Brian Atkins and Jua Williams standing near a desk in a JP Morgan Chase location.

JPMorgan Chase Community Manager Brian Atkins, left, and Branch Manager Jua Williams, right, are both residents of the community, and hope they can make a difference in Ward 7 and 8 by providing residents with financial literacy. (Courtesy photo)

By Megan Sayles
AFRO Business Writer, Report for America Corps Member

JPMorgan Chase’s 2020 Path Forward Commitment pledged $30 billion to the Black and LatinX communities with the goal of advancing racial equity over the next five years. The firm pinpointed the largest drivers of the racial wealth gap, and specifically, committed itself to promoting affordable housing, growing Black and Latinx-owned businesses, building a more diverse workforce, providing philanthropic capital and improving financial health and access to banking in Black and Latinx communities.

One way JPMorgan Chase is fulfilling its obligation to the latter is with its community center branches. These branches originated with a pilot that started in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, and now have locations in Minneapolis, Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Detroit and Ohio. Next year, JPMorgan Chase plans to open one in Baltimore.

In addition to traditional banking services, community branches are manned with a dedicated community manager who regularly meets with local leaders to understand community needs, works with residents to build trust and hosts events to improve financial health.

JPMorgan Chase’s latest community branch, in June, opened in the Skyland Town Center in Washington, D.C. and will be serving Ward 7 and 8. Brian Atkins, community manager and resident of the community, said he conducts a variety of financial literacy courses that focus on money management, savings and credit. The Skyland Town Center branch also allows nonprofits and small businesses in the wards to conduct meetings there.

“We meet the residents where they are,” said Atkins. “We have residents of all different tax brackets and who make all different earnings, but at the same time, we treat everyone the same with respect and dignity when they come into the branch.”

Jua Williams, Chase Skyland Town Center branch manager, said in his 20 years of banking experience, he has witnessed the barriers that Black and Brown communities face because of lack of access and opportunity. He believes the community branch is a critical space for residents to garner the financial information they need to develop and grow.

“We can close that gap to access and opportunity by helping people understand how money works, and more importantly, how to make money work for them,” said Williams.

Prior to opening the branch in the Skyland Town Center, JPMorgan Chase held roundtables to determine the needs of key stakeholders and business owners in the community, as well as to address any concerns the community had. During its opening week, the branch also held a small business roundtable to discern how the Chase Skyland Town Center can enhance its banking relationship with owners.

When residents walk into the branch, Williams said he wants them to feel like they are coming home and not just into a professional setting. The team at the branch work diligently to foster meaningful connections with the residents.

The hope for the community branch is that it changes the mindsets of the residents in Ward 7 and 8 showing them that it is possible for them to achieve home ownership, start their own businesses and reach financial success, according to Atkins.

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