Video: NCRC Members Discuss Community Benefits Agreement Process With U.S. Bancorp

NCRC Just Economy Conference 2022 —   Recorded June 13, 2022

The community benefits agreements which NCRC staff assist NCRC members in negotiating with banks form a substantial part of our impact on the ground. To help Just Economy Conference attendees gain insight into how these processes work, we asked representatives from both the membership side and the banks’ side to discuss their experiences with the process during the mainstage Just Economy Awards Gala on the first night of the 2022 Just Economy Conference. Here is one of those conversations, featuring U.S. Bancorp Vice Chair Timothy Welsh, U.S. Bank Foundation EVP Reba Dominski, California Reinvestment Coalition Chief of Legal and Strategy Kevin Stein and NCRC Director of Organizing Juan Leyton.

Moderator: Juan Leyton, Director of Organizing, NCRC

Speakers: Timothy A. Welsh, Vice Chair, Consumer and Business Banking, U.S. Bancorp; Reba Dominski, EVP, Chief Social Responsibility Officer and President, U.S. Bank Foundation; Kevin Stein, Chief of Legal and Strategy, California Reinvestment Coalition


NCRC video transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. They are lightly edited for style and clarity.

Stein 00:00

How’s everyone doing? Okay, great. Let me just start off by saying it is great– I can’t see everyone now. But it’s been great to see everybody at the conference. So it’s just so terrific to be back together again. So thanks to NCRC. I’m going to talk a bit about the U.S. Bank community benefits agreement that CRC and NCRC members negotiated. We feel very proud about it. You can’t get much done without collaboration and deep listening. And I got to see another set of folks bring those skills to another major project. That concluded a little over a month ago. NCRC supported U.S. Banks $100 billion community benefits agreement with 60 billion for California. And that’s right $100 billion for the nation. While I speak, if I could encourage folks, including bank leaders from U.S. Bank, folks from California and others throughout the country who worked on the U.S. Bank CBA, if you would come forward, please at this point, so that we can take a picture and acknowledge all the great work, please do so. Thank you. And now and while people are coming up, I’ll say a bit about the agreement. The CBA with U.S. Bank was the biggest such agreement ever. As usual. NCRC acted as a facilitator and a convener to help bank leadership connect with 90 Different NCRC members across 23 different states. NCRC also worked closely with the California Reinvestment Coalition, the NCRC member organization where I am the Chief of legal and strategy. We held five separate listening sessions to bring these folks together. And when it was all said and done, U.S. Banks leadership made concrete firm commitments to match the concerns our members raised. U.S. Bank will increase mortgage lending by at least 20%, nationwide, and 30% in California, specifically to the communities who need it most. They will boost their investments and community development, social impact lending and affordable housing by 50%. In California and 40% nationwide, and they’ll open new bank branches in majority minority California communities make their ATMs easier to use for more services, and launch multiple Special Purpose credit programs targeted to our members priorities. All this was possible because we all got together to talk plainly to listen to each other and to identify creative solutions. It was a huge team effort. Again, I want to emphasize 90 Different NCRC member organizations helped shape the agreement. And folks, this is the part I want you to hear. So if you’re half listening, if you want to listen a little bit more, because this is the part that I really think is important. Someone who couldn’t be here today was our Executive Director, our CEO Paulina Gonzalez Brito and one of the things that they– yeah, yes, a little applause for Paulina. One of Paulina’s mantras and maybe I’m, I’m nuancing it a bit. But this I think is important for NCRC. When we stick together, when we organize and when we fight, we win. What does that mean? Here we had 66 CRC members and allies who oppose the merger initially, we won at the time rare public hearings from the federal regulators, our members delivered very strong and compelling testimony about what they thought the merger would mean for their communities. And we were able to negotiate a record commitment. And we were able to do so because the bank listened and engaged and tried to address our concerns. We are proud of the community benefits agreement in in particular, because it creates three special purpose credit programs, who’s heard of a special purpose credit programs? Come on, folks, three special purpose credit programs. What does that mean? It means that U.S. Bank is committing to race conscious products and programs for homeownership for small business development and for affordable housing development. And at this time, when the CRA is being reformed, and we have this proposal we need for the CRA rules and for implementation of CRA to be much more race conscious.

We are also pleased that the bank is devoting resources to target outreach in rural communities and Native American communities to meet the broadband and other needs of these areas. And I will say this to be, you know, somewhat, I feel like I can talk to you all, I can be transparent with you, you know, we’ve received a lot of positive feedback on the community benefits agreement, which is great. But we’ve also received questions about it, whether it’s enough and whether it is real. For example, some folks are asking is this just another press release? Will communities see the benefit? So we want everyone to know that CRC and NCRC are invested in this CBA. And we are committed to ensuring it gets implemented. And we look forward to working with the bank to make it so. Thank you to all the members who made this agreement possible. That’s a big group, and a pretty good looking one too. Please give U.S. Bank in our members a round of applause while we take a group photo.

Stein 06:34

Thanks, everybody, good job. Thank. You. Okay, so now we’re going to, to move forward. And it’s a pleasure to say, we got incredible collaboration and partnership from the bank side as well. You saw the great team that we had working on the community side, and the bank met us more or less halfway, the U.S. Bank team sitting across from the table from us. At those listening sessions were truly open minded and committed to getting this right. To have the leaders are here tonight to share more about what this deal means for our communities. And for NCRC is members in the many states where U.S. Bancorp has a major presence. First, Reba Dominski is Chief Social Responsibility officer and president of the U.S. Bancorp Foundation. And I want to personally thank Reba on behalf of CRC and NCRC for very good faith back and forth and for having a sense of humor. And I also saw Erica Opstad up here from U.S. Bank. And so for people who wonder like there’s anything happened with the CBAS. So we just negotiated recently and Erica has already reached out and started the conversations about how to implement so we feel very good about that. We also have Tim Welsh, US Bancorp’s Vice Chair for Consumer and Business Banking. And joining them for this conversation is Juan Leyton NCRC is director of organizing. Thank you. Juan, Reba and Tim are going to talk you through a bit more about the process. Please welcome them.

Leyton 08:33

Good evening. So before we were going to have a little bit of a conversation here, I hope that you’re enjoying dinner tonight. How is dinner tonight? Good. Before we have this conversation, I’m gonna let the team lead some statement from Andrew Cecere, the CEO from U.S. Bank, who couldn’t be here today

Welsh 09:00

Thank you so much Juan. As you said Andy really wanted to be here but couldn’t but wanted to pass along this statement. On behalf of the approximately 70,000 U.S. Bank employees. Thank you. The leadership, passion and commitment of NCRC CRC and so many individuals across the country helped inform a robust community benefits plan that pending closure closure of the transaction will have an impact on our communities for generations to come. During this process, I had the honor of being joined by more than 200 community leaders in six listening sessions. With passion and dedication showcased by these leaders to their communities and is to be applauded. The insights shared helped us learn where we could build on our strengths and make an impact for the underserved. This input is why our plan is intentionally focused on increasing access to capital for those who live and work in lower income communities, especially acknowledgement to Jesse, Paulina, and Kevin, whose leadership and experience was essential in helping us achieve this critical milestone, we look forward to building on the success and working with you as we move forward. Thank you.

Leyton 10:18

Thank you, Tim. Now, we’re going to have a little bit of a conversation with Tim and Reba. And one thing that I wanted to say that the commitment that all of you have with the process have been so important. That’s what we are here today is spending this time to the community benefit process. Also, the fact that Andy wasn’t here, I want to say that he has spent time in five meetings, two hours just listening to community groups. So I wanted to start with that questions. What were the most significant learning lessons from the listening sessions with the community groups?

Dominski 11:00

Yeah, I can start. So you know, this was a really fascinating process and everything we do in community, we start with listening. And so immediately after announcing our intended acquisition of MUFG, Union Bank, we contacted NCRC, and CRC and we scheduled, all told six community listening sessions, two hours each. Our CEO, President and Chair Andy Cecere, attended everyone, Tim Welsh and several other senior leaders across the bank attended every one of those listening sessions. We heard from over 208 community leaders, many of whom are in this room. And I think in Andy’s remarks, you heard a very consistent theme, which is how profoundly your voices impacted the creation of our community benefits plan. In fact, when we talk about our plan internally at the bank, we say it was all of your voices that helped create the plan, the 100 billion dollar plan that we’re here to celebrate tonight. So while we heard different things from different communities, we learned from every conversation, and the other thing that we heard consistently, was about the need for equitable access to capital in low to moderate income communities and communities of color. And that’s something that you see absolutely throughout our plan. Tim, would you add anything?

Welsh 12:26

Yeah, I think you said it so well, right. But first of all, it was incredibly insightful to hear the voices from this group, and from so many others incredibly insightful. And the other thing I would say it was inspiring. I mean, the work that you all do, and the work that so many other community groups do, is making an enormous difference all across the country. And frankly, this was part of the reason we wanted to create this plan was to support that extraordinary work in so many ways. And it is our privilege to partner with those who were so inspiring.

Leyton 12:56

Great. During the listening sessions, community organization is spoke about different issues, needs. And so they gave a lot of constructive ideas in the process. I want to hear from you why it’s important to work with community organizations. When putting something like this together. Why do you think is so important?

Dominski 13:17

Yeah, my favorite quote, My team’s gonna roll their eyes, they’ve heard it so many times is a quote from Maya Angelou. And it’s once you know better then you do better. So to me, the community listening sessions were about knowing better. And the plan that we created was about doing better. And whenever we approach any situation at U.S. Bank, whether it’s solving a customer problem, or thinking about how we can better serve community, we always start by listening. And that will, that’s exactly what we wanted to do, we wanted to make sure that it was clear that we do not have all the answers, we don’t have the solutions. And what I also want to be clear about and Kevin mentioned that earlier, when he said that Erica Austin, and my team has already reached out, we want to co create the solutions that are part of this 100 billion dollar plan. So that’s why it’s so important for us to hear from all of you is because that wasn’t just about listening. And then, you know, turning off the Zoom call and going back to business, it was about listening, thinking about what you shared with us and then thinking about how can we work together to drive solutions that really work and community? Because I think that’s what we all want.

Welsh 14:26

I just couldn’t underscore that enough. Right. I mean, I think what is so important is the level of understanding that you all have and that so many other groups have, we can’t do this work unless we’re really listening. And as Reba said, creating solutions together. That’s what this has to be about. And by the way, also acknowledging that when we create those solutions, we’re going to have to learn from the communities themselves once we try them, right, because we believe that the the listening doesn’t end when you introduce the first solution. The introduce the listening continues so that we can make our solutions better and better over time.

Leyton 15:02

Right now regarding the the agreement, the plan are the areas that you would like to highlight Kevin mentioned, three special purpose credit programs, would you like to talk more about that and your priorities regarding sort of like close in the way the racial wealth gap, and things like that if you want to do more?

Dominski 15:20

You know, I could talk about the details of this community benefit plan for the rest of the evening, but I don’t want to bore you. And you’ve already heard many of them. I will say again, access to capital equitable access for low to moderate income borrowers communities, communities of color is at the heart of every element of the plan. There’s a couple of things I would highlight in mortgage, we committed to a 20% increase nationally, over the combined baseline of U.S. Bank and Union Bank in mortgage lending units over a 30% increase in California all focused on LMI borrowers LMI communities, communities of color, in small business, a 15% increase nationally over 25% in California. And I do want to pause on community lending and investment because that is an area that CRC and NCRC both pushed us hard on and I think we delivered, we have a 40% increase in community development, lending and investment nationally, it’s over a 50% increase in California alone. So thank you for the applause. 50% in California 40%. Nationally, as Kevin mentioned, 60% of the plan impacts California, which is the geography that is the most impacted by our merger, and three special purpose credit programs. Now, I want to tell you a secret, we have been trying to get special purpose credit programs that U.S. Bank for a while I’ve been there seven years. And I think every year we’ve had a conversation about special purpose credit programs. And I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Because this plan, this experience was the catalyst to bring all of the right partners of the bank together and to say, our community partners are asking us for this, we started with a small business Special Purpose credit program, which Union Bank has one, we committed to evaluating it, expanding it, rolling it out to all of our markets. And then we got another push from CRC, we got another push from NCRC. As Kevin mentioned, there was a lot of back and forth. And we expanded and agreed to a special purpose credit program and mortgage, which includes a significant focus on downpayment assistance. And then finally, a special purpose credit program focused on developers of color minority led minority owned developers who are working on affordable housing. That was the third Special Purpose credit program. So this plan was a catalyst for a lot of activity, a lot of initiatives, a lot of innovation, that honestly without all of you in this room would not have probably happened for years at U.S. Bank. So again, I just want to thank you for that.

Welsh 17:57

It’s nice, I want to make sure that we recognize that we’re applauding for you, because you pushed us and you helped us do things differently. And that is a core commitment that we’re making in this is to do things differently. These special purpose credit vehicles are a reflection of that they’re a reflection of what you know what community said, and we are listening to that. And we are trying to act differently. So thank you for that push. The other thing that I would just pick up on that Kevin highlighted is this is real from our perspective, right? We want to get out there as already been indicated by initial work, and we’re going to make this happen together. Because it is our hope is that years from now, we look back and we have made a generational difference in the lives of these communities really in a profound way. And we look forward to partnering with you to truly make these ideas of big reality in California and all across the country.

Dominski 18:51

And I do want to put out a plug I forgot for special purpose credit programs. There is a panel tomorrow that Brad Blower is leading Erica Opstad from my team is on that panel, I think it’s at 945. And we will be digging deep into those special purpose credit programs. So I encourage you to attend the panel and learn a little bit more.

Leyton 19:09

Great. So remember, a special purpose credit programs, kudos to CRC, California and others who are pushing for that. This is a pressing unprecedented agreement with special purpose pay programs. So let’s continue with other banks in the future. But now we have the plan. Tell us about the next step is what is next?

Dominski 19:32

Yeah. So I think Kevin heard us and I know Jesse and Paulina did, too, when we finally got to agreement. And for those of you who have worked on these plans on any from any angle, this is hard work. It is real work. And so when we got to the agreement, I got the phone call. And I think Kevin, you had sent an email and I honestly I think I printed out the email and framed it when Kevin said, I think this is a good plan. I was like, Yes, I think we’re getting there. We were so happy and we celebrated and then I called Eric on my team who has been a driving force behind this plan. And I said to her, now the real work begins. And that’s how we feel getting the plan across the finish line took a lot of effort. It’s fantastic that we got there, but now the real work happens. So a couple of areas that we’re focused on. The first area is resources.

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