New HOPE for Financially Underserved Customers
Jackson, MS-Based Federal Credit Union Fills Critical Gap for Neglected Consumers
The Mid South has the largest percentage of people living in poverty and the highest percentage of unbanked and underbanked families. The proliferation of “bank deserts” has a disproportionate and devastating effect on low-income, elderly, minority and other populations. Predatory financial operations, such as check cashing outlets and payday lenders, fill the void and exacerbate the problem. Providing individuals and businesses with the financial tools they need to succeed is critical to creating a more sustainable society and a more robust economy.
The members of Anderson United Methodist Church organized Hope Federal Credit Union (HOPE) in 1995 in Jackson, Mississippi to serve and empower low-income Jackson residents. Now, with 16 branches in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, HOPE has evolved into a regional institution offering an array of traditional banking services and products, as well as financial education and counseling services to customers in the nation’s most impoverished region.
Since 2008, HOPE has established a presence in 10 underbanked communities that lost financial institutions. A recent example occurred in 2011, when BancorpSouth closed 23 locations in the region, including its presence in Utica, MS, a rural community of 900 near Jackson. HOPE moved quickly to fill the void. After providing financial services from temporary facilities in City Hall, it will soon open the doors of a new, larger facility just around the corner from the former BancorpSouth location.
In 2011, HOPE made 85 percent of its business loans to minorityand women-owned businesses, loans supported through community and economic development programs, loans to businesses in distressed communities and loans for community facilities. What’s more, nearly 75 percent of its loans were made in high-poverty/ low-income communities — a rate nearly 30 percentage points higher than the average for regional banks.