Banking on the Community: Longtime Atlanta banker George Andrews opens Unity National Bank’s Atlanta branch

George Andrews, president of Unity National Bank’s Atlanta. (Reginald Duncan)
George Andrews, president of Unity National Bank’s Atlanta.

By Marshall A. Latimore

If there are names synonymous with community banking in the city of Atlanta, George G. Andrews must be included among them.

For more than 10 years, Andrews served as president and CEO of Capitol City Bank & Trust Company, a black-owned community bank in the Southwest community of Atlanta.

“We were extremely successful from the beginning. We provided many loans,” Andrews recalled with a fondness. “As a matter of fact, if you were to ride around the city in 1994 up until we closed in 2014, you would notice that much of the new construction in our community was financed by Capital City Bank & Trust Company.”

Unfortunately, in February 2015, Capitol City Bank was closed by the Georgia Department of Banking & Finance, which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as the receiver.

In March, Unity National Bank—the only Black-owned bank in Texas—opened the doors of its first branch outside of Texas in downtown Atlanta at the corner of Peachtree Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. At its helm is none other than Andrews, who was tasked with opening and developing the new branch.

Unity National Bank is a full-service bank that offers all kinds of commercial loans as well as personal retail services. It also offers a variety of cash disbursement products. In the six months since its opening, Andrews said he is excited about the warm reception the bank has received from the community.

In fact, tomorrow, the bank will open its doors for a special “Bank-In” event, in celebration of Black Economic Empowerment Day, chaired by rapper/entrepreneur Michael “Killer Mike” Render in partnership with the Voter Empowerment Collaborative committee of Concerned Black Clergy.

Andrews sat down with The Atlanta Voice to discuss his role and offer some sound personal and commercial banking advice to the public.

Q: How did you get involved with the banking industry?

Andrews: My background starts here in Atlanta where I entered banking in 1974 while I was a student at Morehouse College. I joined the Trust Company of Georgia, a precursor of what we know as SunTrust Bank today.

I always wanted to be in banking because banking provides capital to one’s community.

On the South of the city where I grew up — and currently live — there’s always been a problem associated with economic empowerment.

I thought, back in 1985, what we needed was a bank that was owned and operated by us in the Southwest community. I did not know that I would be the engineer-if you will— that would start that process.

Five years later, we began to put the process in motion to charter an African-American-owned and operated bank in Southwest Atlanta.

No bank had been incorporated in the city of Atlanta since 1947.

In 1992, Capit0l City Bank & Trust Company applied for its charter. After about a year and a half of raising capital, we were able to open our bank in 1994.

Q: What factors did you consider in joining Unity National Bank?

Andrews: Falling victim to the Great Recession did not stop the dream of providing economic resources to a community that was so in need of financial capital.

We joined Unity National Bank because there was synergy in terms of a mission. The mission was to empower the communities that we primarily control.

As you know, we are the mayors, the city councilmen, the county commissioners of many urban communities around this country. Yet, the commercial activity or the financial wherewithal in terms of growing the community is always controlled by individuals outside the community.

Banks are important, especially Unity National Bank, to bridge that gap and provide the community with a catalyst that will help us empower that community.

Q: Who or what types of companies make up Unity National’s target audience?

Andrews: Our target audience is the small business owner and the entrepreneur. We love to make commercial loans—loans that are going to create economic prosperity in the community, and that prosperity, in turn, can be translated into jobs. Our loans are centered around job creation.

We have targeted many institutions that have a presence over in Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. We love to deal with the concessionaires and we have been extremely successful in the previous bank by developing those relationships.

We also worked very closely with the municipalities of the communities, such as the Atlanta Public School system, Fulton County government and the City of Atlanta. We’re now cultivating a relationship with the City of South Fulton.

We like to work with the municipalities of the community because we bring a lot of uniqueness to the table in that we are small enough to dare to be creative in finding a way to broker a deal.

For instance, whether you want to finance a single fire truck or a fleet of fire trucks, we have the capacity and know how to get the job done.

Q: What information does the average consumer not know about successfully applying
and securing loans?

Andrews: The average consumer really doesn’t know that he or she stands a better chance of getting a loan approved if they could have an opportunity to talk directly with the person that is doing the approving.

Often times, we fill out an application, send it to the regional office and then it gets processed accordingly. However, at Unity National, we feel the best way to assess a person’s character is the be in front of that person, listening to that person, so that they can explain the story behind the numbers.

The individual consumer or the individual businessperson would stand a much better chance if they will deal with a community bank instead of a large regional bank because, in the community banking environment, we provide one-on-one direct contact with the person making the decision pertaining to your loan.

Q: What should first-time borrowers know about preparing for the loan application process?

Andrews: We encourage first-time borrowers to come in to take part in a pre-loan application discussion where we tell the potential borrower everything they would need to have in their application package.

We also make it very clear in that discussion that there is going to be a down payment required or an investment in whatever project they are interested in getting financed.

In other words, we do not finance 100 percent of anything. We have to discuss up front and assess up front whether the potential borrower has the down payment necessary to cultivate the relationship.

What we have noticed over the years, in doing this that the success rate for a first-time borrower is greatly enhanced.

This article originally appeared in the Atlanta Voice.

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