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A Pair of Atlanta Entrepreneurs Are Trying to Upend the Banking Industry for Black Americans Frustrated by an Inequitable Past

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The relationship between banks and Black Americans has been uncomfortable pretty much through history.  Beset with discrimination, lack of access, and lack of loan opportunities, the Black community has been historically distrustful and wary of any bank claiming to have their best interest in mind.  One of the barriers is that banks have done a pretty crappy job of keeping wealth in the Black and Latin communities they serve. But things are changing and Black entrepreneurs and community business leaders are leading the way. 

Enter Greenwood Bank; a FinTech started by some of the Atlanta area’s best-known influencers.  Greenwood touts its bank as a place where customers can “save money, help the community, and get paid early,” thereby also recirculating wealth.  

It’s such a hot commodity that more than 700,000 people have put their names on a waiting list to deposit money in Greenwood in the past year and a half.  Greenwood, which is named for the 1921 massacre of Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street, ” became an idea that has unified Black people across the country, especially in its home of Atlanta. 

Although still only partially open for business, the fintech is part of a new subset of banks, which aren’t the traditional banks you think of. Greenwood is another virtual digital startup with an app that partners with insured banks regulated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.  Like mainstream banks, Greenwood offers checking accounts, savings accounts, debit cards, investment tools, small-business loans, and mortgages.  According to a recent article in Bloomberg, Greenwood wants to become the singular financial destination for the Black and Brown middle class.

Co-founded by Paul Judge and Ryan Glover the fintech aims to capture the loyalty of “people whose parents and grandparents were steered and corralled into neighborhoods where the banks kept real estate values depressed, robbing homeowners of the economic benefits that could have come from what often would have been their only appreciating asset.”  

Judge, a 45-year-old Atlanta computer scientist and highly visible entrepreneur, told Bloomberg, “Many of us are scared of banks like we’re scared of police officers. We’re fixing a problem that has been around for centuries.”

Glover and Judge told Bloomberg that they think Greenwood can alter the trajectory of Black wealth by selling a financial play as a cultural one. Co-founder, Judge, and a Georgia Tech Ph.D. have founded several startups, including Pindrop Security, which is now close to unicorn status, valued near $1 billion.  Glover earned his reputation managing and producing artists including Biggie Smalls and Mary J. Blige and co-founded and then sold the country’s first Black-owned broadcast TV network, Bounce TV, to E.W. Scripps Co. for $292 million in 2017.  He lives in a $3.5 million home in the exclusive Atlanta Chastain Park neighborhood. 

The two began their Greenwood launch back in early 2020, developing a place where Black and Latino people could aggregate, recirculate, and control their money, share financial knowledge, and not be beholden to predominantly white institutions. “Banks don’t understand the Black barbershop or the Black construction company,” Judge told Bloomberg. “Black businesses are denied access to capital and denied mortgages at twice the rate” of their White counterparts. 

Greenwood raised $40 million in a Series A round with investors including JPMorgan, Mastercard, Truist, Visa, Wells Fargo, and SoftBank by early 2021, and the bank was off and running.  

For more information on Greenwood, visit www.bankgreenwood.com.

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