After People’s merger, M&T Bank focuses on “community development”

Following its merger with People’s United Financial, M&T Bank pledged $43 billion in loans, investments, grants and other financial projects over five years to support low-to-middle income families.

The bank worked with the National Reinvestment Coalition to develop the community benefits agreement. The benefits will focus on the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in M&T’s footprint in the broad areas of community development, affordable housing, small business loans and financial support and services, according to a press release sent out this week.

“When the merger happened, they were quite willing to put this together,” said Jesse Van Tol, president and CEO of the coalition.

M&T announced its acquisition of Bridgeport-based People’s United in February. M&T said it would eliminate hundreds of positions in the merger.

“At its core, M&T is a bank deeply committed to serving our communities and making a difference in people’s lives,” said Rene Jones, President and CEO of M&T Bank, in a statement on the community development plan. “We are also committed to taking action to help address inequalities that have existed for years. This plan is another step in our journey to focus on what our communities need most.

The bank’s new deal promises $11.95 billion over five years in “community development loans and investments,” including the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, new market tax and investment programs for small businesses, according to the release.

As part of a new small business lending requirement, the bank is collecting data on the race of its lenders, and once that information is available, the company will develop more nuanced plans to increase lending to minority-owned businesses. , said Van Tol.

About $15.8 billion will go to home ownership and affordable housing programs. Some of these loans will be loans for home improvement projects and investments in affordable multi-family housing.

In Connecticut, there is a shortage of nearly 87,000 available and affordable housing units for very low income renters. Advocates said it is difficult to develop affordable multi-family housing in the state due to restrictive zoning laws. Housing is considered affordable if people spend up to a third of their income on rent.

Noah Gotbaum, executive director and president of Building Neighborhoods Together, said he thinks community development and housing initiatives will be especially beneficial for Bridgeport and southern Connecticut.

Gotbaum’s organization develops affordable housing and manages properties for low-to-moderate income people in Fairfield County and southern Connecticut. He added that M&T and People’s have already contributed philanthropically to the community over the past few years.

“They’re just saying, ‘We’re going to do even more because we have an even greater responsibility to Bridgeport now that we’re merging with People,'” Gotbaum said.

The bank also plans to increase lending to small businesses by $10.5 billion over five years. The increases will target communities where the median income is less than 80% of the median income for the metropolitan statistical area and minority communities, according to the news release.

In addition, the bank has launched a financial education initiative and will designate up to 115 banks as “multicultural banking centers” staffed with bilingual employees. The bank also created a Spanish version of its website and added Chinese and Korean to its ATMs.

The bank is also working to find ways to improve access to services in rural and urban areas where there is a “limited presence of financial institutions”, according to the statement.

This is not the first such plan that Van Tol’s group is working on, he said.

The first plan began in 2016, so the group will assess next year what effect it has had on the community, he said.

“We know anecdotally that many of these plans are making a real difference,” added Van Tol.

Norma P. Rex