Banking on Our Future

Local banks have found an array of ways to invest back into their communities.
courtesy of Fidelity Bank
Fidelity Bank supports American Heart Association walks throughout their communities.

There is no question that the profound love and pride of the community in which we live runs deep in the veins of the people of Greater New Orleans. It is innately part of who we are, and it’s been ingrained in our souls for centuries.

This sense of community even extends to local banking institutions.

“[Giving back] is extremely important because the vitality of our community is dependent upon the involvement of both businesses and individuals actively supporting organizations and initiatives focused on improving our communities,” says Duane Abadie, the chief banking officer with First Bank and Trust.

The same sentiment comes from Bob Tusa, market president of the Greater New Orleans Home Bank. “Home Bank is committed to growing our community by investing in our neighbors and the businesses we serve,” he adds.  

One example of this is the $400 million in development lending and investments issued since 2005 by JPMorgan Chase in New Orleans. Liza Cowan, the south region executive for JPMorgan Chase Global Philanthropy, says the company has provided financing to rebuild more than 2,500 affordable housing units in the city. In addition, Chase helped restore the legendary Saenger Theatre with an $8 million New Market Tax Credit investment. “Since Hurricane Katrina,” says Cowan, “JPMorgan Chase has donated more than $36 million to nonprofits working in Louisiana.”
 


“The communities we serve are the heart of everything we do, and we take a leading role in building our partnerships to strengthen our communities.” – Margaret Saer Beer, director of community relations for IberiaBank


Making the American dream a reality for people who never thought they would own a home is also key for First NBC Bank, which strives to develop the community. “We are a big proponent and serve on the board of the Neighborhood Development Foundation (NDF),” says Ashton J. Ryan Jr., First NBC Bank president and CEO. “NDF is the oldest nonprofit in New Orleans and teaches residents how to become homeowners.” First NBC Bank also supports Junior Achievement in area schools, a program that provides the building blocks of financial literacy. “It teaches youth at an early age to be self-sufficient and to develop an entrepreneurial mindset,” he says.  

The banks support a variety of local and national groups.

“First Bank and Trust (FBT) supports many organizations and initiatives such as Junior Achievement, American Diabetes Association and Children’s Hospital,” says Abadie.

“Our associates take active roles in New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, Habitat for Humanity, Young Leadership Council, Kingsley House, Youth Empowerment Program and New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, to name just a few,” says Margaret Saer Beer, the director of community relations for IberiaBank. But Beer says those examples, as impressive as they are, are just pieces of a grander scale of efforts to improve our community.

“IberiaBank’s strong sense of community is an integral part of our mission,” she adds. “The communities we serve are the heart of everything we do, and we take a leading role in building our partnerships to strengthen our communities.”

The mission to improve the quality of citizens’ lives rings clear with Home Bank’s Tusa. “From our team building homes with Habitat for Humanity to teaching children about financial literacy through Junior Achievement, we recognize that organizations such as these are working to impact the community in a positive way,” he says.

Fidelity Bank is putting the question of which organizations it will support in the hands of its customers — asking those that open new checking accounts to choose from a list of nonprofit organizations. Upon account activation, those organizations will receive donations from Fidelity.
 


 

TOP LEFT: “We plan to continue to grow our service to the community, and hopefully that will result in a stronger metropolitan community,” says Ashton J. Ryan Jr., First NBC Bank president and CEO. TOP RIGHT: IBERIABANK associates at the Preservation Resource Center’s October Build  BOTTOM: Giving back helps banks promote trust and loyalty between the insititutions and the communities they serve.

 


And that’s just one example of Fidelity giving back. “One of the most visible ways we give back is our partnership with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and underwriting their annual Concert in the Park series,” says Tammy Gennusa O’Shea, corporate brand manager for Fidelity Bank. “This allows countless local families to enjoy a nice evening and a quality LPO production at our beautiful parks for no charge.”
 

Giving Back Pays

All of this philanthropic involvement and financial lending is a major factor in the financial success of the banking institutions themselves. “Generally, our financial success is tied to the communities we serve, so we are keenly aware of our responsibility to help and support them the best way we know, which is through our ability to fund worthwhile projects,” says John Zollinger, the Northshore marketing president for Home Bank.  

Giving back to the community, he says, also promotes trust and loyalty from the customers they serve every day. “Our bankers work and live in our community,” says Zollinger. “We love this area, and by working together we can make a real difference. We take so much pride in helping businesses and families thrive.”

O’Shea adds that this relationship between bank and community is not formed solely from monetary assistance. “This is not to underestimate the need for fundraising and supporting organizations through cash donations, but volunteerism and having ‘boots on the ground’ can often provide a more meaningful experience for the individual and the organization,” she says. “At Fidelity Bank, we track employee community involvement and offer paid time off to participate in causes that are important to each individual employee.”

Fidelity, continues O’Shea, prides itself in remembering who is truly in charge; that, she says, helps the bank frame and shape community-minded decisions. “As a mutual bank, we are owned by our depositors and not stockholders, so we understand when we give back we are giving to our community. It is important to our depositors and employees who work and live here, so it is important to us.”
 


“This is not to underestimate the need for fundraising and supporting organizations through cash donations, but volunteerism and having ‘boots on the ground’ can often provide a more meaningful experience for the individual and the organization,” – Tammy Gennusa O’Shea, corporate brand manager for Fidelity Bank


Over the past decade, as far back as Hurricane Katrina, the banking industry has played a role in the revitalization efforts of Greater New Orleans. Carrying on that philanthropic tradition is a responsibility, one that is relied upon by many facets of the community. “Our nonprofit partnerships continue to deepen our impact across the community as we meet our goal of improving the lives of others,” says Beer.

So how will the relationships between banks and the Greater New Orleans community evolve?  Where do officials see this 10 years from now?  

“As far as changes, I think there continues to be growing attention to the role we play in the success of our communities,” says Abadie. “At the end of the day, community involvement is just good business.”  

Ryan with First NBC Bank echoes those thoughts. “We plan to continue to grow our service to the community, and hopefully that will result in a stronger metropolitan community.”  

Tusa agrees. “Home Bank has and will continue to invest and lend money to projects that help improve the quality of life for the citizens of our community.”

Those projections make sense if the Greater New Orleans area is, as some bank leaders believe, on the cusp of an economic evolution.  

“We believe New Orleans stands at a critical moment, with a tremendous opportunity to shape a bolder and more inclusive future. We also believe that we can work together with our partners in New Orleans to create pathways to opportunity so that the renaissance taking hold in New Orleans will be a model for cities around the world,” says Cowan. 

 

 


Categories: Banking, The Magazine