Black-owned OneUnited Bank providing small business loans in Miami

OneUnited Bank President Teri Williams believes in the power bank lending can give Black entrepreneurs.

OneUnited Bank President Teri Williams believes in the power bank lending can give Black entrepreneurs.

Photo courtesy Jeffrey Salter

With the housing redevelopments in Miami like Liberty Square, Liberty City is gaining economic momentum.

Now the largest Black-owned bank in America, which has a customer branch in the inner city neighborhood, has begun to support local Black entrepreneurs in accessing the financial resources needed to sustain their businesses.

To do that, OneUnited Bank last month partnered with Lendistry, a Black-owned financial technology company. Its OneTransaction program goes beyond commercial lending and offers customers six options in business and personal banking, such as loans to achieve homeownership, savings and investment accounts and insurance, as ways to build wealth. Though based in Boston, Miami is where the bank creates programs to reach the Black community, then they are deployed in other parts of the country.

OneUnited President Teri Williams said that lending to Black business owners is “so important and so needed, yet so difficult [to access] in our community.”

Kerrington Eubanks, senior vice president of Lendistry, agreed, noting access to capital for small businesses to expand is at the center of Lendistry’s mission.

Williams said that partnering with Lendistry made sense because of how Lendistry treated customers during the pandemic.

“We saw eye-to-eye on how to treat our customers,” the OneUnited top executive said. “There were some customers that went through [the Paycheck Protection Program]. But for a lot of customers it was difficult, and Lendistry treated those customers with respect. They were very respectful of people who needed more help and referred them to us and other people that needed them.”

Through the partnership, OneUnited is providing working capital and loans to businesses that have been operating for a minimum of two years. The smallest loan a business can request is $50,000 and the maximum amount is $5 million. The loans can be used by entrepreneurs to maintain working capital.

Williams is hopeful younger generations of Black entrepreneurs will buy businesses from aging owners and sustain the legacy those businesses have in Miami communities like Liberty City.

In her 25 years of banking, Williams has found succession, or the passing down of a business from one family member to another, to be a rare occurrence. She’s noticed many business owners eventually see their children go elsewhere and those owners sometimes close their doors because no one is there to buy their companies. Or in many cases, the people buying those businesses are not Black, she said.

“One of the things that I don’t think we focus on enough is buying existing businesses,” she said. “These are [already] generating cash flow and have been in business a long time. Sometimes it’s bringing [the next] generation’s technology to these businesses to make them more successful.”

OneUnited Bank in Miami works with small businesses and consumers to help them operate and build wealth. This photo shows the bank’s office on Northwest 79th Street. MATIAS J. OCNER [email protected]

Williams is familiar with the success that can be achieved when starting from an existing business. OneUnited was formed in 1968, after four existing Black-owned banks were bought and merged. The bank opened in Miami in 1999. Its local office is at 3275 NW 79th St.

According to OneUnited’s research, Williams said that 85% of the bank’s customers are Black. Those customers range from people who live paycheck to paycheck, to customers who have millions of dollars. OneUnited’s Black customers also tend to have higher average incomes and levels of education.

In addition to the small business lending, Williams thinks the accompanying OneTransaction podcast can make financial literacy better understandable for people of all backgrounds.

“We’re working on making financial literacy a core value in our community,” she said. “Money was sort of a taboo topic when I was growing up and I couldn’t figure it out. I grew up saying, ‘I don’t think any child should not be able to figure this out.’ You have to know the rules and make the rules work for you.”

This story was originally published May 4, 2022 11:22 AM.

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Michael Butler writes about the residential and commercial real estate industry and trends in the local housing market. Just like Miami’s diverse population, Butler, a Temple University graduate, has both local roots and a Panamanian heritage.