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Bank of America Increases Commitment to Advance Racial Equality and Economic Opportunity to $1.25 Billion

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Expansion will include actions to address racial justice and advocacy for people of Asian descent

Bank of America today announced that it has increased its $1 billion, four-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity to $1.25 billion over five years. This effort further accelerates work already underway to address racial equality and opportunity through direct actions, investments and work to catalyze similar efforts across the private sector.

To date, the company has made more than $350 million in various investments from its initial $1 billion four-year commitment, announced in June 2020, across its primary focus areas of health, jobs/reskilling, affordable housing and small business. Additional funds announced today will further support investments to address racial justice, advocacy and equality for people and communities of color, including those of Asian descent. 

“The urgency we feel to address long-standing issues of inclusion and racial inequality has only increased following the attacks and hate speech directed at Asian people over the last year,” said Bank of America Chairman and CEO Brian Moynihan. “Across the public and private sectors, it is clear that we must do more – to take action, help others convene, and serve as a catalyst for a broad-based, collective response to the critical issues affecting our nation.”

The bank also announced an immediate $1 million commitment and related actions in support of increased advocacy, dialogue and engagement with the Asian American community. Further investments will be identified as part of the company’s expanded five-year effort. 

Immediate actions taken to help accelerate and expand pre-existing work include:

  • A grant to the Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) organization to advance the nonprofit’s work to promote civil rights, bystander intervention, in-language advocacy, social services assistance and legal support. This funding supports five Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliates based in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.
  • The addition of Connie Chung Joe, chief executive officer of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, to serve as a member of Bank of America’s National Community Advisory Council (NCAC), in support of ongoing dialogue and stakeholder engagement with the Asian community in the U.S., and on broad issues of gender and racial equality. Members of the NCAC engage with leaders on Bank of America’s business policies, practices and products in support of employees, clients and local communities.
  • Additional support for the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD) and The Leadership Conference Education Fund as the two organizations work to advance local community advocacy, training, and resources through community-based efforts.
  • Increased philanthropic support through Bank of America’s employee matching gift program. Bank of America employees can double their charitable donations to these three nonprofits and select others; the company’s matching gift minimum has been lowered to $1 for the next 90 days, to expand the impact of their support to the Asian community in the U.S.

“The rising number of attacks against Asian people, including the tragic shootings in Atlanta recently, have served as a stark reminder that we must stand united against discrimination, hate speech and violence,” said Thong Nguyen, vice chairman at Bank of America. “We will not tolerate acts of racism in any form. Today’s commitment builds upon Bank of America’s many years of work in support of inclusion and racial equality.”

“Over the past year, we’ve witnessed increased racism and violence against Asian Americans, underlining the significant need for tools and resources to combat these, as well as a need for culturally specific mental health and victim support resources,” said Chung Joe. “We look forward to working with Bank of America and other national advocacy leaders to advance racial equity and create opportunities for all Americans.”

Bank of America’s work to address racial equity includes participation in the Business Roundtable’s new, multi-year effort to improve equity, diversity and workplace culture, and the bank’s partnership with the Smithsonian Institution in support of its “Our Shared Future: Reckoning with our Racial Past” initiative.

Within the company, Bank of America’s Global Diversity & Inclusion Council includes senior executives from around the world and has been led by Moynihan for more than a decade. The company also connects and supports employees through 11 employee networks and local chapters, including the Asian Leadership Network with more than 11,000 members.

Expanding perspectives is a critical aspect of how Bank of America drives a culture of inclusion. Over the last decade, the company has hosted thousands of courageous conversations with employees, external partners and members of the community to cultivate awareness, inclusion and understanding. Sessions held recently include an event hosted by Bank of America’s Asian Leadership Network regarding allyship to address the current climate of race relations in America, particularly in the Asian and Black/African American communities.

Bank of America’s $350 million in commitments since June 2020 include:

Equity capital investments in 12 minority depository institutions (MDIs) and community development financial institutions (CDFIs) to provide lending, housing, neighborhood revitalization and other banking services to thousands of individuals and small businesses that do not qualify through traditional lenders. This includes a new investment in Central Bank, an Asian American MDI.

  • $188 million of investment in 61 private equity funds focused on minority and women entrepreneurs to address the persistent gap in access to growth capital for minority-led businesses.
  • Founding partner of the Smithsonian’s “Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past” initiative exploring how Americans understand, experience and confront race.
  • More than $22 million in grants to national and local nonprofits supporting workforce development, entrepreneurship, health and emergency needs.
  • Partnerships with 21 higher education institutions and major employers to enhance up-skilling and re-skilling for Black and Hispanic-Latino students.
  • More than $13 million committed to Native American Communities hardest hit by the coronavirus.
  • Expanded opportunities for 50,000 women entrepreneurs at the Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell.
  • Distribution of 25 million masks to underserved communities across the U.S.

Bank of America also recently tripled its affordable homeownership commitment to $15 billion through 2025 and issued a $2 billion Equality Progress Sustainability Bond designed to advance racial equality, economic opportunity and environmental sustainability. In 2020, the company provided $6.17 billion in affordable housing and economic development financing to help build strong, sustainable communities across the U.S.

The Inland Empire Business Journal (IEBJ) is the official business news publication of Southern California’s Inland Empire region - covering San Bernardino & Riverside Counties.

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Banking & Financial Services

Falcon Wealth Planning To Celebrate 7 Year Anniversary With Ribbon Cutting Ceremony At Their New Location

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The Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce (IERCC) is excited to announce their newest member, Falcon Wealth Planning, Inc. With that announcement comes a celebration, as the IERCC will be helping Falcon Wealth Planning celebrate their 7-year anniversary with a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the grand opening of their new building on April 19, 2022.

For this special event, guests will be able to enjoy a meet and greet with Falcon Wealth Planning’s executive staff, high-quality networking, food, and drink, and most of all a great time. The ceremony will take place between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. and include guest speakers from Gabriel Shahin, Principal at Falcon Wealth Planning, Inc., and Edward Ornelas, Jr., President, and CEO of Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Falcon Wealth Planning focuses heavily on tax planning and works with Certified Public Accountants so that you can breeze through tax season and plan today, avoiding stress during your retirement. With over 30 years of experience, they dedicate their services to preparing creative solutions tailored specifically to you.

The IERCC’s mission is to support and contribute to the interests of commerce and economic prosperity throughout Riverside County and San Bernardino County. They are a progressive, non-profit business organization striving to bring true value to their members, investors, sponsors, and community.

Together, they will be celebrating the grand opening of Falcon Wealth Planning’s new building located at 3400 Inland Empire Boulevard In Ontario, California, on April 19, 2022, starting at 4:30 p.m. Tickets for the event are free. It is highly recommended to register early, which you can do so by clicking here!

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact the IERCC at info@iechamber.org.

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Banking & Financial Services

Q&A Session with Black Cooperative Investment Fund Executive Director—Kaine Nicholas

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Q&A with Kaine Nicholas, Executive Director of Black Cooperative Investment Fund

By Josaline Cuesta, Small Business Majority, Senior California Program Manager, and IEBJ Contributor

Why is financial literacy important for small business owners? What are the pillars of financial literacy?

Financial literacy is the comfort level one may have with topics related to money and its management. Financial literacy is critical to success, and it’s where everything begins for small business owners.  

At the beginning of a business venture, an entrepreneur can be cash-challenged and relatively inexperienced in practical business versus theory. It is important that while learning the business terrain, entrepreneurs have at the very least, a baseline of financial literacy to question documents and do calculations or have support to negotiate effective business terms. Any terms that are negotiated at the beginning of a venture can significantly affect the projections or the valuation of a business. These effects can vary widely, depending on the comfort level of financial literacy. 

The pillars of financial literacy are banking, budgeting, saving, credit, debt, and investing. What matters most to small business owners is budgeting, banking, and credit, and we recommend focusing on that order for small business owners. Understanding the numbers, having the assets with banking partners that can offer solutions, and building business and personal credit are all imperative to small business owners. BCIF and its trusted partner, AmPac Business Capital can help everyone gain a firm awareness of these pillars.

What’s needed to create a strong financial plan?

What is needed to make a strong financial plan is the actions that happen alongside writing the actual financial plan. While one may be uncertain of the “hockey stick” or optimistic revenue, what people can control is the cost. Know those costs and how they change in a good, better, or best scenario to keep you prepared.  

No one likes surprises. There is security and comfort in knowing that costs are consistent and predictable. Spend time conducting the research and use due diligence so that you and the financial partners understand the financial plan and financial statements. 

What’s in a business plan, and why is having one essential for a small business owner? 

A business plan is a document that, at its most basic level, can help small business owners navigate the who, what, where, why, and how to generate income with a product or service. The business plan tells the reader that this “document” is your prototype on paper. The business plan also helps readers understand the basic valuation of your business. 

If your business plan is on paper, does it articulate the vision, or is it a requirement for a loan program? The business plan is important because it represents as the creator of the business. Thinking business out on paper can reduce mistakes in real-world execution.  

What’s the best way to document and share major changes to a business plan with your financial advisor and employees, such as becoming a corporation or expanding to another state? 

Ensure the establishment of company meetings and hold them routinely, preferably with quarterly updates. This allows stakeholders to receive firm-wide public information and establishes communication between leadership, management, and employees. 

What are some tips for thinking strategically about cash flow?  

One tip is to understand what is in the pipeline and/or accounts receivables and monitor subscriber trends to your products or solutions. When I ask business owners how their business is doing, they usually respond with, “it’s going well.”  And I always ask myself, what does that really mean, and is the owner aware of the items that support healthy cash flow?

Is a personal credit score relevant to small business success? What defines a “good credit score” and how can you maintain one?

Personal credit is relevant to businesses at the earlier stages of a business. If used correctly, one should leverage good credit and create business credit as soon as possible. Personal credit and business credit are created differently and operate differently. That difference can be critical to accessing capital. Unfortunately, a “good credit score” is not universal. We recommend owners investigate the potential creditor by asking what numerical score and credit history on the credit report will produce a favorable outcome. A credit score and credit report are two components that contribute to a sizable credit decision. With that information, the small business owners have a credit “road map.” What is most important is that the business owner is proactive in the credit conversation. One can maintain and learn more with one of BCIF’s trusted partners, AmPac Business Capital.  

What are the top three easy-to-navigate business loans for a startup business? Do the types of loans that are needed change in your 2nd or 3rd year of business?

The top and the easiest loan is a zero-interest loan based on an alternative way of evaluating personal credit and traditional risk models. If one can find a small business loan that targets a certain demographic or type of business, that should be extremely helpful. Third, look for a small business loan that can be forgiven. 

The types of loans that could change in your second or third year of business can be tricky. Business success and loan/funding gaps require careful consideration, but most important, predictability. 

How will I know that a financial literacy resource is proven and credible?

Financial literacy is a journey. One way to affirm credibility is to compare it to your financial situation. Always have a backup resource for validation.

How can the average entrepreneur improve their financial literacy?

This is an important and critical question that I will answer in an alternative, more direct way. I strongly recommend these three words as ways to improve personal and business financial literacy:

  • Curiosity
  • Humility
  • Discipline

Start with opening your mail and being curious about the words that you do not understand in your statements. Call the service number and ask the person to explain what these words mean regarding your account. It sounds simple, but it truly is a free lesson that benefits your personal or professional situation. The information is memorable because the asker is learning even when configuring the question. (Do not forget your tax person or accountant.   They are your resources).

Humility helps your behavior when you ask a question, and you partially know the answer, but you ask questions to attain mastery.  

Lastly, you must be disciplined and determined when you call the service line or account representative when you do not fully understand a financial term. Do not feel like you are wasting their time asking basic questions. If they have chosen to do business, service your needs, or hold your money, you are only using your mutual rights within the relationship. 

What is the best way to stay abreast of COVID relief funds and resources in the Inland Empire area?

Contact the Black Cooperative Investment Fund (BCIF) at www.bcifund.org, 310-904-6336, reach out to our partner, AmPac Business Capital at www.ampac.com, or visit Venturize: https://venturize.org/—Small Business Majority’s free online resource hub for small business owners who need help accessing tools and resources to grow their businesses.

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Banking & Financial Services

Northwestern Mutual Grows Southern California Presence

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Company opens new office in Ontario, California

Northwestern Mutual, a financial security company focused on comprehensive financial planning through both insurance and investments, is announcing the opening of a new office in Ontario, California, at 3633 Inland Empire Blvd, Suite 790. 

“This expansion gives us the opportunity to build meaningful new relationships, offer career opportunities and meet a need for financial services in an underserved community,” said Matt Plocher, managing partner, Northwestern Mutual. “We’re looking forward to providing unmatched  financial guidance to our clients in Ontario and the surrounding communities and helping them  accomplish their financial goals.”  

The new office, led by Managing Director Amber Romo, was developed through a collaboration with the Northwestern Mutual distribution growth ventures team, a group focused on serving underpenetrated markets and competitive recruitment. It will offer financial planning services to the city’s underserved Hispanic and Asian communities. In addition, the office will identify opportunities for financial education and support of locally-owned businesses. 

“Our recruiting efforts will focus on diverse communities in Ontario, with an emphasis on area colleges and universities,” said Romo. “We’re excited to engage with the community and provide personalized planning solutions that will help put our new clients on the path to achieving their  financial dreams.”  

Romo will lead the Ontario office comprised of a diverse team of six financial professionals, all of whom live in Ontario or the surrounding area. The team plans to expand its presence in the community. 

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