Beyond Banking While Black
Like many, I was completely outraged by the treatment of famed movie Director, Ryan Coogler when he attempted to make a somewhat significant cash withdrawal from his own Bank of America account.
Ryan’s situation crossed my mind the other day during an experience at my bank while conducting a similar transaction that could not have been any more different than what he endured. Sadly, there have been several incidents of banking while Black that are equally or even more disturbing than Ryan’s. Systemic racism is real and can be carried out by individuals of any race. Probably most disturbing, incidents like these represent just one of many ways in which racism can rear its ugly head randomly, at any time and during any activity in the normal course of life.
Unfortunately, I can’t claim to have the cure for entrenched systems of oppression. Nothing less, I believe, will ultimately bring this pattern of outrageous behavior to an end. But short of that, I thought it would at least be useful to share a few tips to small business owners on basic business banking practices that could go a long way in helping you get the treatment you deserve banking while Black and beyond.
1. Prioritize Developing a Relationship With Your Banker
These days, it’s tempting to do all of your banking online. Yes, it may be simpler and quicker, but it’s certainly not conducive to building relationships. Take the time to visit your local branch in person. It doesn’t need to be daily or even weekly, but it needs to be enough so that when you enter, the right people know your name. It’s important that you’re not seen as just an account number. Your banker needs to see you as the business owner you are and be eager to share with you the different vehicles they offer that can help your business grow. Whether you take advantage of those vehicles or not is up to you. But you need to be seen and respected for who you are and what you do, and then when you actually are in need of something they offer, those conversations won’t be starting from ground zero.
This is critical, particularly if you have what may be considered a non-traditional business model. For example, in the coaching industry, it’s normal to have launches where you take in a large number of clients at one time. This means you’ll have large cash infusions during these periods. If your bank doesn’t understand that it can cause later complications. I learned this lesson the hard way when I used to bank with Bank of America. They actually ended my merchant account because they apparently were suspicious of my cash infusions. I never thought a bank would have a problem with a business making too much money. But believe it or not, it can happen!
It goes without saying, I no longer bank with Bank of America. Though there are some conveniences I miss, I have found a much better overarching banking relationship with a smaller bank. It’s a space where I’m greeted by name on sight and I’m always asked how can I be serviced better. In my last visit not only was my significant withdrawal handled with white-glove service but I was also offered the opportunity to lower my merchant account transaction rate along with a casual conversation around the root causes of the racial wealth gap. I feel fully seen by my banker. That’s why I choose to bank there. But if you don’t feel welcome in the institution that makes money from your money, realize, they are not the only game in town…and act appropriately.