Tamika Stafford knows firsthand how confusing finance can be. For example, when she bought her first home, she didn’t understand the nature of her mortgage or the nuances of her payments. Years later, when she became a banker, Stafford found that she enjoyed helping clients navigate the sometimes complex world of money management.
Late last year, Stafford assumed a new banking role that allows her to focus fully on educating business owners and connecting them with resources to help them achieve their financial goals. Her role is unique in that she focuses on building wealth specifically among minority communities in the Charlotte area.
Stafford is one of nine Business Access Advisors hired nationwide as part of the US Bank Access Commitment™, US Bank’s long-term approach aimed at helping communities of color build wealth. As a Business Access Advisor, Stafford serves as the trusted advisor to create networking and business development opportunities for black business owners in the Charlotte area. Additional Business Access Advisors are located in Chicago, Colorado Springs, Denver, Little Rock, Los Angeles, Omaha, Oakland and the Twin Cities.
The US Bank is initially focusing on black communities, as data shows that racial wealth gaps are widest there. According to a 2019 Federal Reserve survey, white families are on average eight times wealthier than their black counterparts. The bank plans to expand the program to other underserved communities in the future.
“Black people had a hard time accessing capital, and the Bank acknowledges that there were barriers for black people,” says Stafford. “We want to be part of the solution to close this gap.”
US Bank Access Commitment is a long-term approach to redefining how the bank serves racially diverse communities and provides more opportunities for diverse employees. In addition to the creation of the new Business Access Advisor positions, the commitment also included a new $25 million micro business fund focused on businesses owned by women of color, a mortgage program focused on home ownership education and the individual development of leadership.
“The launch of the US Bank Access Commitment is an important next step in our focus on closing the racial wealth gap that suppresses opportunity for all Americans and creating opportunities for all stakeholders to realize their full economic potential,” said Greg Cunningham , Chief Diversity Officer for US Bank. “Our focus on developing products, services and experiences that easily meet the financial needs of our diverse communities will ultimately help achieve fairer outcomes for all.”
“Active in the Community”
Stafford grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where she and her younger sister were raised by a single mother. Stafford’s mother was a teacher and every summer the trio would travel together, hop in a van and drive around the country, fueling Stafford’s love of travel.
“We were street fighters,” says Stafford. “We drove to every state in the contiguous United States”
Stafford began her banking career in Georgia as a customer service representative at SunTrust Bank and later moved to BB&T where she worked as a branch manager and in business development. (SunTrust and BB&T merged to form Truist Bank in 2019.) She moved to Charlotte in December to work as a business access advisor for US Bank.
Since arriving, Stafford has been busy meeting people and networking. She’s enjoyed trying out Charlotte’s dining scene while learning about her new community.
“If you’re sociable and enjoy talking to people, you never meet a stranger,” she says. “I want people to know that I want to consciously be a resource.”
She is also active on social media, where she is known as @bankervibe, sponsoring panel discussions, informational seminars and other resources. Earlier this year, she was a virtual panelist at a business development session in Charlotte Minority, discussing the most common pitfalls people encounter when trying to access capital. Stafford is also a partner at SCORE, where she recently sponsored a series of workshops focused on the cash flow mistakes business owners often make.
Stafford credits her mother, who earned a master’s degree in education while working as a single parent, with teaching her to be self-reliant and self-reliant. She is also inspired by the stories she hears from others about how they have succeeded and overcome difficulties.
No one lives a charmed life,” she says. “Everyone has challenges that they overcome. It inspires me to see the path they create for themselves despite the obstacles.”
elimination of obstacles
One of the biggest challenges minority entrepreneurs have faced in the past is accessing funds or resources needed to start or grow businesses.
According to data released by the Federal Reserve in 2017, more than half of the country’s black-owned businesses that applied for bank loans were turned down, compared to a 25% rejection rate for white-owned businesses and a 39% rejection rate at Businesses whose owners identify as Hispanic.
“Rejection of any form is always painful,” says Stafford. “Especially when it comes to your livelihood. A lot of black people won’t even apply because they’re afraid of hearing a ‘no’.”
Stafford recalled working with a business owner who was struggling to get a loan. The customer was a successful entrepreneur, yet bank applications were repeatedly rejected. After receiving a rejection, the business owner simply applied to another institution, creating a cycle of repeatedly applying for and being denied a loan. Stafford found that her client didn’t know the real reason for the loan’s refusal. She also learned that the customer had credit problems. Stafford was able to share and connect the client with resources focused on helping people with credit problems.
“My client had successfully operated in Charlotte for 20 years and didn’t have these resources,” she said. “We recognized that there is a fear factor with banks and we were able to build a bridge to help.”
She described the experience as “super fulfilling.”
“We can extend that olive branch and say, ‘Where do you need us? Tell us your story’ and we can offer you a prescription solution.”
Make an appointment with Tamika Stafford here.