City, State Treasurers Take On Systemic Racism In Banking

Chicago Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin
Chicago Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin. Courtesy of the City of Chicago
Chicago Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin
Chicago Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin. Courtesy of the City of Chicago

City, State Treasurers Take On Systemic Racism In Banking

Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin and Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs are using their leverage — they manage a combined $40 billion in investments — to talk with banking leaders on how to eliminate systemic racism in banking and direct more money to the state’s black communities.

“Injustice is not just coming from police brutality, criminal justice system, but it’s also embedded in the banking system,” said Conyears-Ervin, who with Frerichs is co-hosting a Juneteenth roundtable discussion that’s expected to draw top banking executives from across the state. CEOs of BMO Financial Group and Northern Trust have confirmed they will attend.

A recent WBEZ/City Bureau analysis found deep disparities in the amount of money banks lend to white, black and Latino neighborhoods. Between 2012 and 2018, for every dollar financial institutions loaned for home purchases in Chicago’s white neighborhoods, they invested just 12 cents in the city’s black communities, and 13 cents in Latino neighborhoods.

Conyears-Ervin said WBEZ’s reporting played a “major role” in their determination to host the roundtable.

She said her goal is to “hold our money with banks that have demonstrated their work in ending systemic racism.”

The roundtable is attracting significant attention from lenders. Conyears-Ervin said she spoke by phone Thursday with Chase Bank’s CEO of Home Lending. She described the conversation as “lengthy” and “candid” and said she expected more conversations.

“I was pleased to hear that they acknowledge that there’s opportunity for growth,” Conyears-Ervin said.

In WBEZ’s reporting, Chase Bank exhibited the widest racial disparities in lending of any of the city’s top lenders, investing nearly 80% of home loan dollars in Chicago’s white neighborhoods, and less than 2% in black communities.

Conyears-Ervin said grassroots activism is also getting banks’ attention. Protesters have targeted Chase this week, demanding billions of dollars in reparations to compensate for weak lending.

“Banks are hearing that we are not going to be silent on this issue, and so institutions and CEOs are reaching out to us and wanting to partner — and that’s really what it’s about,” said Conyears-Ervin.

The virtual roundtable, called “Reversing Systemic Racism and Black Divestment in Banking,” is open to the public. Registration is required.

Linda Lutton covers Chicago neighborhoods for WBEZ. Follow her @lindalutton.