More than 100 representatives from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors came together Tuesday morning for LEDC’s First Banking on Change Breakfast at the Pavilion Room at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.
The event, which broadly explored how to increase the participation of low-to moderate-income communities in the financial services industry, featured a keynote speech from Stuart Ishimaru, the new Director of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Ishimaru, known for his decades of work in the civil rights arena, challenged members of the traditional banking sector to see their nonprofit partners as allies in helping to diversify access to critical financial products that help families prosper.
“You’re not doing this alone,” Ishimaru said. “There are plenty of civil society groups like LEDC that can serve as a bridge to understand what the language and cultural needs [are of low- to moderate-income communities.]”
While recognizing the challenges of increasing access for communities hailing from largely cash-based economies that may also face additional barriers including insufficient documentation, Ishimaru hailed the significant minority population in the DC area and the greater attention to inclusion as reassuring signs that the region was moving beyond the scars of the neighborhood riots of the latter part of the 20th century.
“That’s a sign of how we can go from the mere promises of the future to making the future an actual reality,” Ishimaru said.
The event featured the presentation of the 2012 Latino Economic Development Awards recognizing excellence and innovation in small business development. LEDC Executive Director Manny Hidalgo and Capital One Presenting Sponsor representative Jim Taylor presented the Award for Excellence to Federico Garcia-Lopez of Panas Gourmet Empanadas and the Award for Innovation to Carmen Segales and Ramiro Payllo Pacheco of Diestro, LLC.
“There’s no question that the financial services industry stands at a crossroads in the wake of the global financial meltdown,” Hidalgo said. “As the federal government embarks on new initiatives to strengthen consumer protections and promote access to safe financial products, we need to work at the local level to recover what has been lost and tap the incredible potential within our communities.”