August 2022

This new PNC Bank executive wants to boost minority business loans in Columbus

Courtesy of Columbus Business First
By Hayleigh Colombo
August 23, 2022

A new PNC Bank executive serving Columbus and other Midwest cities is responsible for ensuring that the bank delivers on its promise to loan $26 billion to minority-owned businesses over the next four years.

Alexandria Abell, a former business banker for PNC Bank, now is the minority business development officer for Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Kentucky, Southern Indiana and West Virginia.

Mary Auch, Columbus’ regional president for PNC, said Abell is helping bring to life PNC Bank’s 2021 promise to invest $88 billion in a community benefits plan to benefit diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Of that investment, PNC said it would originate at least $26.5 billion in loans to small businesses in low- to moderate-income communities, majority-minority census tracts and businesses with less than $1 million in revenue and small farms.

(The biggest chunk of the funding is dedicated to originating $47 billion in residential mortgage and home equity loans to low- to moderate-income people and minority borrowers).

“While we’ve always had a focus in small business lending, and we’ve always had boots on the ground here in business banking … Alex’s role is really to bring the minority focus and that minority business advocate (role) to life in our markets,” Auch told us.

Abell said her role is two-fold: helping connect minority business owners with resources and training bank executives to better serve minority customers.

“Historically, it’s been known that minority business owners haven’t always felt that support from the banks that they work with,” Abell told us. “So we’re working within our group to make sure our employees know how to tie said business owners to those resources that are available.”

Prior to taking on this new role, Abell was a traditional business banker for PNC Bank.

“I’ve been privileged enough throughout my banking career to really see a business owner from when they start up and begin (to) that middle stage and as they grow and expand,” Abell said. “But now in this new role, (I’ll be) focusing on the minority businesses, by bringing all those tools that I’ve learned along the way and really be a true resource to them.”

Auch said the goal is to help turn minority-owned sole proprietorships into businesses that employ even a few people. For those who want to remain sole proprietors, small business loans could help them grow their inventory or invest more in their products.

The Brookings Institution found that more than 95% of Black-owned businesses are sole proprietorships.

“So when you’re a sole proprietorship and you’re the only one that’s on the payroll, yes, there’s economic impact to that,” Auch said. “But if we can give some capital to these folks, and if we can help them build (their staff) … think of the economic engine that can create here locally for our community.

“I think that’s really a lot of what we’re focused on is helping to build that capacity and make sure that we have the trust factor so that those minority businesses come to us to apply for the loans that we’re trying to put out in the market.”

There isn’t market-specific goal for how much of the $26 billion will be deployed in Columbus-area loans, Auch said.

But she said Abell and her team are forming relationships with groups such as the Columbus Urban League, Zora’s House and other groups so they can create relationships with minority borrowers and start doling out the funding.

That “gives us better access to potential borrowers to deploy those dollars faster,” Auch said.

Abell said helping minority lenders obtain business loans will help generate wealth in underserved communities.

“Growth comes from education and knowing how they can better utilize resources,” Abell said. “So then that can carry on for generations to come.”

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