Banks are businesses, but in the daily activity of operations a financial institution also plays an important role in the well-being of a community.
Bank of America’s Memphis market is a robust entity with 14 financial centers, 44 ATMs and one Merrill Lynch office across its nine-county market. The market serves the Memphis area through business lending – $47.1 million loans to small businesses and $776.9 million to commercial businesses through the second quarter of 2017. And the bank’s $27.3 million in total home loans last year shows its balanced commitment to the Memphis community.
“We’ve been a consistent bank for individuals as well as companies,” said Michael Frick, market president for Bank of America. “We take our opportunity to make financial lives better very seriously. We want to be responsible citizens and be a great place to work.”
Bank of America employees have an opportunity to volunteer up to two hours per week during paid time. Those volunteer hours can be as simple as coaching a child’s community soccer team or spending a couple of hours volunteering in a school or at the food bank.
Whether it’s helping mom-and-pop shops open with small business loans or doing things that make Bank of America an attractive place to work with its recent extension of parental leave from 12 to 16 weeks, Frick said the organization strives to play a role in transforming Memphis.
But beyond conducting the business of banking in Memphis, Bank of America’s people believe in the community, specifically through philanthropic partnerships, employee giving and volunteerism.
Bank of America’s philanthropy has three areas of focus: critical needs, which are supported by local organizations including MIFA, Meals on Wheels and the Mid-South Food Bank; workforce development; and community development work with various community development corporations (CDCs) including the Binghampton CDC and Frayser CDC.
In 2016, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation provided $390,238 in grants and matching gifts on behalf of employees to a variety of nonprofit organizations in the community.
Employees pledged nearly a quarter million dollars to Memphis-area nonprofit organizations while volunteering 3,126 hours.
Bank of America passes on those funds to organizations in a way that brings employees closer to the mission, so to speak. There are two rounds of grant funding per year, and the bank delivered this year’s first round via trolley bus. Employees piled onto the bus and went around town to deliver checks to 10 organizations.
Leaders from various lines of business rode the trolley to each organization, where they received information about that nonprofit’s mission. So it combined work, volunteerism, check delivery and employee fellowship.
This year’s second round of funding was smaller in scale, but possibly just as effective. A small group of employees visited the Binghampton and Frayser community development corporations to deliver checks while learning more about the neighborhood-building work that occurs at both organizations.
Heather Vincent is market manager at Bank of America, and part of her job is to connect the bank to the community and nonprofit organizations and better understand how to make the region a better place. That’s a lot easier when employees see first-hand where their money goes.
“Giving a check is nice, and you feel good about it when you talk about it in leadership meetings,” Vincent said. “But if you can meet people the grants are helping it makes all the difference.”
Bank of America encourages volunteerism. Employees have an opportunity to volunteer up to two hours per week during paid time. If employees volunteer 50 hours in a year for an organization Bank of America will give a grant of $250; 100 hours is a $500 donation.
Those volunteer hours can be as simple as coaching a child’s community soccer team or spending a couple of hours volunteering in a school or at the food bank. Vincent said it’s important that the bank’s leadership doesn’t tell employees where they must volunteer, so it allows people to give time to organizations and causes that move them.
“Everyone can make an impact, whether it’s a big or small company. The key thing is to understand the passion of your associates and try to help them organize.”
But there are opportunities to come together as an organization with group activities; several of the bank’s employees volunteered in the Habitat for Humanity’s 2016 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project, for example. Those types of efforts are good team-building activities, although that’s not the core purpose.
“When we can bring them together, meet new people and make a difference in the community it’s icing on the cake,” Vincent said. “I think of it as partially the DNA of us as a company. The activities are a great way for our people to get to know others but volunteerism is part of who we are.”
Memphis is known as a charitable community. Many companies have efforts in place to encourage employees to give back. But for those who don’t, Frick said it’s easy to jump in and make an impact on Memphis.
“Everyone can make an impact, whether it’s a big or small company,” he said. “The key thing is to understand the passion of your associates and try to help them organize. We have a committee that checks in with associates and finds out their interests.”
Story by Lance Wiedower
Photos by Troy Glasgow