A Black Bank in Columbia, SC working for economic opportunity for all people since 1921
When people think about racism in the modern era, there’s a misconception that it’s simply a personal or cultural issue that leads black individuals to face discrimination and microagressions from their white peers. However, our institutions don’t exist outside of that culture, and discrimination from institutions can lead to great disparities between racial groups in areas like economics, education and healthcare. Banking is one field in which there is a long history of exclusion and inequality, particularly harmful as banks are, ideally, supposed to work to allow lower- and middle-income families to obtain loans and build wealth.
This disparity in the banking industry led to the development of Minority Depository Institutions, or MDIs, which specifically serve the banking needs of BIPOC communities. Banking institutions are qualified as such when either their membership or their leadership is at least 50% Black, Indigenous, Asian or Latinx.
OPTUS Bank is one of the longest standing MDIs in the country and was originally started in 1921 as Victory Savings Bank in Columbia, SC. It was founded by Black community leaders that believed that everyone should have opportunities to build their version of the “American Dream,” which at the time was really only possible for white families. To read more about how traditional banking systematically denied financial opportunities to BIPOC communities, check out articles here and here.
Although they’ve changed their name and grown significantly since their conception, OPTUS still upholds their original mission of providing excellent financial service to ALL their customers, regardless of income level or background. They strive for balance between pleasing their shareholders, employees, and members, and hope to prove that “mission orientation is accretive to the bottom line.” It’s particularly important that they strive to serve black communities in Columbia, a city which is 42% black.
When you look up Columbia, SC, in our search engine, OPTUS is the first bank that comes up, even before Self-Help Credit Union, one of our favorite banking institutions with a branch in the area. Not only is OPTUS an MDI, they’re also a designated CDFI. They score extremely well in our metric, meaning mostly that they do a large amount of quality lending, or loans that allow individuals to build wealth. This also means that they’re locally oriented and have locations in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.
It’s clear that to this day, OPTUS Bank still upholds their original values to continue providing exceptional service in a world that continually leaves certain groups behind. Recently, PayPal moved a $50 million account to OPTUS as part of its commitment to support communities hardest hit by the pandemic. OPTUS has funneled $10 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans to small businesses suffering during the pandemic, particularly those in lower income neighborhoods.
While OPTUS Bank only has three branches and all are in Columbia, they offer online and mobile banking options, so it’s possible for anyone wanting to invest in black communities in South Carolina to do so by placing their deposits there. Check out their website to learn more and move your money today to align your values with a truly values driven bank.
As of January of 2023, we've had multiple reports that this bank is unresponsive to all kinds of communication, so we felt it was our responsibility to notifiy our readers of these difficulties.