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11/21/14 - BankPlus, City First Win First Annual Empowerment Awards

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 21, 2014 – BankPlus of Jackson, Mississippi, and City First Enterprises of Washington, D.C., are the winners of the inaugural Empowerment Awards, which recognize promising projects that provide or encourage access to safe, fair financial services in underserved communities. BankPlus won in the Community Development Banking category for its innovative alternative to payday lending, and City First won in the Access category for its online platform for community-development investments.

The awards, which are sponsored by Promontory Financial Group, highlight the unique promise of responsible financial services to empower communities and deliver consumer- and community-oriented financial innovations.  

The projects were evaluated based on their effectiveness, innovation, impact, and sustainability, as well as for leadership and governance. The Community Development Banking category targets banks that are registered community development financial institutions (CDFIs), while the Access category targets financial and technology firms with less than $10 billion in assets. BankPlus and City First each receive a financial award of $100,000 and pro bono consultations with Promontory.

"The Empowerment Awards support and raise awareness of sustainable financial innovations that are designed to help local communities," said Gene Ludwig, founder and chief executive officer of Promontory Financial Group. "This kind of work is crucial to improving the economic health of cities and towns across the country." 

Community Development Banking Category

Winner – BankPlus, Ridgeland, Miss.

BankPlus, an independent community bank in Mississippi, is recognized for its CreditPlus program, a small-dollar, short-term loan alternative to payday lending in a state with the nation's highest concentration of payday lenders. Loan recipients must complete a financial education seminar to be considered for reasonably priced loans of up to $1,000. More than 18,000 people have participated since the program was introduced in 2008, with over 17,404 individual loans totaling more than $13.3 million. Participants are also taught how to save, which is reflected by the related 11,673 deposit accounts totaling over $3.8 million. CreditPlus has produced significant improvement in the credit scores of its participants.


  • Beneficial State Bank, Oakland, Calif.: The Washington Small Business Empowerment Program, which provides responsible credit to Washington state small businesses unable to afford traditional products.  To increase the program's reach, Beneficial has partnered with the Main Street Alliance of Washington, a non-profit representing 2,500 small businesses.
  • Carver Federal Savings Bank, New York, N.Y.: Carver Community Cash, which offers check-cashing services — including bill payment and wire transfers — to the nonbanked in New York City. To enhance access to these services, Carver offers self-serve kiosks, all available 24 hours a day, in convenient locations such as public housing authority locations.
  • Start Community Bank, New Haven, Conn.: Start created two youth savings programs meant to instill lifelong, healthy financial habits: Youth@Work, available to participants in a municipal summer job program; and Teen@Work, available to teens who work at a local charity and complete a financial literacy program. To boost enrollment, Start allows teens to open direct-deposit accounts outside of the branch.

Access Category

Winner – City First Enterprises, Washington, D.C.

City First Enterprises is a nonprofit incubator of large-scale social-finance solutions, and is being recognized for an online platform for community-oriented investment built in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners. Investors will use the platform to identify crowdfunding and other opportunities backed by CDFIs, channeling capital into community development and providing a valuable signal of project quality.


  • Float Money, Lexington, Ky.: Planned Spending Program, which offers an interest-free, no-fee credit line for those with no credit history. To become eligible, participants develop a budget for monthly spending at stores that partner with Float. Credit repayments are due over 10 months with no late fees or penalty rates.  
  • Mission Asset Fund, San Francisco, Calif.: Lending Circles, a program begun in San Francisco that combines traditional pooled credit lending models with credit reporting and enrollment in financial education programs.  Mission Asset Fund is working with partners to introduce this program in cities across the country.

    For more information about the Empowerment Awards, visit empowerment.promontory.com.


Media Contact

Mark Paustenbach
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About Promontory

Promontory Financial Group, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is the world's foremost expert in financial risk, regulation, and compliance. The firm helps companies and governments around the world manage complex risk and meet their greatest regulatory challenges, thereby making its clients stronger and the financial system safer for consumers. Promontory has offices in New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Denver, and affiliate offices in Beijing, Brussels, Dubai, Dublin, Hong Kong, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, and Toronto. Eugene A. Ludwig, who served as U.S. Comptroller of the Currency under President Bill Clinton, founded Promontory in 2001.

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