One Small Credit Union Is Powering Brooklyn’s Economy

What makes this particular credit union so special, how did it come to be – and what if there were more of them?

Samira Rajan (Photo courtesy Brooklyn Coop)

Take a guess. Which of these banks is making more small-business loans in Brooklyn: Citibank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America or Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union, a small financial institution that has only about $50 million in assets?

That's a mere rounding error compared to the major players, or even many other community banks. But, as our economic justice correspondent Oscar Perry Abello explored a two-part series late last year, Brooklyn Coop punches above its weight through lending to Brooklyn's Black and Brown small business owners.

“This one tiny credit union has done more SBA loans in Brooklyn than Citi, Wells Fargo and Bank of America combined over the past 10 years, he says. Their strategy? While other highly-ranked Small Business Administration-guaranteed lenders are making loans that average about $120,000 in size. But Brooklyn Coop's average loans sit at around $24,000.

In this episode, we chat with Brooklyn Coop CEO Samira Rajan about its human approach to lending – and why getting megabanks to fund more Black and Brown communities and small businesses isn't the answer to powering our economy.

“I think banks are designed to say no,” Rajan says. But Brooklyn Coop and other community development financial institutions, or CDFIs, have another approach. “Throw open the gates. It's OK if these people get access to bank accounts. It's OK if they get credits. We'll all be better off in the long run.”

To learn more about Brooklyn Coop and its alternative model for small business lending, listen to this episode below or subscribe to the Next City podcast on AppleSpotify, or Goodpods. And for more stories about financial institutions focused on serving minority communities, check out our ongoing CDFI Futures series where we're exploring the community development finance industry through the lenses of equity, public policy and inclusive community development. 

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