Business & Money

Black-owned family bank marks 85 years of service

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Sep 6, 2019 - 9:10:01 AM

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Industrial Bank’s President B. Doyle Mitchell Jr. and Executive Vice President of Strategic Programs Patricia Mitchell. They are the grandchildren of bank founder Jesse H. Mitchell.

WASHINGTON—Since 1934 Industrial Bank has served the nation’s capital and is currently the only Black family-owned bank in that area. Industrial Bank is among the top five largest Black-owned banks in the United States.

“We have very loyal, loyal customers,” Patricia Mitchell, executive vice president, strategic programs told The Final Call. She is also the granddaughter of Industrial bank founder, Jesse H. Mitchell. “We have a lot of people that know the bank well or knew my father and some people that are still around that knew my grandfather. We have people that come up to us all the time and they have been banking with us for 20 years or have been banking with us for 30 years or 40 years,” she said.

“They tell us ‘My parents banked with you 50 years ago and I have banked with you,’ and people that will say, ‘You gave me my first house loan or you gave me my first loan for my business.’ So, we have a lot of loyal customers,” said Ms. Mitchell.

That loyalty has allowed Industrial Bank to maintain their presence and grow for 85 years. Jesse H. Mitchell started with the help of nine initial investors. It opened with one location and six employees. The bank endured the Great Depression, the 1960s riots, and the ever-changing nature of people who one day think it’s good to bank Black and the next day think it’s bad to bank Black. Industrial Bank has made loans and opened accounts that have made the difference for countless individuals, aspiring entrepreneurs, and major businesses and corporations.

Black banks remain a necessary part of the Black community. According to a 2018 Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) study, 67 percent of Black-owned banks’ mortgage loans went to Black borrowers, compared with fewer than one percent of community banks’ mortgage loans.

On top of loan awards and financial services, Industrial Bank reinvests over 60 percent of its assets back into the community every year and continues to activate and support community programs such as their D.C. Jail Financial Literacy Program.

Bank President B. Doyle Mitchell, Jr., as did his father and grandfather before him, still believes in the importance and power of financial education, entrepreneurship and homeownership.

Recent movements, characterized by hashtags #BankBlack, #MoveYour-Money, and Washington D.C.’s #DivestToInvest, have helped drive belief and advocacy of Black ownership. Since 1934, Industrial Bank has depended on the support of individuals, organizations, churches and their investment in both the start and growth of the Bank.

“We are closely connected to our account holders. They are able to talk directly to our bank representatives; they are able to see my brother who is the president. They will see him out and about at a restaurant or visiting different places. He can be on the streets. So, they are able to have access to him or me. They are able to have access to us. That’s important,” said Ms. Mitchell.

Karl Muhammad has banked with Industrial for more than three decades. “It is because they are a Black bank that I have my money there. Half my check goes to Industrial and half my check goes to another bank. Minister Farrakhan said a long time ago that we should bank Black,” he said, referring to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. “It’s been difficult for me, I tried to get a loan and got denied. So, I got my loan elsewhere and just bought my house,” said Mr. Muhammad.

“After repeated denials I just started getting my loans elsewhere. I mentioned this to the bankers, and they did make some improvements. They have gotten better over time. What I like about them is that they open doors for our people to have bank accounts when others close the doors,” he told The Final Call.

Industrial Bank operates seven branches and will soon open a new branch in suburban Maryland.

“We are embarking on expanding to Largo, Maryland. We are also expanding and re-branding our technology and infrastructure,” said Ms. Mitchell. What can people look forward to in the decades to come? Black people supporting and keeping their dollars in the Black community is important, she explained.

“The number of Black banks have dwindled over the years. There are only 21 Black banks now. When I started in banking in the ‘80s, there were over 55 banks,” said Ms. Mitchell.

“Quite a few of them are struggling. We want to be able to do an acquisition. We might do an acquisition of a couple of those struggling banks so that they don’t go away from the community.” 

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