Despite the growing number of bank branches cropping up in Wards 7 and 8, many residents in the largely east of the Anacostia River neighborhoods are unbanked; Otis Rolley, the president of the Wells Fargo Foundation, said that doesn’t have to be the case.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation reports that 12% of residents in the District don’t have a bank account and 25% have a checking or savings as part of their financial plan but also rely heavily on alternative means such as check-cashing stores or payday loans.
Rolley, 49, said Wells Fargo operates its Banking Inclusion Initiative (BII), a decade-long commitment to help unbanked individuals gain access to affordable, mainstream, digitally enabled accounts.
“Ward 7 and 8 residents have intentionally been left out of the banking mainstream, but Wells Fargo is doing something about that,” Rolley said. “The Banking Inclusion Initiative is designed with residents of those wards in mind, and it meets them where they are. We tell them it is cheaper to go to a bank than to a check cashing store.”
The BII is one of the projects of interest to Rolley, a former head of the Rockefeller Foundation’s U.S. Equity and Economic Opportunity Initiative. A recipient of a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rutgers University and a master’s of City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rolley said educating unbanked consumers about their options is one of the goals of the BII.
In the case of the District, Rolley said Wells Fargo is working with community organizations such as the Capital Area Asset Builders and the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development to explain the importance of obtaining and maintaining a bank account as well as building credit. The BII has support at the highest levels of leadership at Wells Fargo.
“We recognize the high number of unbanked households is a complex and long-standing issue that will require gathering the best minds, ideas, products and educational resources from across our communities to bring about change,” said Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf. “Through our Initiative, we organize our resources under one umbrella and work with a broad and diverse group of stakeholders on a sustained multi-year effort to accelerate financial inclusion in the U.S.”
Bill Daley, the vice chairman of Public Affairs at Wells Fargo, said Rolley’s expertise will facilitate and grow projects like the BII.
“With our strategic focus on housing affordability, small business growth, financial health, and a sustainable future, we are excited to have Otis lead a dedicated team on these critical societal issues,” Daley said.
Source: Washington Informer