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City Survey: Philadelphia

Learn more about the banking landscape of one of the country’s oldest cities

Philadelphia has always been a city of monumental importance in this country, since its foundation in 1682, nearly a century before the Declaration of Independence was signed there in 1776. At one time, the city even served as a temporary capitol for the US, while construction was being done on most of Washington, DC. The city grew over time from a major influx of European immigrants, mostly from Ireland and Germany in the 19th century, then from the movement of Black Americans from the South in the early 20th century looking for respite from Jim Crow laws. It is now the sixth most populous city in the US, with many economic and educational opportunities still attracting new residents.

We chose Philadelphia to survey not only because of its long history and large population, but because when you look up Philadelphia in our search engine, there are many local banks doing significant quality lending. This is particularly unusual in a populous urban area, where the US trend of consolidation in the banking industry tends to happen even faster. Although we’re not exactly sure WHY so many local banking options have managed to survive in this competitive environment, we’d like to take the time to celebrate some of our favorites, which not only make wealth-building loans but go out of their way to serve immigrant neighborhoods.

- Port Richmond Savings Bank – This Better Banking Option has been working in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philly for over a hundred years. Although they initially served the predominately Polish immigrant population there, in the last decade or so, the neighborhood has had a huge influx of Puerto Rican immigrants. Regardless of who happens to be moving into their community at the time, this neighborhood bank has stayed small and focused on providing as many housing and small business loans as they can, which is probably why they score extremely well in our metric.

- United Bank of Philadelphia – The largest demographic group by race in Philadelphia is Black, but like many historical cities, Philadelphia has a long and lasting history of segregation which is still apparent in the city’s demographic distribution. United Bank of Philadelphia is a Black bank working in North Philadelphia to make housing and small business loans in predominately Black neighborhoods. They’re a not only a MDI but a CDFI as well, and they serve a majority of Black depositors but also have a majority Black board and upper management.

- Asian Bank – This bank was founded in 1999 in Philadelphia’s Chinatown specifically to provide small business loans to non-English speaking immigrants who are just moving to the city and may have no other institutional resources. They offer all services in Chinese, as 70% of people living in this neighborhood speak little to no English. While most of their lending goes to small business loans, which helps Asian immigrants establish an income stream they can rely on, they also do a significant amount of housing loans in the area.

- Abacus Federal Savings Bank – While this bank was actually founded in New York City, we love Abacus FSB as a Better Banking Option in Philadelphia because they’re another Chinese bank entirely devoted to serving immigrant populations. They received a lot of unwarranted bad press in the years after the housing market collapse of 2008 as big banks tried to shift blame off of themselves, but Abacus has managed to rebound beautifully and keep making wealth-building loans in immigrant neighborhoods in Philly and NYC.

In the wake of renewed racism and violence towards Asian-Americans during the COVID epidemic, it’s more important than ever to support Minority Depository Institutions, particularly those which get wealth-building loans into immigrant hands.

Even if you can’t find a bank among this list that fits your particular banking needs, just look up Philadelphia in our search engine and there is long list of local Better Banking Options which contribute to the overall economic health of the city. Additionally, even if you don’t live in Philadelphia, many of the banks listed above offer both online and mobile banking options. We encourage you to make a difference with your deposits and move your money today!

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