How to tell more about a banking institution from their most accessible info
One of the simplest ways to tell if a bank or credit union near you could qualify as a “better banking option” can be to look at their website. Unfortunately, just one look probably isn’t going to tell you much. However, if you’re willing to devote ten to fifteen minutes to explore a bank website, and if you know what to look for, you’re going to find out more about how they operate than you think. Here’s a short list of some things which may be good indicators of “better banking” when exploring a banking institution’s website;
Diversity in the board- Many websites will have a section introducing their board members, and although this may not directly gauge the amount of impact investing a bank is participating in, general transparency in this respect is a good indicator. It’s an even better sign when there are many women and people of color on the board of bank. People of color, historically, have been underserved in traditional banking, and board members who have personally experienced discrimination in the banking world are more likely to remember the interests of those who have also been underserved.
Mission Statement- Most banking institutions are formed with a specific mission in mind- a population to serve, a service to provide, and this objective is usually stated somewhere on their “about us” pages. Great banks and credit unions will emphasize in their mission statements many of these things, and good banks will probably mention some of them; serving underserved populations, providing housing and business loans, building the communities they’re located in, and more. Vague language in the mission statement, and only focusing on providing great services rather than positively influencing the places their located, are opposingly, not the greatest sign for the institution.
Designations/awards mentioned- Great banks should be intentionally promoting the designations and awards they have achieved for their commitment to the development of low and middle-class communities, and should have a history of doing so, rather than just a couple of instances of impacting banking. Designations you’re looking for that are indicators of a better banking option are CDFI, MDI, and an Outstanding CRA rating for banks, and Low-Income Designation for Credit Unions.
Overall, you want the institutions you bank at to be proud of the work they do to improve the lives of their members, rather than simply being focused on providing lots of service options and great return rates. They should do this kind of work consistently, instead of occasionally with lots of promotion. When they can do this while also providing you with what you need at bank, they’re probably a better banking option for you.