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OneUnited Bank aims ‘to make financial literacy a core value in the Black community,’ COO says

OneUnited Bank President and COO Teri Williams joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss a surcharge-free ATM network, partnering with Citi and Chase, helping customers build wealth, bridging the racial wealth gap, and the outlook for OneUnited Bank.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Well, OneUnited, the nation's largest Black-owned bank, is getting rid of ATM fees at a network of 100,000 ATMs at participating Chase and Citibank locations, plus retailers like Target, CVS, and Costco. OneUnited president and chief operating officer Terri Williams is joining us now to talk about why. Terri, thank you so much for being here. ATM fees are a way for banks to make money, right? Why are you guys getting rid of it, and sort of what was the impetus for this move?

TERI WILLIAMS: Yeah, well, first of all, thanks for having me. And yeah, the impetus was really listening to our customers. They-- you know, sort of these ATM fees were-- some would call them nuisance fees. They were saying, why should I pay to have to take out my own money? And we sort of listened to them, and particularly in our community, we serve a lot of low to moderate income families. And so those ATM fees really add up. So we were really happy to partner with Citi and Chase. But we also added to that ATM network that they offered and partnered with a whole retail network.

So we're now up to 100,000 surcharge-free ATMs. And the good thing is that they're located in the communities where our customers live, so, you know, CVS, Walgreens. You mentioned Target. I like their towels, too, by the way. But other locations that are located in our community, and that was important to us.

BRAD SMITH: I've got too many towels and bath mats from Target as well here. Terri, great to speak with you. When you talk about some of the policies that you've been able to move forward with that One United that kind of strengthened that customer relationship, beyond perhaps the micro-transactions that may take place within each customer's account, where do you think about the efforts to help build wealth for a lot of those customers even further down the line? Once it's, OK, we've mitigated any type of risk for a transaction fee or an overdraw fear, withdrawal fee, now we need to think about how you kind of build on top of what you do have in this account.

TERI WILLIAMS: Now that's a great question. First of all, our goal is to make financial literacy a core value in the Black community. And so part of what we offer are all kinds of financial literacy tools-- podcasts, videos, even modules that they can earn points. So that's one of the things that we focus on. We also focus on savings. We have a keep the change automatic savings program. We focus on the importance of saving and building wealth.

And then we also have money management tools that provides insight, you know, spending insight, insight about maybe it's better to pay down this credit card bill than to sort of buy something new. And all of those tools are available in our app. We have what's called a super app, our mobile banking app. And all of those tools, whether it's financial literacy, money management, autosave, are available in our app.

JULIE HYMAN: And Teri, we've seen over the past few years, the rise of a bank Black movement, right? How has that affected you guys? Have you seen a big growth in deposits? And what is sort of still holding that back, to some extent? Because we have not seen any of the Black-owned banks reach the same sort of tier of deposits that we have, the more traditional white-owned banks.

TERI WILLIAMS: So, first of all, it is continuing. And we continue to attract new customers and new depositors. We're also getting a lot of support from corporations that see, as part of their strategy, an opportunity to make deposits in Black-owned banks and to provide, such as Citi and Chase, other types of services. So we definitely see a lot of support in the corporate world, as well as in the community and consumer world.

And I think the movement is just beginning. You know, I always say to people, I mean, we're 50 years old. But if you look at these other banks, Wells, they're like several hundred years old. So it really is just a matter of time before Black banks really grow to the point where they are-- we are-- significant from a financial services standpoint.

BRAD SMITH: And just briefly, within that as well, I mean, you have to recognize the fact that when you do have a bank that is hundreds of years old, there is a role that is played within the disenfranchisement of some of those customers now that have been looking for financial services solutions. What role do banks play, more broadly, in closing the ethnic and racial wealth gap?

TERI WILLIAMS: Yeah, thank you. That's an important question. So there has been a history of banking in our community that hasn't been good, if you look at whether it's redlining, even financing, I hate to say the slave trade. So our community doesn't have a long history-- a good history with banks. And there's a lot of mistrust. We see ourselves as being a bridge to the banking industry. We still have a huge percentage of our population that is unbanked and sort of getting them into the banking world.

But then in addition to that, we do have a role. Banks, in general, not just Black banks, have an important role of really addressing this head on, addressing the racial wealth gap. And that's providing home loans. Home equity is a huge contributor to the wealth gap. So doing a better job of providing home loans, as well as capital for small businesses.

We launched actually a small business loan program with Lendistry-- it's a Black-led fintech-- for the purpose of really getting business loans into the hands of Black-owned businesses. So, you know, I see the opportunity. I see the movement forward as progress, but we still have a long way to go.

BRAD SMITH: OneUnited Bank president and COO Terri Williams. Terri, thanks so much for taking the time here with us today. Really appreciate it.

TERI WILLIAMS: Thank you for having me.

BRAD SMITH: Certainly.