Development Economics

ShoreBank: A Banker to the Poor Goes Bust

ShoreBank is a Chicago-based financial institution that was founded on the principle that everyone deserves access to financial services and that, by offering these services to the urban poor, the community will benefit.  Sound familiar?  Its mission is very much aligned with that of microfinance.  And, since 1973, Shorebank was largely successful in achieving that mission.  Initially serving the South Side of Chicago, the bank eventually spread to Detroit, Cleveland, and much of the Pacific Northwest.   The organization's ties to microfinance go beyond conceptual: the founders served as the first consultants to Muhammad Yunus when he was scaling up his Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.  David Oser, formerly the chief economist for Shorebank, explains the history of the world-renowned organization:

ShoreBank Corporation, the parent holding company then called the Illinois Neighborhood Development Corporation, was the first to seize on the idea that fostering community economic development needed more than just a bank. A bank, after all, is a reactive institution; it can only lend money to others who then initiate action, whether buying a home, improving a business, or rehabbing an apartment building. So, in the 1970s, the holding company created a non-profit to focus on job training and placement; a loan fund to assist minority entrepreneurs reach scale; and a real estate development company to catalyze neighborhood revitalization in South Shore.
He goes on to explain some of the company's good works in the developing world: (more…)