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KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

'Less Bank, More Community Center': Bank In West Dallas Hopes To Welcome Neighbors

Courtney Collins
KERA news
The new branch of Texas Capital Bank opened Jan. 8 in West Dallas, directly across from Trinity Groves restaurants.

Until last month, West Dallas had just one brick-and-mortar bank out on the fringe of the neighborhood, near the interstate.

A new bank branch wants to build a relationship with the heart of the community: low- and middle-income families who've lived there for decades.

West Dallas is teeming with construction cranes and cement trucks. New apartments, restaurants and offices are in progress all over the neighborhood. A branch of Texas Capital Bank opened just last month.

It's directly across the street from the Trinity Groves restaurant complex, and the folks who work there couldn't be happier. Take Beto Rodarte, who owns the Mexican eatery, Beto and Son.

"Very convenient. I mean it's great that [I] can walk and make my deposits and do my business," he said.

Susie Olson, assistant manager at Luck, a Trinity Groves gastropub, agrees.

"I think it's great. I mean, this whole area's just up and coming. And working across the street, I can just walk across the street now every morning to do deposits," she said.

The easy part, then the hard part

Courting people like Olson and Rodarte — business owners and high-ranking employees who work steps away — that was the easy part. Branch leader Brandon Q. Jones says the hard part is attracting people who live in West Dallas, a low-income, primarily Latino neighborhood.

"It's not that easy; you really have to go out and engage the community," he said. "Especially as a banker, you have to build trust. Trust and integrity are all that we have as bankers."

According to the FDIC, nearly 10 percent of Texans didn't have a bank account in 2015. That number jumped to 18 percent for Texans classified as Hispanic.

The numbers get worse for low-income families; well over 20 percent weren't using a bank in 2015.

And in West Dallas, almost a third of residents live below the poverty line.

"We have a lot of, 'My money's under my mattress, my money's in my boot, I keep my money in my attic.' And we want folks to trust us, as bankers," Jones said. "Some neighborhoods have different perceptions of bankers, and we're trying to change that."

Change through financial education

Jones says one way they're trying to change that is by offering classes, both in-house and at nonprofits throughout the community. Topics range from the basics, like saving and building credit, to the more complex, starting a small business and securing a mortgage.

"I want it to be less bank and more community center. A place where people can just kind of come in and get financially astute," he said. "Where they can grow and build their wealth."

The first step is getting people in the door and getting them to think about opening an account. That's been slow going. Jones says about 20 people from the neighborhood have trickled in and signed up so far. He thinks the fact that Texas Capital offers checking accounts with no fees and no minimums might help that number grow.

Options for low-income clients

People who bank with Texas Capital don't need direct deposit, don't have to pay monthly maintenance fees, and can withdraw everything but a penny and still have an active account. 

Jones says none of that matters though, if West Dallas residents don't feel comfortable coming inside. Which is why half the bank's employees speak both Spanish and English.

"Representation always matters, and so when you go into somewhere, you want to see somebody who, No. 1, looks like you, but also who you are able to communicate with," Jones said.

The bank has only been open since Jan. 8, so Jones admits, building the vision he has for this branch will take time. And while he's happy local business owners and new residents have embraced it, he's really looking to connect with people whose West Dallas roots run a little deeper.

"We are definitely here for the folks that are moving in as well, but my heart is with the people who have been with this community from the beginning," he said.

Which is important to respect, he says, considering Texas Capital Bank has only been a part of the neighborhood for six weeks.

The only other bank in West Dallas, according to City Council member Omar Narvaez, is a Chase branch near Interstate 30, closer to Oak Cliff.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.