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City and CED Clinic Rank Banks in First-Ever New Haven Community Impact Report Card

The City of New Haven and the Community and Economic Development Clinic at Yale Law School today released the first-ever New Haven Community Impact Report Card, indexing banks operating within the City on 30 categories ranging from home loan applications to fees. The Community Impact Report Card was designed for two audiences: consumers, who can use the ratings to comparison shop, and banks, who the City hopes will use the ratings as an impetus to strengthen their product and service offerings. The central motivating principle behind the project is the belief that providing consumers with basic information about financial products and services will encourage banks to be more responsive to community needs.

“Financial literacy and access to traditional banking services are prerequisites for wealth creation today and are critical to a resurgent American economy. We cannot restore the nation’s middle class until all families, particularly minority families and those new to this country have access to and faith in the traditional banking system. We cannot grow our local economies until responsible small businesses, particularly minority-owned small businesses, have access to basic lines of credit that enable them to expand their services and hire local residents,” said Mayor John DeStefano Jr.

Banks total scores were calculated based on scores in two categories: home loans, worth 30 points, and banking products and accessibility, worth 70 points. All data used in the home loans category was collected by the Federal government under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) regarding lending practices in the City of New Haven. Data was collected for 2010 for the City and County of New Haven. Eleven of New Haven’s banks were rated in this first iteration. Start Community Bank, which opened in 2010, was excluded due to insufficient HMDA data. The Milford Bank was also excluded because it only operates a loan production office and not a consumer bank branch in New Haven.

Data considered in the home loan category included percentages of Latino and African-American loan applications accepted, percent of loans made to applicants with incomes below the New Haven county average, percent of loans made within the City of New Haven versus the county as a whole, and the total value of loans made within the City of New Haven versus those made nationwide.

Data considered in the banking products and accessibility category included physical accessibility, ATM locations and features, personal savings and checking account features, small business account features, acceptance of the Elm City Resident Card, check cashing services and personal loan options.

Ray Brescia, an Assistant Professor of Law at Albany Law School, who was a Visiting Associate Clinical Professor of Law at Yale Law School during the 2011-2012 academic year, said the project can help consumers, banks and other communities.

“Our hope is that in creating the CIRC, consumers in New Haven and other communities that might want to use the CIRC approach will have an easy method for assessing whether, and to what extent, local banks are meeting the needs of local consumers. Armed with this information, consumers can comparison shop and bring their business to banks that score high using this system. But we also hope that banks will respond by striving to improve their scores by offering better products and services,” Brescia said.

Sonia Steinway, a law student at Yale Law School who helped direct the project, added:

“Our ratings are based on information that is publicly available to consumers, but not typically aggregated in one place. CIRC is therefore a valuable resource for all members of the New Haven community as they choose where to bank. By making our criteria transparent and publishing the bank policies and practices that underlie the ratings, individual consumers can decide which specific criteria are meaningful to them. Publishing our inputs along with our results has two other broad benefits: banks can compare their own efforts against their competitors; and communities beyond New Haven can use our criteria as a jumping-off point to construct indexes appropriate for their localities,” Steinway said.

The report provides detailed rankings of banks in each category. Overall scores were as follows:

1. First Niagara, 74 points
2. Bank of America, 73 points
3. People’s United Bank, 68 points
4. JPMorgan Chase Bank, 66 points
5. Bank of Southern Connecticut, 63 points
6. Webster Bank, 61 points
7. RBS Citizens, 59 points
8. TD Bank, 59 points
9. Citibank, 56 points
10. Sovereign Bank New England, 56 points
11. Wells Fargo Bank, 53 points

Read more in the Fordham Journal of Corporate and Financial Law