The Municipal Employees Credit Union of Baltimore (MECU), which services people who “live, work, worship or go to school in Baltimore,” according to its advertising slogan, is set to expand at the end of the 2013 fiscal year as it acquires Baltimore-based, Black-founded Advance Bank.

The credit union and the bank on April 4 signed an agreement which gave MECU the right to acquire and assume all of the assets and liabilities of Advance Bank.

Advance Bank was founded as the Advance Federal Savings and Loan Association in 1957 by Dr. Winfred O. Bryson, Jr., a professor of economics at then-Morgan State College. Bryson founded the bank to aid African Americans who were having difficulties getting loans and establishing credit at White-owned banks in Baltimore.

In the acquisition, MECU will purchase all loans, investments, real estate and accrued interest receivables and other banking-related assets of Advance. After Advance resolves its liabilities, it will surrender its charter and distribute any remaining net assets to its members, according to a statement announcing the transaction.

In the statement, executives at Advance and MECU said they are enthusiastic about the deal.

“Both MECU and Advance are mutual institutions that are owned by their members. Our operating philosophy and principles are strikingly similar,” said John Hamilton, CEO and president of Advance. “MECU understands and cares about our community. We are pleased that this new partnership will allow us to continue to serve our customers with the same care and commitment that they have come to expect.”

Bryson was an activist who battled against financial racism. In the 1940s, he began fighting against the financial inequalities against Blacks in the life insurance industry. Policies written for Blacks and Whites provided more benefits to White clients. He later challenged unequal practices at banks, protesting against the failure of White bankers to provide loans for African Americans. He eventually established Advance Savings and Loans Association in a row house on West North Avenue to provide financing to Blacks.

Bryson’s bank also played a major role in the Black community by serving many of Baltimore’s African American religious institutions, which were typically refused funding by other banks in the city. Many of the churches that still exist in Baltimore today have Bryson to thank for financing projects ranging from renovation to building purchases.

As of December 31, 2012, Advance’s assets totaled $61 million. MECU, which was established in 1936, is a member-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperative headquartered on East Redwood Street in downtown Baltimore. It operates nine locations representing more than 100,000 members. MECU’s assets are valued at approximately $1.2 billion, according to the statement.

“We will continue to invest in the future of our organization. MECU remains strategically focused on providing financial services to our members,” said MECU CEO Bert Hash. “Members will mutually benefit from this transaction as we build a stronger platform for the delivery of new products and services and as we focus on new delivery channels in a dynamic banking environment.”


Krishana Davis

AFRO Staff Writers