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Eastern Bank has launched a new initiative to provide specialized credit offerings to underrepresented business owners.

Called the Equity Alliance for Business, the initiative will provide credit and loan offerings to women and people of color, as well as the LGBTQ, veteran and disabled communities, Eastern Bank said yesterday.

In launching the Equity Alliance for Business, the bank cited its “deep and long-standing commitment to drive greater economic inclusion and mobility.” In addition to credit offerings, the initiative will provide business owners with access to other banking and community services, entrepreneurial insights and tools, and input from leading business support organizations and a team of diverse bankers, the statement said.

“Eastern Bank is the #1 SBA lender to the small business community in Massachusetts and as a community bank, is deeply committed to supporting small businesses and their role in ensuring a thriving, local economy,” the announcement said. “The bank’s efforts to address racial disparities and the wealth gap span small business and community development lending, supporting the growth of business owners of color, providing accessible banking services and expanding public-private partnerships.”

Eastern had previously incubated the Foundation for Business Equity to help business owners of color after the 2015 Federal Reserve Bank of Boston study “The Color of Wealth in Boston” showed significant racial wealth inequities.

“Eastern has a deep and long-held commitment to advancing equity and opportunity for all, and Equity Alliance for Business is yet another step in advancing our commitment to economic inclusion and strengthening our communities,” Quincy Miller, vice chair and president of Eastern Bank, said in a statement. “We understand resources such as specialized credit programs designed to address systemic inequities, specially trained bankers, and financial tools and community partnerships are game-changing in opening up much-needed opportunities of support for entrepreneurs and business owners.”

The Equity Alliance for Business will provide business owners who might not qualify to access capital with traditional underwriting standards specialized credit products, including term loans up to $250,000. The initiative also offers business owners a consultative relationship with a banker; financial products, including the Monit small business tool; and access to other community collaborations.

“We know it takes more than capital for small businesses to thrive,” Abby Nguyen-Burke, senior vice president and team leader of Equity Alliance for Business, said in a statement provided by Eastern Bank. “That’s why in addition to our existing Branch Managers and Business Bankers we’ve created a dedicated Equity Alliance for Business team of change agents to work with highly regarded community partners, many of whom helped to inform this approach, who offer access to mentoring, networking and other entrepreneurial insights and tools.”

Eastern said it has partnered with several organizations to offer access to networking and resources, including Ascendus, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, Interise, Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce and Mill Cities Community Investments, which last year merged with the Foundation for Business Equity.

Eastern Bank Launches Initiative for Diverse Business Owners

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min