By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Wells Fargo & Company announced equity investments in five African American Minority Depository Institutions, or MDIs, as part of a 2020 pledge to invest up to $50 million in Black-owned banks.

The banking giant said it is also offering access to a dedicated relationship team that can work with each MDI on financial, technological, and product development strategies to help each institution strengthen and grow.

“Wells Fargo is really committed to helping foster a more inclusive world, quite frankly, and we want to make sure that we are reaching into the economically disadvantaged communities as well as serving all of our customers and constituents across the footprint of the enterprise,” Georgette “Gigi” Dixon, head of External Relations for Wells Fargo, told NNPA Newswire.

“This past year has been a terrible year for all of us, and it makes it extra-special that we can provide this investment at this time,” Dixon, the 27-year banking veteran, stated.

“I’ve never seen this type of approach to ensuring the legacy like MDIs and, more specifically, Black-owned banks to be preserved and promoted nationally the way Wells Fargo is taking with this position,” she continued. 

Dixon added that Wells Fargo began working on the initiative one year before the pandemic and before the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“We started meeting with each one of the MDIs, and we partnered with the National Banking Association,” Dixon revealed. 

“We had these meetings with the banks and said, ‘let’s walk through your strategic plan and the things you need to stabilize and or grow the institution so that you are better able to serve your constituents.’ When all these banks are thriving and, in a position, to grow, that helps everybody.”

With that, Wells Fargo decided to provide what Dixon called an injection of equity that gave the MDIs opportunities to maintain their positions as majority owners. 

Wells Fargo then created a relationship management team that focused on understanding what the MDIs needed. 

Throughout the process, Wells Fargo remained engaged by providing resources from various factions of the banking organization.

“We reached across all our lines of business and said, ‘we have these great MDIs who are sustaining, stabilizing, growing, and expanding, and we want to make ourselves available through subject matter expertise,’” Dixon recalled. “I’m so excited about this.”

Wells Fargo’s latest announcement includes investments in Carver State Bank in Savannah, Georgia; Citizens Trust Bank in Atlanta; First Independence Bank in Detroit; Liberty Bank in New Orleans; and Unity National Bank in Houston.

The investments follow Wells Fargo’s Feb. 8 announcement regarding its investments in six African American MDIs and take its total investment to 11 MDIs overall. 

Additionally, Wells Fargo plans to make its nationwide ATM network available for customers of the 11 MDIs to use without incurring fees.

The company announced that its financial commitments are in the form of critical equity capital, which is foundational to the MDIs’ ability to expand lending and deposit-taking capacity in their communities.

“The thing that impressed us the most is that these are solid institutions,” Dixon voiced. 

“They all unequivocally, across-the-board, have a huge mission to provide financial help to their community and customers. These communities are disproportionately not in the banking system and are not necessarily taking full advantage of the wide range of financial products and services available. 

“These MDIs are trusted, and that’s important for all to realize that, when you have trust and credibility, you are going to be able to reach communities that others cannot. Their mission is focused, and it’s all about the financial health in the community and about expanding access to financial products and services.”