OneUnited Bank recently announced its new Empowerment Network, “with more surcharge-free ATMs than any other bank in the country,” according to a press release.
OneUnited Bank is reportedly the nation’s largest Black-owned bank, the first Black-owned digital bank, a Minority Depository Institution (MDI), and a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Over 100,000 surcharge-free ATMs are available at Chase Bank and Citibank branches and neighborhood retailers such as 7-Eleven, Costco, CVS, Target, and Walgreens, per additional details that were provided in the press release.
“We have the largest surcharge free network than any other bank, white, Black or other in the country,” said Teri Williams, president and chief operating officer of OneUnited Bank. “Our goal is not only to help our customers to reduce their costs, but to also send a message because if we can do this, other institutions can as well.”
OneUnited Bank also empowers customers through the OneUnited Card Command to empower customers. They can “instantly turn on and off their OneUnited Bank Visa® Debit Card, get real-time transaction notifications, add their card to their digital wallet, set travel plans, and even set spending limits in the mobile banking app,” according to the press release.
Kevin Cohee, OneUnited Bank’s other owner, is the bank’s chairman and chief executive officer. Williams explained the progression of working with Cohee and the evolution of OneUnited Bank. OneUnited Bank’s offices are located in Boston, Massachusetts, Miami, Florida and Los Angeles, California. Williams stated that the bank is headquartered in Boston.
“Together, we bought a community bank called Boston Bank of Commerce. We then acquired four Black-owned banks and rolled them into one and changed our name to OneUnited. And then from there, we launched the digital platform in 2006. So, we’ve grown both in our local communities as well as online,” Williams said.
Cohee’s experience included investment banking. Williams holds an M.B.A. with honors from Harvard University and a B.A. with distinctions in Economics from Brown University. Williams worked for Bank of America and American Express. She added that they tried to work with large banks to focus on the Black community, but they could not find a partner to do that in 1995. As a result, Cohee and Williams realized that they needed to own a bank to focus their attention on the Black community themselves.
OneUnited Bank is not just a digital bank. Cohee and Williams have made strides although Williams said that there is more to progress to make.
“We’ve done close to a billion dollars in lending in low to moderate income communities that are over 80% Black. We have launched services to meet the needs of our community,” Williams said. “We believe that you have to have a bank account in order to build wealth. We have to figure out ways to get our community back into banking and that’s why we offer our second chance checking account.”
Secured credit cards and a recent launch of a short-term, small dollar loan to offer an alternative to payday lending are among additional services that OneUnited Bank offers. Second-chance checking accounts are offered, too. Williams noted that many people do not know that overdrawing on bank accounts can negatively impact ChexSystems records. The consumer reporting agency monitors how people use their bank account. It is the reason why some individuals turn to payday loan options. A person’s ability to have a bank account, and even have direct deposit, can be impacted if a banking account was closed involuntarily.
“About 30 percent of our community has a ChexSystems record,” Williams said.
This is where OneUnited Bank can provide an option to bank, since it is national. Customers span in all 50 states including Alaska.
“If you are in the U.S., you can open up an account with us within minutes. Go to https://www.oneunited.com,” Williams said. “With direct deposit, you can get two days early if you bank with us. You can also take a picture of a check to deposit it. We actually have ATMs that accept deposits, so you can go to ATMs in your community and deposit funds into the bank.”
Using CashApp and Venmo are other ways to move money into an account.
Williams’ interest in the banking and finance industry begins with her great-grandmother, Annie Coachman. She owned a barbecue pit, a candy store, real estate and other ventures in a rural community in Florida. Although Williams did not initially think of her relative as a businesswoman, Williams gained awareness of the importance of a business serving the community because of Coachman.
“Our focus is really to educate our community about money,” Williams said, mentioning that OneUnited Bank provides financial literacy through various tools.
Visit https://www.oneunited.com to learn more about OneUnited Bank and to find a complete list of banking services.