Chicago has 193 different banks—are you banking with one that uses your money in alignment with your values?
Last month, a group of students, small business owners, community organization leaders, and finance professionals gathered to explore this very question as part of our interactive Chicago Ideas Week lab at the University of Chicago Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
As covered by Next City, the purpose of the event was for Mighty to share its new beta platform — described by Mighty as being like “Trip Advisor for community-investing banks” — with an audience of lab participants who signed up to make $100,000 of virtual deposits each into banks across the Chicago metro area using the Mighty platform, and to discuss why they made their decisions.
“I put my money in GN Bank, Urban Partnership Bank, and Liberty Bank and Trust because they are each banks with a history of financing black American communities in Chicago,” a lab participant said. Meanwhile, a live poll continuously refreshed at the front of the room, visualizing where lab participants were choosing to make their deposits.
“I put some of my money in a particular bank because I saw that people in the room were putting their money there, and I could on Mighty that the bank is Chicago-focused and puts more of its money in the bank toward community financing than the average bank in Chicago,” a second lab participant said.
“I liked learning about banks that are 100% focused on Chicago,” another lab participant said. “And learning how different people have put together a banking portfolio influenced my thinking, too.”
The lab began with a panel featuring four Chicagoans and the portfolio of banks they used at their organization, or personally. Projected on a large screen behind the panelists were the names of the banks each banked with.
Jeffrey Beckham, Founder of Black Box Creative, spoke from the point of view of a small business owner. Beckham said he used different banks for different reasons: one strictly for transactional purposes, and another for the values-aligned, neighborhood-oriented relationships it offers his business and the other small businesses he works with.
Eliot Abrams, a PhD candidate in economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, spoke about his role while an undergraduate student at the University of Chicago to work with his classmates to prompt the University to place $1 million of university deposits into banks focused on making community investments. (A case study of the student-led campaign was written up by Democracy Collaborative, here (see page 33)). Abrams said that getting the university to agree to making the deposits required just a few short meetings.
Abrams explained that as part of his senior class’ community outreach initiative, he and his fellow students asked the university to move some of its money on deposit in FDIC-insured banks to others that were equally insured but more focused on financing small businesses and housing in neighborhoods around the university. According to Abrams, both students and university officials agreed that making a deposit in a community-investing bank was an easy and low-risk way for the university to make an impact.
Daniel Ramirez-Raftree, a NY-based consultant with Acceleration Group, spoke about his decision to use both a global bank and a Chicago-focused bank.
Ramirez shared that he moved to New York City to advance his career after two years of working with Urban Partnership Bank in Chicago, which he learned about while a student at the University of Chicago. Ramirez-Raftree said that he maintains an online savings account with the Chicago bank to keep a connection to Chicago community.
“While it’s true that I could perhaps make a higher interest rate if I put my money in an online-only bank, I did the math and decided that the small bump in interest isn’t worth my sacrificing my aligning my money with my values,” Ramirez-Raftree said, adding that his interest rate from Urban Partnership Bank is better than that offered by some global banks. “I know community-investing banks make many small loans and this is more costly than only making large loans, so I understand why a community-centric bank may not always offer market leading rates.”
Jabari Porter, Chief Investment Officer with the City of Chicago’s Treasurer’s Office, highlighted the City’s placement of $20 million of deposits with GN Bank as part of the City’s initiative to build a bank portfolio that balances the City’s financial management needs with its commitment to support community investments in neighborhoods across the city. Porter encouraged the audience to engage their local representatives if municipal deposits were something a community was interested in attracting to its locally-focused neighborhood bank(s).
Lab participants began placing their virtual deposits using the Mighty platform at the conclusion of the panel having listened to the experiences of the panelists, and by exploring bank impact data on Mighty and conferring with the ideas of fellow lab attendees.
Here’s a summary of the three ways in which the lab participants chose to place their virtual deposits.
1 - Chicago Lab participants chose to make their deposits with banks that put the majority of their deposits to work in Chicago.
At the start of the event, lab participants learned that among the 193 different banks with a branch or HQ office in the Chicago metro area, just 7% of these banks’ total deposits are at work in Chicago.*
After engaging with the Mighty platform, lab participants made clear that the banks in Chicago that put the majority of their deposits to work in Chicago are of special interest.
In the course of the simulation, lab participants overwhelmingly chose to deposit their virtual cash with Chicago-focused banks putting the majority (if not all) of their deposits to work in Chicago. Specifically, 18 of them.
This resulted in the lab participants’ virtual deposits supporting banks that put 96% of their deposits to work in Chicago, versus the 7% of deposits at work in Chicago according to the status quo Chicago bank industry average.
Where deposits are at work* among all Chicago banks**
Where deposits are at work* among all Chicago banks chosen by lab participants***
2 - Chicago Lab participants deposited their money with 18 different banks, most all of which are focused on financing the real economy, and many which are focused on financing populations where equity historically lacks.
“An immediate benefit of Mighty is seeing that there are many more bank choices in Chicago — and differentiated bank choices — than I had ever realized,” a lab participant said.
Through the course of the simulation, lab participants deposited their virtual cash into 18 different banks.
Of the $3.5 million of total virtual deposits placed:
88% or $3.08 million was deposited with banks focused on financing the real economy, which Mighty also refers to as the neighborhood economy or communities, in the form of community loans and investments.**
61% or $2.14 million was deposited with banks certified for their focus on financing poverty alleviation.**
35% or $1.23 million was deposited with banks certified for financing Black American Equity in communities.**
17% or $595,000 was deposited with banks certified for financing Asian American Equity in communities.**
Types of banks with which lab participants collectively placed $3.5 million of virtual bank deposits
3 - Chicago Lab participants created $1 million of new community investment, mostly in the form of business and housing loans.
Of all of the money in all of the banks with a presence in the Chicago metro area, 40% of the total money in these banks is used to finance the real economy across the US in the form of loans and other community financing for businesses, farms, housing, construction, public works, and consumers.
Using the Mighty platform, lab participants made deposits with a consideration for banks that put a larger share of their total bank money (60%-85%+) into community financing than the bank industry average (45%).
The 18 banks selected by lab participants collectively put 74% of their total assets into community financing.
In result of the simulation, the virtual deposits created an 85% (or $1.2 million) increase in community financing, mostly in the form of business and housing loans, versus the community financing that would result from the deposits having been made in a network of banks that behave like the Chicago bank industry average status quo.
STATUS QUO VS LAB SIMULATION
Percentage of money in Chicago metro area banks (Status Quo) that is invested into the real economy, or communities, versus the percentage of money in lab participants’ chosen banks (Simulation Cohort) that is invested into the real economy.
The event, of course, was a simulation. But if a group of 35 lab participants controlling a sum of $3.5 million could create $1.2 million of new community investments through the low-risk, relatively easy yet intentional placement of deposits with Chicago and real economy focused banks, imagine what a larger group of committed organizations and individuals could do for the city.
"The simulation was really eye-opening,” said a small business consultant in attendance at the lab. “I work with a network of small businesses and its powerful to know there is a whole network of banks specialized in financing community investments like loans for small businesses in different neighborhoods with diverse needs. I’ll use Mighty as a resource to better advise my small business clients interested in bank relationships that match their needs and ethos.”