Boston-based OneUnited and Lendistry are offering small business lending services. BANNER PHOTO
OneUnited Bank, the largest Black-owned bank in the nation, is partnering with Lendistry, a Black-led community development financial institution (CDFI), to offer small business loans to its depositors.
The partnership, announced Monday, is aimed at helping provide Black entrepreneurs access to capital to start and grow businesses. OneUnited Bank President Teri Williams said small-business lending will help the bank better serve its clients.
“We’re really excited about this,” she said. “It’s something our customers have been asking for. We just didn’t have the internal expertise.”
Lendistry, founded in 2015 by Chief Executive Officer Everett Sands, was created to better serve businesses owned by people of color, women and others who have long faced challenges obtaining capital from traditional banks. When minority-owned businesses faced difficulty obtaining federal Payroll Protection Program loans during the lock down of 2020, the internet-based lender found itself in a position to help.
“It was a call to action,” said Kerrington Eubanks, SVP of Strategic Partnerships for Lendistry. “We supported small businesses with what they needed most.”
The COVID crisis helped propel Lendistry forward. The firm has made $8.5 billion in loans to more than 576,000 small businesses.
“We went from being a company primarily in the state of California to having a national footprint,” Eubanks said. “The bulk of that was in the last 24 months.”
Lendistry originates all of its loans online, enabling it to reach customers in all 50 states. Eubanks says technology enables customers to upload all necessary documents for Lendistry originators to review.
“It allows us to meet small business owners where they are,” she said.
The partnership with OneUnited will allow Lendistry to further expand its national footprint.
“We are extremely excited,” she said. “This is another step forward in deepening our relationship with OneUnited.”
OneUnited was founded in Roxbury in 1968 as Unity Bank & Trust Company. By 1995, when Williams and her husband, CEO Kevin Cohee acquired the bank, it had changed its name to the Boston Bank of Commerce. In 2001, the bank merged with the Black-owned Founders National Bank of Los Angeles. The bank now has branches in Boston, Los Angeles and Miami.
Through Lendistry, OneUnited will make business loans as small as $50,000 and as large as $5 million.
OneUnited previously partnered with Lendistry to co-host a conference, One Transaction, which emphasized the importance of taking steps toward wealth creation — homeownership, fixing credit scores, making businesses profitable.
“We realized that we needed to partner with organizations to help our community fill these needs,” Williams said. “We asked ourselves, ‘If we want to put our money where our mouth is, what are we doing to help our customers?’”
OneUnited first began working with Lendistry in 2020, to help bank customers with businesses obtain Payroll Protection Program loans. In the first round of the program, most of the loans went to large businesses whose owners had privileged relationships with major banks, leaving little for Black-owned businesses. In the second round, Lendistry stepped in to channel the loans to smaller, minority-owned firms.
“We were really impressed with how they managed customer relationships,” Williams said. “We wanted to work with people who are sensitive to the needs of people in our communities. We feel that we have found the right partner.”
As for how many loans Williams expects OneUnited will make, she said there’s no answer.
“Because of this partnership, we actually don’t have a limit,” she said. “What we’re hoping is that we’ll be able to fill all the needs in our community.”