Minnesota’s first Black-owned bank opens as First Independence Bank

The first Black-owned bank in Minnesota is set to open its doors.

First Independence Bank will be one of only a handful of minority-owned banks in the country. 

It's a historic move for the bank, which is venturing outside of Detroit, Michigan, for the very first time in its more than 50 years in business. 

The bank will open its first office Tuesday in southeast Minneapolis, and for the head of the branch, this new opportunity to make banking more inclusive is personal.

"I grew up on the south side, I am product of that," Damon Jenkins, senior vice president and Twin Cities regional market president of First Independence Bank. 

A proud graduate of South High School in Minneapolis, after earning a degree at the University of Minnesota, Jenkins pursued a career in banking. 

"Selfishly I wanted to be in a seat of influence to help people who look like me," Jenkins said. 

Now he's taking on a new role, leading First Independence Bank on the 3400 block of University Avenue in southeast Minneapolis. 

"This is a real opportunity to really say how do we think different. It really gives us a chance to serve different and really bring access to communities that have been cut out of banking but cut out of resources for some time," Jenkins said.

First Independence is able to branch out for the first time with the support of Wells Fargo, Bremer Bank, Huntington, Bank of America, and U.S. Bank. 

"I still pinch myself because you have five large banks that are competitors parking their shields at the door to get in the same room and then they bring in another competitor, a Black-owned bank," Jenkins said.

With a commitment to address social and economic inequalities, Jenkins says this new venture will likely be one of many firsts.

"We’re Black-owned, but we’re not Black-only. And so we’re hopeful that we can have relationships to not just consist of BIPOC communities or Black communities, but all communities even beyond the twin cities, I’m hopeful that we can establish relationships across Minnesota," Jenkins said.

A grand opening and community open house takes place Tuesday. 

A second branch is slated to open later this summer on Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue in South Minneapolis.