Okay, I broke up with one of them anyway. I love the idea of impact investing, but sometimes putting it into practice can be tough, like when you have limited investment choices, or can’t find a mutual fund that suits your screens. But impact investing through supporting financial institutions that turn around and use your deposits to make a difference is something just about everyone can do.
I heard about Self-Help Credit Union last year when I was at a socially responsible investing conference, SRI in the Rockies, in New Orleans. Although Self-Help is headquartered in Durham, North Carolina, it can do business nationally. Their mission of creating economic opportunities for minorities, women, rural residents, and low income families resonated with me. They build energy efficient affordable homes, finance community projects like child care centers, and operate banking branches with fair fees, to name just a few of their accomplishments. I looked into switching our savings accounts over to them from the big online banks they were with. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Self Help’s Money Market rates were not only comparable to what I was already getting, but actually a bit higher.
Opening the account online was relatively simple. I had to first choose between opening an account with the Self-Help North Carolina chartered credit union, or federally chartered version. They are both federally insured and come from the same place, but each has a different focus. We chose the state charter because of their focus on responsible lending to entrepreneurs, non-profits, and community organizations. In order to open an account you must be a member, and it is $25 to join ($20 of it is tax deductible). The only glitch in our application was uploading copies of our drivers licenses, and only because it took me a week or so to remember to copy my husband’s so I had to start the application over. They drafted our initial deposit, like most online bank accounts do, and we received a nice welcome kit in the mail a few days later with our online login info.
At this point, I don’t see any way to do transfer funds between my brick and mortar bank and Self Help. I have deposit slips I can mail in with any money I want to send them, but nothing to do this electronically. That may change; they are rolling out new website features this summer, including more online options. I hope that’s one of them. But in the meantime, it will be less convenient to move money back and forth, so right now we’ve only transferred one account that we use infrequently. If they do make online transfers available I may move more money there.
So far so good; I haven’t had occasion to take money out yet, so hopefully that will be as easy as putting money in. I’ll let you know.
Have you broken up with your bank and moved to a more impactful financial institution? Tell us about your experience.