M&T Bank designates 17 Baltimore-area branches multicultural banking centers

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M&T Bank is transforming 17 Baltimore-area branches into a new multicultural banking center format in a bid to expand services in racially and ethnically diverse communities.

The bank also will invest in a “community empowerment center” in West Baltimore, where it will offer ATM, account opening, lending, mortgage and other banking services, the bank announced Thursday.

At the 17 newly designated branches, M&T plans to offer banking and other financial services in customers’ preferred languages and employ bankers from the community who can better understand the area’s cultural nuances. M&T has 91 branches in the Baltimore region, including three it already operates as “multicultural” centers.

M&T said it contributed $50,000 toward renovation of the new Bethel Empowerment and Wellness Center on McCulloh Street in the city’s Upton neighborhood, where the bank will have naming rights and access to ground-floor space. A nonprofit is redeveloping the former Bethel Outreach Center.

Bank officials said naming rights at the center will include signage in the building and a presence in a “financial desert.”

The bank hopes to start offering banking and financial planning services by midyear to the neighborhood’s predominantly low-income, minority residents. Customers will be able to open new accounts, apply for small-business loans and affordable housing mortgages, and take credit counseling and other financial planning courses offered by M&T bankers.

Elizabeth Glenn, board chair of the Bethel Empowerment center, said the partnership demonstrates the impact financial institutions can have on underserved and underbanked communities.

Glenn said the bank’s efforts will help in “building economic empowerment in Baltimore’s diverse communities.”

M&T said it is expanding its multicultural banking concept and forming the partnership with Bethel as part of the bank’s mission to be culturally fluent as the region becomes more diverse.

Baltimore’s Hispanic/Latino population nearly doubled during the past decade — growing from 4.2% of the city’s population in 2010 to 7.8% in 2020, according to the 2020 U.S. census. During the decade, the state’s Hispanic/Latino population increased from 8.2% to 11.8%.

“As this demographic shift accelerates in the Baltimore area and beyond, our multicultural banking initiative allows us to continuously meet the changing needs of our communities,” said Augie Chiasera, M&T’s regional president for Greater Baltimore, in an announcement Thursday. “We are demonstrating our clear intention to be the bank for all communities.”

The multicultural banking center locations were identified with input from community partners, M&T’s local bankers and neighborhood-level census data on non-English speakers. The branches must employ at least one multilingual banker and be in a community with a population of at least 10% Asian American, Polish or Russian or 20% Hispanic/Latino or Black.

M&T will convert nine city branches into such formats, including locations in Highlandtown, Patterson Park, Federal Hill, Eutaw and Howard streets and Reisterstown Road. Six additional branches are in Baltimore County and two are in Anne Arundel County.

They will add to existing multicultural centers in Fells Point and St. John’s Lane and Bethany Lane in Howard County.