AUBURN GRESHAM — One of the city's black-owned banks, Highland Community Bank, could have a new owner by August if negotiations with a Chicago investment group continue to go well, said Matthew Roth, who would become the bank's new president and chief executive officer.
"There are 17 investors that make up our investment group, Generations Community Bankcorp Inc., and 10 are black, so the new bank would remain minority-owned," said Roth, adding the bank would be called Generations Community Bank. "The acquisition of Highland provides an entree for Generations Community Bank to expand access to credit and other financial services to individuals across the South Side."
Dennis Irvin, president and chief executive officer of Highland Community Bank, was unavailable for comment.
In 2010, Roth and his investment group had planned on starting their own financial institution rather than acquiring an existing one. The plan was to build a headquarters on the site of a then-vacant lot at 501 E. 43rd St. in Bronzeville.
"Things change in this business. We looked at the cost of starting a bank and purchasing one and decided it would be more feasible to purchase one instead," said Roth, a former executive with Harris Bank.
Additionally, the group would have needed approval to open a bank from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulations, which regulates financial institutions.
Besides Highland, which is headquartered at 1701 W. 87th St. and also has a branch at 10537 S. Halsted St., the other two black-owned banks in Chicago are Seaway Bank and Trust Co. and Illinois Service Federal Bank.
Seaway is headquartered in Chatham, while Illinois Service Federal Savings is based in Bronzeville. A fourth black-owned bank, Covenant Bank in North Lawndale, closed in February.
According to the FDIC, Highland, which was founded in 1970, had assets of $83 million as of Dec. 31, 2012.
One target group Generations Community Bank hopes to help are small businesses.
"It is the right time to introduce a community bank that can leverage what has been learned over the past decade about lending and open up a credit pipeline to minority-owned businesses and small- to mid-size entrepreneurs," said Vickie Battle, who would serve as the bank's senior vice president and chief lending officer.
One Highland customer was unfazed by the pending acquisition.
"Frankly, I could care less who owns this bank as long as no one steals my money. I have been banking here for three years and while it is not the best, at least it is a legitimate bank," said Steve Moore, 35. "Basically [banks are] all the same. The only difference with a black bank is that you don't have to have perfect credit to open up an account. I like that."