Chase Bank looks to challenge financial barriers in underserved communities with the modernization of the financial firm itself. May 6, 2021 marked that historical moment of change in Los Angeles; a reimagined financially integrated community center in the Bakewell building, on corner of Crenshaw Blvd. and Vernon Blvd., has created a new model of banking in the Crenshaw District by responding directly to the needs of the surrounding community.
On Wednesday, June 2, JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon, visited the new community center branch; he described the cultural evolution of Chase and how the institution looks to become a pillar of growth in the Crenshaw community.
The public center’s goal unites the act of banking and the genuine needs of the community. Dimon reflected on this intensified process between the community and financial circulation, stating, “A community branch was an idea—we had this $30 billion racial equity commitment which is huge— but at the end of the day, it all takes place on a local level.” Dimon shared his excitement of being a part of this innovation and watching it unfold.
The JPMorgan Chase Path Forward initiative has a mission to address “structural barriers in the U.S. that have created profound racial inequalities made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.” The $30 billion commitment will support projects geared towards affordable housing, minority-owned businesses, financial health, and workforce diversity.
There is a substantial amount of Black and Latinx families experiencing a housing affordability crisis. According to the data collected by Chase, homeownership among Black and Brown ethnicities are 25 percent lower than their White counterparts. In addition to being more vulnerable as the cost of living rises, recent statistics show 19 percent of South Los Angelenos live below the poverty line. Dimon shared his concerns as Chase looks to “Improve financial health and access to banking in Black and Latinx communities.” They are addressing the racial disparities by diversifying the Chase culture from within the company. The banking firm plans to hire over 100 community managers and open additional Community Center branches in multiple underserved communities.
The Path Forward initiative is actively creating a solution to address multiple social issues. As part of the directive, Chase is promoting and expanding their support in loans and mortgage rates. Some of their goals include financing an additional 100,000 affordable rental units through a $14 billion commitment in new loans and other investments.
Chase has acknowledged “the existing racial wealth gap,” as well as the chronic damage it creates for the people living below the poverty line. The community center is the physical existence of the Path Forward initiative at work.
Steps towards financial literacy and freedom start with the knowledge of real wealth; the Chase community center on looks to circulate the power of monetary growth by providing financial literacy courses and panels on the fundamentals of the economic culture.
Considering the impact of these tutorials, Dimon stated, “We wanted to do more for the community; we wanted to participate more and someone came up with idea to broaden what we do and have a community branch to do community building—not just banking.”
The mission of the new center is focused on the people, which includes the community-based business owners who reside in that area. The reimagined banking experience is one of the first physical molds in California, spawned from the $30 billion, a five-year commitment made by the JPMorgan Chase financial firm in response to the racial wealth gap.
The objective for Chase is to be a model for social responsibility, an effort they feel should take place in every major corporation. Dimon provided his thoughts on the Chase community center on Crenshaw Blvd., and how it is aligned with his overall goal for a financial corporation. “We’ve done pockets of this all over the place; this seems to be working far better—don’t ask me, ask the clients walking in, and the businesses walking in, and the vendors we hire, and that will be the measure,” Dimon said.
As one walks through the Chase community center, there is a scent of a progressive movement within the branch; daily services of the financial firm will be fully operational, along with an extra cog turning the wheel towards economic growth within the community.
Groundbreaking work is expected of Chase; one of their initial areas of progression started decades ago with The Fellowship Initiative (TFI). According to an article the L.A. Sentinel processed in 2020, “TFI has matched more than 350 high school fellows in New York, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles, with JPMorgan Chase employees who serve as mentors,” Dimon stated, who lit up when describing memories of students who he has met over the years, speaking specifically about the collegiate journey.
Peering into the future of Chase, there is a vision for additional community centers evolving into a foundation for growth throughout the nation. Dimon reflected on the people looking to utilize these services, stating, “I hope they get that feeling that things are possible.”
Dimon shared that the only way to know the needs of the people is to directly interact with their community, which is the primary framework during the incubating stage of the community center. He confirmed the breakthrough of this idea came from trying something different.
There is a universal acceptance of everyone when they come through the Chase doors, searching for the financial resources to help raise their quality of life. Dimon admitted to the need of banks to do their share in healing the wound of racial inequality by creating a welcoming place for financial growth.
The Chase Community Center stands a beacon of hope for increased community wealth. The building’s owner, Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. greeted Dimon, solidifying the tremendous moment happening in the Crenshaw District. “The Bakewell Company was pleased to participate with Chase Bank in welcoming their CEO Jamie Dimon to their new Crenshaw Community Center branch. I appreciate a person of his financial prowess taking time from his hectic schedule to visit our community. And while his physical presence is meaningful and we praise his efforts, we should also challenge and inspire Mr. Dimon to continue to use his knowledge and influence to support even more businesses and individuals that make up this community. I believe the bank’s new community center, and its financial literacy agenda, makes Chase a strong catalyst in assuring a plan for economic stability and growth for the people and businesses of the Crenshaw District and beyond,” Bakewell, Sr. said.
The local banking center looks to offer modernized services such as a tech bar, public wi-fi, a wide-screen video projection area, and a community workspace that will host financial literacy seminars and panels covering crucial financial topics such as the process of creating and using a savings account, budgeting, credit score improvement, as well as the fundamental steps to buying a house.
Dimon shared his experience in growing with Chase; he has worked in banking for over 30 years. The CEO parted with advice, saying the best thing anyone can do for their finances is to learn. He shared that growing wealth is “learnable.”
“Don’t be afraid of it, learn everything.” Dimon said. The JPMorgan Chase CEO affirmed the essence of the community center program is to make people feel comfortable and welcomed by people who have empathetically been through the same experiences.
The Chase community branch is located in the Bakewell Building on 4401 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90043. Learn more about the Path Forward initiative by going to the Chase’s website at www.chase.com.