Ghanaian Company Invests $9M in Failing Black Chicago Bank*
By Musah Idriss
Outgoing CEO Norman Williams, left, with new chairman Paa Kwesi Nduom. Image courtesy of ChicagoBusiness.com
A Ghanaian firm stepped in right on time as a Black-owned Bronzeville bank was on the verge of collapsing.
Groupe Nduom of Ghana invested a whopping $9M into the failing Illinois Service Federal Savings and Loan Association, now known as ISF Bank, Ghana Web reports. The bank was in search of capital to revive its struggling operations.
“Our mission is to be a viable, growing, community development financial services institution responding innovatively to our primarily underserved and minority constituency with customer service which ensures each customer feels they are our only customer,” the bank’s website reads.
The firm acquired ISF Bank in May, a representative from the financial institution told Atlanta Black Star.
According to Chicago Business, Groupe Nduom of Ghana operates out of West Africa and the United Kingdom, employing over 3,000 people. The firm’s businesses and social enterprises include entities in the tourism, financial services, media, cross border trade, and media industries.
Company president and chairman Dr. Papa Kwesi Ndoum called the ISF Bank acquisition a “major step for Africans,” pointing out the new opportunity for Ghanaians to start businesses in the Black community.
“In the Jewish community, they find a way to help each other, and they have moved on,” Ndoum explained at a town hall meeting of Africans and African-Americans in Chicago.
“The Chinese start with little and move on, and the Koreans also come here and move on,” he noted.
“So, we have this idea: What is it about African-Americans, Africans, specifically Ghanaians?…. The African has talent, the African-American has talent, the Ghanaian has talent; the problem is a lack of opportunity.”
The company president said he hoped the new acquisition would inspire Africans and African-Americans to work together for their mutual benefit, Ghana Web reports.
The firm presented an award to senior pastor of the Oasis Group of Churches, Rev. Dr. Isaac Paintsil, who was the first Ghanaian to open an account with the bank. Ebenezer Nsiah, president of the Ghana National Council, followed suit, pledging to withdraw $10,000 from the council’s current bank and deposit it into the ISF Bank.
“Our mission is to support businesses in the community, and this bank is a Ghanaian business,” Nsiah said. “If it is successful, it will have an impact on us. This is our opportunity to give support to Ghanaian businesses to be successful in Chicago.”
According to Atlanta Black Star, the Black bank has played a vital role in funding Black entrepreneurs, businesses and institutions, as well as sustaining the Black community and individuals in tough times. For example, the Freedman’s Savings and Trust company, established by Congress following the Civil War, was created to help newly emancipated Blacks.
Black-owned banks were also crucial during the Jim Crow era, as African-American communities across the country struggled to achieve economic growth and development, ABS reports. The Black community of Tulsa, Oklahoma, known as Black Wall Street, is one of few examples of African-American communities that achieved economic success.
Between 1888 and 1934, there were over 130 Black-owned banks in the U.S., according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. That number plummeted to 48 in 2001, with only 22 remaining today.
Noting past efforts to form partnerships that would foster progress for Black people, activist and president of the Metro Area Black Trade Council, Rev. Dr. Al Sampson, called for renewed efforts to create businesses and organizations that link African-Americans, Ghana Web reports.
The longtime reverend likened the new bank’s efforts to link Africans and African-Americans to the 1957 meeting between Martin Luther King Jr. and first president of Ghana Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
According to Joy Online, ISF’s former Chairman and CEO, Norman J. Williams, happily welcomed the bank’s new proprietors.
“This marks a new chapter in the life of the bank, which will enable it to sustain the rigors of financial stress that have plagued many communities in Chicago and continue to provide much-needed banking services and access to credit,” Williams said. “Given the current climate in our country, the bank is needed more than ever to provide financial services and drive redevelopment in our market.”
According to the bank’s website, the new main office is located at 4619 S. King Drive Chicago, IL 60653.