COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce was cleaning pepper spray off his skin in the summer of 2020 when a metaphorical lightbulb sparked above his head.
The Black elected official – who had just been maced by Columbus police while peacefully protesting the murder of George Floyd – wanted to do more to uplift central Ohio’s communities of color. That’s why, two years ago, Boyce devised an ambitious plan to open what has become the only Black-owned bank in Ohio in an effort to boost Black households’ access to capital.
“The unbanked and underbanked are disproportionately in low-income communities,” Boyce said. “So our goal is to provide people with a pathway to access those resources.”
Boyce’s vision culminated in the creation of Adelphi Bank, which earned its official stamp of approval from the Federal Depository Insurance Corporation on Jan. 18, according to the bank’s CEO Jordan Miller, the former president of Fifth-Third Central Ohio.
The bank’s name and its King-Lincoln Bronzeville headquarters at 800 E. Long St. were intentionally selected as a callback to the former Adelphi Loan and Savings Company, which became central Ohio’s first Black-owned bank in the 1920s but defaulted during the Great Depression, Boyce said.
“It was a place where African-American entrepreneurs, homeowners and residents were able to access capital to do things like start a business or buy a home, so we picked up that legacy and started there,” Boyce said.
To date, there are 20 Black-owned depository institutions in the U.S., according to the FDIC. Besides Adelphi Bank, which is slated to open to the public in coming months, there are none in Ohio.
As white people are more likely to hold leadership roles at U.S. financial institutions, they’re also more likely to have a bank account, according to a 2021 report from the Federal Reserve. At 27%, Black adults are the most underbanked demographic in the country, the report found.
At the end of 2020, the homeownership for Black families sat at 44% compared with 75% for white families, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which Boyce said is a problem since homeownership is key to generating wealth.
“At traditional institutions, who they are lending money to for mortgages and the underwriting process, generally speaking about 1% are for African-Americans,” Boyce said. “What that means is that the wealth gap is not growing at the pace that we need it to grow at to keep up with the growth of society.”
From redlining to restrictive covenants – which functioned to control where Black people could live or open a business – Miller said long-held distrust of financial institutions among Black households also drives the racial disparity in bank usage.
Miller’s father fell victim to banks’ discriminatory lending when he was denied a mortgage in the 1950s, he said, and a similar fate often rang true for Black business owners.
“If you were a African-American citizen, and you only sell your goods and services to other African-American citizens, you’re going to get capped out pretty quick, right? But if you’re a majority citizen, you can sell to anybody,” Miller said.
Like the Italians who stepped in to help Miller’s dad finance his home, Boyce said he envisions Adelphi Bank – whose board and executive leadership is 95% Black – as a beacon for central Ohio’s communities of color looking to access capital.
“Our sort of motto is ‘It’s not a no but how?’” Boyce said. “How do we get to where you need to be to access the resources you need for college, or a mortgage, or a car loan or a business loan?”