Black investors say they’ve pulled off a first: Buying white-owned bank

Black investors in Atlanta are pleased to share that they are the first to acquire a bank previously owned by white people, wrapping up Black History Month with a historic acquisition.

Former White House policy adviser Ashley D. Bell is the chief executive officer of Redemption Holding Company. He and Bernice A. King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, have acquired the women-led, Utah-based Holladay Bank & Trust. The bank has been around since at least 1974, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

While the transaction is pending regulatory clearance, the investors intend to rename the institution Redemption Bank and provide financial services to Black communities, which banks traditionally underserve.

Redemption Bnak, Bernice King and Ashley D. Bell
Bernice A. King (left) and Ashley D. Bell (right) reportedly have become the first Black investors in history to purchase a white-owned bank. (Photo: Business Wire via AP)

Bell noted that increasing the number of Black banks in America is essential to ensuring equal access to financial services that create generational wealth.

“This system has offered no grace and no mercy for Black people in our country,” said Bell, The AJC reported. He added that he believes a financial institution named Redemption, “where grace and mercy will be bountiful for people who need it, is important.”

Bell and King co-founded the National Black Bank Foundation, which, since 2020, has directed $600 million in deal flow to Black institutions. They said that acquiring a non-minority bank aids in reversing the recent decline in the number of Black financial institutions.

Former NFL player Dhani Jones was also involved in purchasing Holladay, soon to be the only Black-owned bank in the nation’s Mountain West area.

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Records from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. show that Holladay had $68 million in loans and other assets at the end of 2022. The bank concluded the year with deposits totaling more than $56 million and a net income of $1.3 million, a 27 percent increase from 2021. 

Redemption Holding intends to continue operating Holladay’s current services while introducing a digital banking platform and providing mortgages and small business loans. The existing management and staff, consisting of 10 workers in Salt Lake City, will remain.

In a statement, King stressed points her father made in his final speech, delivered on April 3, 1968: It’s crucial to support Black banks with compelling missions to increase financial inclusion for Black Americans, an effort he called the “bank-in movement.”

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More than 50 years later and with “incremental progress,” said King, The AJC reported, “we’re making good on daddy’s call to bank-in by creating new centers of opportunity for people of color, starting with this Black-led bank acquisition.”

Bell noted that the new bank would initially emphasize providing for its Utah customer base, but expansion is the long-term objective. The CEO shared in a statement that Redemption Bank “will serve as a lifeline to the next wave of Black and Brown first-time home buyers” and be a resource for small business owners nationwide. The statement said that along with Bell as CEO, King will be the bank’s senior vice president of corporate strategy and alliances and part of its advisory board. 

“Black banks make the American dream possible for all Americans,” said Bell. He maintained that their resources “uniquely address the financial realities of communities that have been systematically excluded, overcharged, and under-capitalized.”

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