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Companies Of A Century: Amalgamated Bank Services Social Purposes

Its niche as a mission-based bank helped Amalgamated weather headwinds over the past 100 years.

Editor’s Note: Chief Executive is kicking off a new annual tradition this year by celebrating every sizable (over $100 million in annual revenues) standalone company turning 100 in 2023. Check out the rest of this year’s class for tips, insights and, above all else, the inspiration you need to keep going….and going.

 

FINANCIAL SERVICES 

AMALGAMATED BANK 

HQ: New York, New York
Revenues: $266 million
Employees: 378 

Founded by noted labor organizer Sidney Hillman and the leaders of Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, Amalgamated Bank began with a singular mission: to make the financial system open and accessible to those considered “unbankable” by other local banks. Under that credo, the bank has pioneered new programs and financial products designed to provide access to banking services and capital regardless of socioeconomic status. 

Amalgamated became the first bank to introduce unsecured personal loans, with the goal of helping families finance upward mobility, and later the first to offer free checking accounts. The bank also created the first foreign-exchange transfer service to allow immigrants to safely send funds to relatives abroad. 

Today, “America’s socially responsible bank” is a favorite of nonprofits, labor unions, advocacy groups and socially responsible businesses. As other financial firms wade into socially responsible banking and investing, Amalgamated’s B Corporation status helps it stand apart as a money-where-its-mouth-is progressive bank. CEO Priscilla Sims Brown reported recently that in 2021 one-third of the bank’s lending portfolio went toward climate and sustainability projects. 

Some of Amalgamated’s positions have garnered negative attention. For example, Brown’s push for adoption of a new code that identifies purchases from gun stores garnered such criticism from Republicans that Visa, Mastercard and American Express got skittish enough to announce in March that they would not move forward with it. 

Still, its niche as a mission-based bank helps Amalgamated weather headwinds; over half its core deposit franchise is comprised of loyal customers supportive of its values and labor union heritage. Its positive Q1 results, says Brown, “demonstrate the resiliency of our strategy.”


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