As the pandemic continues and economic uncertainty remains, M&T Bank’s Minority- and Women-Owned Business Banking Team continues to work tirelessly providing opportunities for the historically underserved to help small business owners achieve their dreams. Our current climate offers unprecedented opportunity to be intentional in providing women and people of color the opportunity for advancement—both in the banking industry and through lending services.
Tell us about M&T’s women- and minority-owned business banking team and your role. Why was the team created?
Launched in June 2019, the Minority- and Women-Owned Business Banking (MWOB) Team sought out to intentionally and proactively build an ecosystem to assist businesses owned by people of color, minorities and women, overcome the systemic obstacles to success in an effort to help them start, sustain and grow their businesses.
There are too many underserved communities and entrepreneurs. Our team was created to provide access and resources to combat that inequality. In addition to my role, our team is composed of three relationship managers (also known as business bankers), a small business coach/community developer and a portfolio manager.
What were the biggest challenges that women and minority business owners faced in 2021?
Even before the pandemic, access to capital was an issue and it remains the biggest challenge these business owners face. Shortly after COVID-19 hit, we unfortunately witnessed inequity when it came to minority- and women-owned businesses receiving economic assistance funding, particularly the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This delay was extremely detrimental. But those that were able to ride out the storm were able to take advantage of further rounds of PPP and other federal, state and local programs and grant funding.
The lack of early access to these funds, in addition to the continued obstacle of gaining equal access to bank loans, has continued to make it very challenging for these owners to sustain their businesses.
Throughout 2021, businesses had to fight to regain economic stability. Most minority- and women-owned businesses are in service-based industries hit hardest by the pandemic. As we look ahead, many industries are facing an uphill battle when it comes to hiring.