Image

Chicago's sole black-owned bank has a new name and eye-opening expansion plans

Chicago's last remaining black-owned bank is going national.

The former Illinois Service Federal, or ISF Bank, is now rebranded with the same name adorning the other businesses of its Ghanaian-American owner and plans over the next three years to enter several new markets on the Eastern Seaboard and in Texas.

The investment will run well into the tens of millions, bank Chairman Papa Kwesi Nduom said in an interview.

The bank now is named GN Bank, the brand associated with Groupe Nduom, the family's umbrella company. The U.S. arm of Groupe Nduom will continue to be based in Bronzeville, on Chicago's South Side. GN has two local branches, both on the South Side.


Nduom sees an opportunity for the bank to serve African immigrants to the U.S., as well as people originally from the Caribbean.

GN Bank intends to build branches in Georgia, New York, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Texas, Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., he said.

Behind the rebranding was a desire to reassure potential customers that the bank is here to stay, Nduom said. The family rescued the South Side thrift, which was on the verge of failure, with a $9 million capital infusion two years ago. The lender now is profitable, but memories are long.

In addition, other black-owned banks have gone under since then, including most notably Seaway Bank & Trust, formerly Chicago's largest African-American-owned bank.

'Some of the doubts had persisted even though there had been significant improvement, 'Nduom said.' The full weight of our overall group of businesses is behind this.'

Groupe Nduom has more than $1 billion in assets, he said.

That also is his goal for GN Bank—$1 billion in assets. The lender had $135 million in assets as of March 31.

Nduom sees more opportunity in financing the restoration of housing stock on Chicago's South Side. But, more broadly, he wants the bank to appeal to younger consumers and grow with them.

To that end, it's developing its own PayPal-like system for customers to make payments. Banks in general are striving to catch up to PayPal by cooperating to form Zelle, a payment system that has grown substantially.

Nduom also sees opportunity in lending to young, promising entrepreneurs who are starting small businesses or forming their own professional practices.

A positive business environment makes this a good time to invest, he said.

'The business environment has been very good to us.'

Recent Posts