In a move to fill the void left by the planned closing of branches by Bancorp South Bank, Hope Credit Union plans to open locations in the Hinds County communities of Utica and Edwards.
The closings in Utica and Edwards at the end of August will leave the towns with no banking services. Tupelo-based BancorpSouth pulled out as part of a closure of 24 branches on six states.
HOPE has established a temporary location at Utica City Hall to open accounts, and plans to open a modular branch in the coming weeks as it completes plans for a permanent facility, officials of the credit union said in a press statement.
Hope said it is working with residents of Utica and Edwards to ensure the towns continue to have access to “affordable, responsible financial products and related services in the long term.”
In May, BancorpSouth announced plans to close its doors at the end of the August. Since that time, area residents have been raising concerns about the impact of the bank closings on the local economy. Many are also concerned that the lack of access to financial services will have a disproportionate impact on elderly residents, and that payday lenders, check cashing operators and other high-cost providers may seek to fill the void, HOPE said.
“According to the FDIC, a higher percentage of Mississippians are un-banked and under-banked than in in most other states,” said HOPE CEO Bill Bynum.
Credit union staff is reaching out to area organizations and participating in community events to learn more about the area and tailor its services to the needs of local families and businesses.
“It has been rewarding to see the reaction of people here in the community,” said HOPE Branch Manager Felicia Lyles. “They want to see their town remain prosperous and they know a convenient banking option is an important part of the equation.”
A community meeting will be held at the Bonner Campbell College in Edwards at 6 p.m. on Monday, August 22, to talk with residents about the steps needed to establish a HOPE branch there.
“In many ways a credit union is like a bank. We offer similar products and services, and our deposits are federally insured,” said Bynum.
“At HOPE, our mission set us apart – we target less populated, less affluent areas that are often under-served by traditional financial institutions. Another difference is that credit unions are owned by its members. Consequently, all revenue earned by HOPE is reinvested in providing better, more affordable services to those member-owners.”