BY: JIM SHELTON
NEW HAVEN — The city and Yale played “Rank the Banks” Tuesday, and First
Niagara was the big winner.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr. unveiled the inaugural New Haven Community Impact
Report Card, rating 11 city banks in 30 categories — everything from banking
fees to the home loan application process. The full report is available at www.cityofnewhaven.com/CIRC.
“We’ve had great interest in whether the dozen or so banks that have retail
branches in the city — how they engage particularly first-time customers, how
they support them as they go about pursuing wealth creation in their lives,”
DeStefano said. “You see a wide array of differences and distinctions.”
The banking report card is the first such localized index in the country. It
takes into account such things as service hours, multi-lingual service options,
free online banking and minimum balances to open a checking account.
“Our hope is people will comparison shop and vote with their feet,” said Ray
Brescia, an assistant professor at Albany Law School who was a visiting
associate clinical professor last year at Yale Law School.
The rankings, based on a possible score of 100 points, are as follows:
First Niagara, 74; Bank of America, 73; People’s United Bank, 68; JP Morgan
Chase Bank, 66; Bank of Southern Connecticut, 63; Webster Bank, 61; RBS
Citizens, 59; TD Bank, 59; Citibank, 56; Sovereign Bank New England, 56; Wells
Fargo Bank, 53.
New Haven’s Start Community Bank, which opened in 2010, was not included due to
insufficient information. Milford Bank did not make the list because it does
not have a consumer branch in the city.
Yale Law School’s Community and Economic Development Clinic worked with the
city to produce the index. They culled data from 2010 that was collected as
part of the federal government’s Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.
“We did this as bank agnostics,” said Yale Law
student Sonia Steinway, who helped direct the project. “We wanted complete
transparency. Every score we gave each bank in each category is in this
Steinway said the categories were geared with an eye toward the needs of three
types of banking customers: small local businesses, people seeking home loans
and people opening a checking account.
DeStefano said he wants to update the report card annually and distribute it to
the public via community groups such as Junta for Progressive Action. He noted,
however, that the city did not produce a Spanish-language version of the report
Financial literacy, according to the mayor, is a key element to building stable
communities. “We see so many families who remain unable to organize themselves
or to be embraced by social institutions,” DeStefano said. “That’s where a lot
of this started.”
One of the banks being ranked, Webster Bank, sent regional manager Kevin Aiken
to Tuesday’s unveiling.
“We think the report card is an important step forward and we hope that in the
future the report card’s scope will expand to capture more of what Webster and
other banks in the area are doing,” Aiken said. For example, he said his bank
had helped 28 city residents stay in their homes by modifying their loans.
Beyond home loans, Brescia said checking account fees, minimum balance
requirements and convenience issues are on the minds of city residents. “Some
of these things are the reasons people are afraid of banks,” Brescia said.
“That’s something of great concern for people.”