’Report card’ seeks to measure community impact

 

NEW HAVEN — 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 in the city on 30 categories ranging from home loan applications to fees.

The report card was designed for two audiences: consumers, who can use the ratings to comparison shop; and banks, which city officials hope 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 the communities they serve.

“Financial literacy and access to traditional banking services are

prerequisites for wealth creation today and are critical to a resurgent

American economy,” said Mayor John DeStefano Jr. “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.”

Banks total scores were calculated based on 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 New Haven.

Eleven New Haven banks were rated. 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.

 

The rankings and scores:

 

1. First Niagara (74 points)

2. Bank of America (73)

3. People’s United Bank (68)

4. JPMorgan Chase Bank (66)

5. Bank of Southern Connecticut (63)

6. Webster Bank (61)

7. RBS Citizens (59)

8. TD Bank (59)

9. (tie) Citibank (56)

(tie) Sovereign Bank New England (56)

11. Wells Fargo Bank, 53 points

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 versus the county as a whole, and total value of loans made within the city 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.

 

HAMDEN — With the ceremonial groundbreaking held August 8, construction began on Dixwell Avenue for Quinnipiac Bank & Trust Co.’s new corporate headquarters scheduled for occupancy in the second quarter of 2013. Quinnipiac Bank & Trust is well into its fifth year as a ranking community bank with total assets of over $88 million. Bank officials say they are eyeing future expansion once the construction of its new main office and headquarters is completed. More information about the bank is available at quinnipiacbank.com.

 

ESSEX — As it has each year since 1996, Essex Savings Bank annually commits ten percent of its after-tax income to non-profit community organizations under the bank’s Community Reinvestment Program. This April the bank awarded $76,698 to 94 non-profits that participated in customer-preference ballot at Essex Savings branches. Awards ranged from $1,000 to $7,500 per organization. By year’s end $255,655 will have been donated to some 200 area non-profits — and more than $3.4 million since the program’s inception.

 NEW HAVEN — The accolades just keep coming for Higher One. The latest is recognition as one of the “Achievers 50 Most Engaged Workplaces” in the United States. The award is given each year to employers who make innovative and leadership strides towards engaging their workers. Applicants are judged on eight criteria, including communication, culture, rewards and recognition, and corporate social responsibility.

When we founded Higher One, we wanted to create a company that could bring outstanding service and efficiencies to our customers in higher education and contribute in a meaningful way to our community — achieved by truly engaging our employees each and every day,” said Miles Lasater, Higher One’s COO and co-founder. “It is extremely gratifying to be honored for creating a workplace where people can grow personally and professionally.”

Headquartered in San Francisco, Achievers produces software focusing on employee rewards and recognition. Higher One, founded by a group of then-Yale students 12 years ago, offers financial services and data analytics to some 1,250 colleges and universities throughout the U.S.

 Survey: Business costs, workforce, infrastructure cited as impediments

 

 

 

Connecticut companies continue to struggle to grow in a post-recessionary economy, according to the results of the 2012 Survey of Connecticut Businesses, published by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA) and the accounting, tax and business consulting firm BlumShapiro.

 

The survey found that while some progress was made to address concerns about workforce development, small-business access to state financing programs and streamlining regulatory processes, Connecticut has a long way to go to create a business climate that fosters economic success.

 

The annual survey, released September 7 at the Connecticut Economy conference in Rocky Hill, takes the pulse of Connecticut's business community, identifying issues and trends within the state's economic, fiscal and regulatory climates.

 

Since the last survey in the summer of 2011, the state's economy has fluctuated, growing at a moderate pace through January 2012, but struggling to expand in the ensuing months.

 

Although companies were cautiously optimistic about their own profitability and hiring over the next year, business confidence remained fragile, and key metrics pointed to continued slow growth.

 

"We need to restore business confidence in Connecticut in order to secure job growth and create a bright economic future," said John Rathgeber, CBIA's president and CEO. "But to do so we must address our state fiscal challenges, business costs, workforce preparedness and infrastructure needs."

 

According to BlumShapiro Chief Marketing Officer Tom DeVitto, the report shows that "demand persists for both business and government leaders to create a more favorable business climate if we expect Connecticut companies to stay in Connecticut and thrive during this long, slow recovery. We must improve the course to create a sustainable business climate."

 

The 2012 survey revealed a slight upward trajectory in business profitability in the state, but business conditions did not improve significantly over the last year. Of the businesses surveyed, only 25 percent rated current conditions as excellent or good.

 

Adds Don Klepper-Smith, chief economist and director of research at DataCore Partners in New Haven, “The fact that business profitability has yet to recover to its pre-recessionary levels is not surprising. It is indicative of the overall slow pace of economic expansion, underlying economic uncertainty and profound structural changes that are often underappreciated."

 

The survey found that hiring was up within the state, with 43 percent of respondents either hiring or planning to hire new full-time workers in 2012. Yet 47 percent reported difficulty finding qualified workers.

 

"Connecticut's new education reform law and expanded precision machining training in several of the state's community colleges was helping address the state's talent shortage," said Rathgeber, adding that more progress in workforce development was needed.

 

The 2012 Survey of Connecticut Businesses was emailed in June to businesses throughout the state. There were 580 responses, for a margin of error of plus or minus 4.15 percent.