‘how much money I’ve invested’ and ‘how much I’m going to sell the apartment for.’ It’s, ‘I lived through the abandonment of the sixties and seventies.’”

Akbar Rizvi, the chief lending officer at Spring Bank, says the co-op’s situation was a “catch 22,” because it needed money from the city to complete the repairs that could keep it from foreclosure, but it couldn’t get the money because it couldn’t pay the water bill. And the size of the water bill would be a red flag in most cases.

“Most banks would hear that and go, ‘You know what? No thanks. This doesn’t make sense,’” Rizvi says.

But Spring Bank saw that the co-op had new management and was working with Habitat, and was “in it for the long haul,” he says.

“What helped us move forward was our commitment to being able to understand the full story and not jumping to conclusions — understanding what this HDFC had been through,” Rizvi says. The bank ultimately ended up loaning the co-op $265,000.

Chris Illum and Charlotte Bell, a vice president of housing services and loan officer, respectively, at Habitat NYC, both previously worked at UHAB, according to Ann Henderson. The group loaned the 645 Barretto Street co-op $250,000 through a housing preservation program that’s part of the Habitat NYC Community Fund. Given how many limited-equity co-ops there are in neighborhoods threatened with displacement, the group has focused on keeping those homeowners in place, offering technical assistance on construction projects, help with budgeting, and facilitating board elections.

The fund launched recently, and in its first year, it lent $640,000 across five buildings, according to Illum. The Community Fund is hoping that over the next three or four years it will lend around $4.5 million to help develop or preserve 1,500 buildings in New York, Illum says. For projects like Barretto Street, even relatively small loans can make a big difference.

“There was a previous effort to save the building, but all of that was contingent upon selling the units they had vacant during a time when no one wanted to live in the Bronx,” Bell says. “When we’re not able to help stabilize the type of housing that’s in these communities, they’re likely to be lost.”

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our thrice-weekly Backyard newsletter.

You may not have ever 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.

You may also be surprised to know that the workers who bake those brownies in 12-hour shifts, 24 hours a day, five and sometimes six days a week, all came through an open door hiring process — no questions asked, no drug test, no credit check. Not even an interview. Founded in 1982, the bakery was recently featured in the New York Times for its open hiring policy, which has given a second chance to many with a criminal record or other barriers to employment for more conventional businesses.

Anyone who needs a job can come to Greyston, put their name and contact info on a list, and when there’s an opening, they get a call to come in and begin paid training immediately as part of a six-month apprenticeship. As head of human resources for the bakery, Abigail Saunders made that first call to many of the current bakers at Greyston.

With nearly three decades of experience in HR, Saunders has been through a lot, but nothing like she has since joining Greyston in 2015. She’s helped employees experiencing homelessness find housing, and spends more time away from her desk — coaching and spending time with workers out on the bakery floor — than any other job she’s had before. Attendance is the biggest issue, often connected to trouble outside the workplace, often housing or healthcare. A few years ago she brought in a social worker to help her colleagues navigate such challenges.

The newest addition to Saunders’ HR toolset: emergency loans for employees. Through a partnership with a local bank, Greyston Bakery employees, including management, can access personal loans up to $2,500 with no credit check required. Repayments come directly off the employee’s paycheck. The program is open to employees who have been at Greyston for at least one year. About 30 of Saunders’ colleagues have used the program since Greyston formed the partnership in 2018.

“A lot of HR professionals don’t understand financial problems at home might affect performance,” Saunders says. “The 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.”

The loans come from nearby Spring Bank, the only bank based in the South Bronx. Since launching this program for employer-based loans in 2015, it’s made a thousand of these loans through more than twenty employers including nonprofit organizations, local businesses, and Jetro Restaurant Depot, a major wholesale supplier for bodegas with 3,000 employees throughout the New York City area. The average loan size is around $2,100.

Spring Bank’s employer-based loan program is just one example of a larger trend bubbling up across the country. Recognizing the scourge of predatory payday lenders and other alternative financial services providers weighing down on employees, companies are offering employer-based loans as an alternative. You don’t need a credit check. Just a job.

There’s platforms like TrueConnect, which has more than a thousand companies on its employer-based loan platform. The structure is similar: Employees take out a small loan from a bank (in TrueConnect’s case, it’s Twin Cities-based Sunrise Banks), and repayments come directly out of the employee’s regular paycheck. Billed as a competitor to payday lenders, which often charge as much as 300 or 400 percent annual interest, TrueConnect charges 24.9 percent — still higher than most credit cards, but more accessible to people who may not qualify for a card.

One critic told the Los Angeles Times that employer-based loan programs and other “financial wellness benefits sound pretty gimmicky and of dubious value to workers, and sound more like employers wanting to continue not offering wage increases to attract workers.”

Higher wages would certainly help workers at all levels, but they’re not a guarantee against the unforeseen. Some 60 percent of households experienced an unexpected financial shock in the previous 12 months, according to a study by Pew Charitable Trusts — and the median financial shock was $2,000.

While these numbers have gone down over the past five years, in a 2019 Federal Reserve survey 27 percent of Americans said they would have to borrow money or sell something to cover an unforeseen expense of just $400; another 12 percent they would not be able to cover it at all.

As a result, the market for alternative financial products — payday loans and other financial services provided outside the banking system such as check cashing — continues to grow year after year, to a projected $188 billion in 2018, according to the most recent Financially Underserved Market Study from the Center for Financial Services Innovation.

In New York, the usury cap is 16 percent — which is what Spring Bank charges on its employer-based loans. As a result of the state’s strong usury protections, Spring Bank isn’t facing the same competition from payday lenders as in other parts of the country. It’s possible to get a payday loan in New York state through an online provider, and it does happen, but it’s not nearly as prevalent as places where payday lenders operate out of storefronts, usually in low-income and predominantly black or Latinx communities.

When an employer signs up for the Spring Bank program, director of consumer lending Melanie Stern and loan officer Carol Guzman typically go out and make a presentation to the employees of the company. Often, by the time they get back to the office, employees of that company have already submitted applications. Guzman says over the past few months she’s consistently seen around 20 applications a week from all of Spring Bank’s participating employers. Approval can take up to seven days — still not quite as instant as many payday loan providers promise.

Stern designed the program to break the debt trap. When Spring Bank approves an employer-based loan, the loan amount goes into a savings account in the employee’s name. It can be withdrawn the same day, in-person — their main branch is located along two major subway lines in the South Bronx. The loan repayments are set up as a direct deposit from the employee’s regular paycheck into the savings account. Some employees choose to keep the direct deposits going even after repaying the loan, getting them started on a path to building savings.

On more than one occasion, Guzman says, employees have applied for a second loan, not realizing they had already paid off the first loan but kept paying into their savings account. She’s told these applicants they don’t need a second loan because they had already saved up more than the amount they requested.

“They come for another loan and they didn’t even know they had money there,” Guzman says. “One had $1,500, another had $1,800 in their savings account.”

So far, the median annual income for borrowers in Spring Bank’s employer loan program is $36,000. The bank also reports the on-time payments on each borrower’s credit history, resulting in a 50-point credit score bump after repaying an employer-based loan, according to Stern.

“Where we really see a nice impact is for people who didn’t have a prior credit history at all,” Stern says.

One obvious risk is that borrowers leave the company before repaying a loan. Spring Bank requests a back-up bank account to use for repayments in case that does happen, but it doesn’t require that. So far the losses have been less than Stern expected — at program launch in 2015, she forecasted ten percent of loans going bad, but so far it’s only been three percent, which is on par with other employer-based loan programs.

There are some key limitations. Specifically, people currently paying child support cannot access Spring bank’s employer-based loan program. Child-support payments take precedent over loan repayments, making those borrowers just too risky to access this program. Saunders, of Greyston Bakery, says that has definitely been an issue for some of her colleagues.

Technology has been a key piece of the puzzle — as well as an expense. Spring Bank partnered with tech startup Happy Mango Credit to build and operate an online platform that provides access to the employer-based loans as well as other Spring Bank financial products. The same platform also integrates tools for some household financial planning as well as setting up appointments for financial counseling.

Stern hopes to add another ten employers to Spring Bank’s employer-based loan program over the next year.

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. Click here to subscribe to our Bottom Line newsletter. The Bottom Line is made possible with support from Citi Community Development.

Recognized by B Lab as a Best For The World Honoree in Overall, Changemaker, Customers, and Governance

It’s a momentous time for us. Not one, but four recognitions from the B Corp movement that affirm our work to create a world where all people have equal access and the opportunity to build prosperous and abundant financial futures. Today we are proud to announce we have been named 2019 Best For The World Honoree by B Lab in four categories: Overall, Changemaker, Customers, and Governance.

What does this mean? We rank in the top 10 percent of all 3,000 B Corps worldwide for our positive impact,  an affirmation of our commitment to this journey over the last 12 months.

Here’s a look at some of the things we’ve been up to:

  • Changemaker: Support for the community. We continue to support the incredible network of community partners who provide invaluable services in New York City like financial literacy, affordable housing, and job creation.

    Carbon neutral. This April we offset over 192,874.28 kg of CO2e, part of a movement to preserve the Amazon rainforest and supports indigenous families who live in the rainforests of Pará, Brazil.

  • Customers: Since the day we opened our doors, we have served people and communities most often targeted by predatory lenders. We design affordable banking products like our Start Loan and Green Checking account to help people build savings and credit. We continue to score the highest in the Customer category on the B Impact Assessment because serving the needs of our customers is our priority.
  • Governance: We have been recognized for how we achieve mission, accountability, and transparency through the active engagement of our employees, board members, and community representatives.

Thank you to B Lab for recognizing our efforts. And, Thank YOU, our loyal customers, supporters, and partners who inspire us to do more, go further and stay the path to build an inclusive, equitable, and durable and shared prosperity for all.

About the Best For The World Award
Best For The World recognition is administered by B Lab, the global nonprofit that certifies and supports Certified B Corporations, which are for-profit companies dedicated to using business as a force for good. Today there are 3,000 Certified B Corporations across 64 countries and 150 industries, unified by one common goal: to redefine success in business.

Learn about our score on the B Impact Assessment. Read about the Best For The World Honorees.


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.