D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser with JP Morgan Chase President and CEO Jamie Dimon cut the ribbon of the new Chase Banking Center at its official grand opening at Skyland Town Center in Southeast. (DR Barnes/The Washington Informer)
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser with JPMorgan Chase President and CEO Jamie Dimon cut the ribbon of the new Chase Banking Center at its official grand opening at Skyland Town Center in Southeast. (DR Barnes/The Washington Informer)

When banks are closing branches all across the country and more consumers are accessing banking services digitally, JPMorgan Chase is doing just the opposite in its effort to bridge the racial wealth divide in black and brown communities.

Wards 7 and 8 community leaders were joined by JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and a host of JPMorgan Chase executives at the grand opening of its newest branch and the Greater Washington region’s first community center bank at the Skyland Town Center in Southeast on Tuesday, Sept. 28.

This is important because we’re sitting here in the most powerful city in the world where economic disparities which continue to exist in the Nation’s Capital remain unacceptable. They are not sustainable,” said Peter Scher, JPMorgan Chase vice chair and chair of JPMorgan Chase Mid-Atlantic Region.

JPMorgan Chase President and CEO Jamie Dimon greets Brian Atkins, vice president and community manager, and Jua Williams, branch manager, at the opening of the Chase Banking Center at the Skyland Town Center in southeast D.C. (Courtesy photo)

With about one-quarter of Washington’s population either unbanked or underbanked and 26% of the D.C. area below 200% of the federal poverty line, Dimon said in an interview with The Washington Informer, “COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd pointed out what we already knew — that the Black community has been left back for a long time.”

“I’m not diminishing that we aren’t the greatest society on the planet but we’ve got to look at our flaws,” he said.

In October 2020, JPMorgan Chase, the world’s leading financial services company, announced a $30 billion commitment to advance racial equity.

“We can do more and do better to break down systems that have propagated racism and widespread economic inequality, especially for Black and Latinx people,” Dimon said during the announcement. “It’s long past time that society addresses racial inequities in a more tangible, meaningful way.”

Dimon said he is “gratified to see a lot of companies and white CEOs raise their hands and say, ‘We have to do more.’”

JPMorgan Chase is going a step further.

“This $30 billion effort is huge,” he added. “It’s one of the biggest you’ve ever seen — $80 billion in mortgages for Blacks and Latinx; $12 billion in affordable housing; $350 million for small businesses — and a lot for financial education. But at the end of the day, a lot of it happens here,” he said as he looked around the inside of the third-newest JPMorgan Chase branch east of the Anacostia River.

The branch’s mission is to help residents and small businesses in wards 7 and 8 realize a better financial future through free financial health and home buying workshops, business mentorship, skills training and FinTech [financial technology] solutions. Customers, residents and nonprofit organizations will have access to free Wi-Fi and community room space.

Brian Atkins, a native and current resident of Ward 8, has been named as the branch’s community manager in a position created to help engage the community and businesses and to increase awareness of resources and tools that will connect residents with financial health education.

Jua Williams, branch manager, is also a Ward 8 resident committed to sharing his knowledge and experience to help others meet their financial goals.

“We’re excited to have state-of-the-art banking, technology and modern design,” Williams said. “I’m proud of the team we’ve built and together we can help our neighbors imagine a better financial future.”

“We’re moving beyond community banking to community building and are deeply committed to Ward 7 and 8 so that residents can participate in the District’s continued recovery,” Khamla Erskine, JPMorgan Chase’s head of community and business development for market expansion, wrote in a press release.

Before cutting the ribbon to officially open the bank, Bowser said, “It’s so important that in every community there are amenities to grow neighborhoods like what’s been happening at Skyland Town Center where new businesses including Roaming Rooster and Half Smoke will also be coming soon.”

“At the end of the day,” Dimon said, “I can make any announcement I want but you have to [ask], ‘How many loans did you make in my neighborhood?’” That’s when people will know how much of a difference we’ve made in this community.”

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Denise Rolark Barnes

Denise Rolark Barnes is the publisher and second-generation owner of The Washington Informer, succeeding her father, the late Dr. Calvin W. Rolark, who founded the newspaper in 1964. The Washington...

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