Bloomberg Law
Oct. 5, 2021, 5:34 PM

Regions Backs South Carolina Bank to Support Minority Lending

Zijia Song
Zijia Song
Bloomberg News

Regions Financial Corp. is making a $2 million equity investment in Optus Bank to help the Columbia, South Carolina, company offer loans and other financial services to minority-owned businesses and under-served communities.

The investment, being made through Regions Community Development Corp., will help the community bank work with customers who have a “desire for relationship banking,” Optus Chief Executive Officer Dominik Mjartan said in an interview Tuesday. During the pandemic, demand among clients to work with mission-driven banks has allowed Optus to triple its assets, more than 90% of which are invested in communities of color, he said.

“This is an investment that will be leveraged in perpetuity to help provide economic opportunities for people and places that have historically been under-served,” Mjartan said.

Community development financial institutions, or CDFIs, such as Optus help provide funding for small-business owners lacking easy access to credit from traditional lenders. Among borrowers served by more than 1,200 U.S. CDFIs, 84% are low-income, 60% people of color, 50% women and 28% from rural communities, according to trade group Opportunity Finance Network.

Over the past 18 months, Optus has raised more than $20 million in equity from banking giants including Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., Mjartan said. Optus’s origins reach back to 1921, when it was established as Victory Savings Bank, South Carolina’s first Black-owned bank. The lender was renamed Optus Bank in 2019, and is today the state’s only Black-owned bank.

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