Five ways we're investing in our community.
When it comes to community development, you may not think of a bank at first. However, at Commerce Bank, community development is top of mind. We believe investing in community stability is an important part of helping our customers, neighbor and team members achieve their goals. It’s also part of our commitment as a socially responsible company.
To help explain Commerce’s commitment to community development, we checked in with Jackie Loya-Torres, Community Development Director. “As a company, we know that when our communities are strong and thriving, our business can do the same,” said Loya-Torres. “Community development intentionally promotes economic opportunities that benefit ALL people in the places where we live and work. Our goal is to create sustainable development and long-term financial capability for our neighbors, customers and communities.” Here are five ways we’re giving back.
1. Prioritizing community reinvestment.
Through our community reinvestment work, we’re committed to supporting the credit needs of all our customers, with a special focus on the needs of low- and moderate-income people and communities. Our community reinvestment work includes investment in affordable housing, community services, neighborhood revitalization and stabilization, and economic development in the communities we serve. Commerce Bank earned an Outstanding rating on our most recent exam for our Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) compliance, an honor we have sustained for over 25 years.
We believe affordable housing is the cornerstone of community stability. We take a multiprong approach to support affordable housing in our markets. Our Neighborhood Connection™ loan programs provide affordable financing options to help borrowers in low- and moderate-income census tracts in St. Louis and Kansas City buy and refinance homes. We also coordinate with organizations like Community Housing of Wyandotte County (CHWC) in Kansas City and Gateway Neighborhood Mortgage Fund in St. Louis to strategically support community-based affordable housing initiatives.
2. Helping customers achieve their financial goals.
For many people, their goals may be out of reach due to financial barriers. To address this concern, we take several approaches to help customers navigate obstacles and achieve their goals.
According to research from the FDIC, approximately 7.1 million U.S. households were considered unbanked in 2019.1 “Unbanked” describes when no household members have a checking or savings account at a bank. We developed Velocity Pay®, a prepaid debit card that helps underserved individuals gain access to traditional financial services which received the BankOn accreditation seal. We also offer several products that help individuals build credit and work with local financial education organizations to facilitate referrals for our customers.
In 2021, Commerce Bank collaborated with the Jennings School District in St. Louis to provide financial education training in schools. During a summer school program, volunteers from Commerce taught a class of over 30 students at Rose Mary Johnson Jennings Junior High School. Classes covered topics such as credit, career planning, basic banking fundamentals and saving. Through group discussions, the students were able to unpack common misconceptions about banks and start to develop healthy financial habits.
We also proactively seize opportunities to connect with our communities, as driven by Community Outreach and Banking Officer Jureau Bowman. Through relationships with individuals and community organizations, Bowman helps people learn how to become more financially stable, start building credit and establish a healthy financial future. She also works with small business owners to support their financial decision making.
3. Joining with community non-profits to support their goals.
We recognize that there are many successful organizations already doing the important work of community development. So we explore opportunities to build relationships with organizations to support their work in the community.
Some of our recent collaborations include:
In early 2021, Commerce team members assisted Mattie Rhodes Center in Kansas City in distributing CARES Act emergency assistance to community members. This project launched a community engagement program that has become the framework for similar future projects.
We worked with the St. Louis Regional Financial Empowerment Coalition to support Money Smart Month in April, Homeownership Month in June, and Credit Awareness Month in October of 2021.
4. Giving back through philanthropy.
In each of our markets, we work closely with local leaders to intentionally support the needs of the community. Our charitable giving takes many forms, from special event sponsorships to grants from the Commerce Bancshares Foundation and in-kind contributions.
In early 2022, we donated our branch building at 4401 Natural Bridge in St. Louis to the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. The building will serve as the main office for the organization’s Women’s Business Center, which provides technical assistance, strategic planning, customized workshops, and access to funding for local entrepreneurs. Commerce bankers will additionally host financial education courses for clients of the Women’s Business Center to further bolster opportunities for local small business owners.
5. Volunteering with organizations.
Commerce team members throughout our markets lend their time and energy to close to 500 non-profit organizations each year. Many senior leaders also lend their knowledge by serving as board members for non-profit organizations. Team members are encouraged to leverage a paid Volunteer Day Off to volunteer with their non-profit organizations of choice. Our Employee Resource Groups and other committees facilitate volunteer opportunities throughout the year.
Team members’ service work has continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as many teams have sought ways to connect and volunteer virtually. For instance, team members taught financial education classes virtually through organizations including The Prosperity Center in Kansas City and St. Louis Youth Jobs. Team members have also taught virtual classes to recently resettled refugees from Afghanistan through the International Institute of St. Louis and plan to provide similar sessions to those at the Della Lamb Community Center in Kansas City, later this year.
We are grateful to the inspiring individuals, leaders and organizations that enable us to further our commitment to community development. Through this work, we’re able to realize our purpose of helping our customers, team members, and neighbors focus on what matters most. To learn more about our community development work, visit our website or download our latest Environmental, Social and Governance Report.[PDF]
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1. How America Banks: Household Use of Banking and Financial Services, 2019 FDIC Survey
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