Chatham: What Is All the Controversy Surrounding the Northern Trust Branch Sale

At the end of the year the Bell Tower at 7801 S State Street will have a new name. The Northern Trust name will go away and Urban Partnership will replace it. While some see it as progress for Urban Partnership others see it as a loss for the customers of Northern Trust Bank.

On August 1, 2012, Northern Trust announced that they were selling the branch to Urban Partnership Bank. The announcement did not go unnoticed. An organization, The Monroe Foundation sent out a call to action email to alert the community about the sale. The Monroe Foundation felt that the deal was not in the best interest of the community or the customers of the Northern Trust branch. Subsequently, the Monroe Foundation wrote a letter to the FDIC asking that the deal not be approved.

Northern Trust and Urban Partnership Bank were both contacted for this post. Northern Trust responded with a statement.

The transfer is a business decision that complements a broader banking
strategy at Northern Trust. Urban Partnership Bank is an FDIC-insured,
full-service community development bank with $1.3 billion in assets. Urban
Partnership’s mission is to build vibrant urban neighborhoods, promote
economic and environmental sustainability and create long-term success for
its communities and the bank. Northern Trust supports this mission.

Like Northern Trust, Urban Partnership Bank is committed to serving its
clients and the community. In line with our philanthropic mission, Northern
Trust will continue to extend a helping hand to those in need across the
South Side and in other Chicago communities. Our focus is on supporting
investment initiatives that provide affordable housing, education, social
services and job creation.

Northern Trust also issued the following statement

We’re establishing a Center for Working Families on the second floor of the
office to serve the employment and family financial counseling needs of
Chatham and surrounding neighborhoods. “Centers for Working Families”
currently provides career and financial counseling to the community at

The new office, which is being established by Northern Trust with Greater
Auburn Gresham Development, St. Sabina Centers for Working Families, LISC
Chicago and Urban Partnership Bank, will provide counselors dedicated to
improving the financial bottom line for families in the community and
helping people change their financial behavior by encouraging a long-term
commitment to increasing income, managing expenses, building credit and
acquiring assets.

Northern Trust has carried an “Outstanding” CRA rating for 15 years and we
will continue to meet our CRA obligations through continued community

Urban Partnership Bank did not respond to my request for a statement.

Frankly, both banks have had their share of controversy. The Northern Trust building was original design presented to the community was a glass structure and was changed at the last minute with cost cited as the reasoning. Also, a Northern Trust hiring manager made patronizing statements to several job candidates that he was sent out to be the gate keeper of the branch and he personally made the recommendation to change the design because he was "protecting" the bank assets. Northern cleaned up the situation when they hired a local neighborhood banker as the president of the branch. Urban Partnership Bank predecessor ShoreBank was not initially welcomed in the community as they came out as the purchaser of Independence Bank. Independence was an African American owned bank formed by business men of the Chatham community. Many felt that ShoreBank would not lend at the same rate Independence did.

In the end, Northern Trust finally threw their hands up and said we give up. They did advertise with local newspapers, host a number of seminars and open up the bank by building a community room on the second floor which was frequently used. Even with those efforts they were never able to gain ground on their two largest competitors Chase and Bank America. They were even running behind their smaller competitor Seaway Bank and Trust. Although this acquisition will appear to help Urban Partnership, they have left a trail of ill feelings on the Southside with the closing of the old Drexel National Bank branches and the question remains what will they do with the 79th Cottage Grove facility? Also, will community based organizations still be welcomed to use the community room? While it ooks like a slam dunk for Urban Partnership, the local banking market will use this controversy as a marketing tool.

What do you think?


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  • Probably part of the issue is that Northern Trust wants to be a trust manager, not a retail bank. Look at their website. Somehow, I don't have the feeling that Chauncey is going to bring his inheritance to 78th and State.

  • In reply to jack:

    I agree. They were never able to connect with the individuals with the net worth requirements they like and that makes the retail banking business a losing business venture.

  • Blacks are not monolithic but here is my comment. What did the alderman say or do, where is the congressman or the state rep, state senator or congressman or US Senator? We have these layers of politicians for a reason. Put them to work. If not, then do not elect them. This is a joke that banks can come in, be rude and disrespectful in the black community. I have always wondered why white men and women could get mortgage loans from the first day of the job but black people (our black women for the most part) who work government jobs (they will only hire blacks in the first place) cannot get a loan. I know people working for the government for almost 20 years, still living in the hood because banks wont give up loans. Yet a white person, could be assistant making less than 30k, living in the South Loop and flips the house three times. Get the politicians involved, this is what they are elected for.

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