SyraQs: New City bank manager wants to build generational wealth in hometown | Job Binary


Editor’s Note: Central New York is full of vibrant, interesting, thoughtful, bright people who are committed to making our region a better place. Every Monday, we’ll post a quick Q&A session with one of them. Here’s today’s interview, edited for clarity.

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Being named branch manager of the newly opened Pathfinder Bank on West Onondaga Street was a homecoming for Shinika Gainey. He grew up in the neighborhood, and the area remembers beautiful parks and well-maintained homes before the troubled days. Gainey recently sat down with syracuse.com in his office to talk about what he teaches people about money, the legacy of redlining and the secret to not saying no.

Syracuse.com: Tell me where you grew up, what about your childhood that brought you here?

Gainey: Do you know where the duck pond is in the valley? Just around the corner. I went to New Salem Missionary Baptist Church two blocks from here. I was at the Southwest Community Center.

What brings me back here is the many friends and people who still live in this community. I know what is lacking in society: financial education.

What do you plan to do to teach financial literacy?

We have already gone to courses and started teaching. We went to jubilee homes, we went to a lot of churches on the south side. We worked with the Hispanic community, we taught at OCC. They are basic banking courses: checking accounts, savings accounts, loans.

Here you will find that most of the houses are not very well maintained on the outside. What they don’t know is that they have equity in these homes, which is amazing to me. You’ve worked all your life, paid off this house, and had no idea you could use the equity in your home to make it beautiful.

And you brought people to the bank?

We used to attract a lot of young people to our summer programs. (They) had their first jobs and they were getting paid. They came to Pathfinder and opened their first bank account.

We had a lot of small black-owned businesses that needed financial help that they couldn’t get at a big bank like Chase or Bank of America. They walk through the door, and we present opportunities for them.

Why do people still not have such literacy?

It is not taught. Financial education is not important in the African American community. You will work more, you will take care of your house. I was lucky enough to have parents who worked hard and knew how to save and buy a house. Many people were not brought up like that.

You have a big learning curve here.

Absolutely. When I first came into this job, I said that if I didn’t get in, it wasn’t for me because that was my goal from day one in the business.

This census tract has significantly lower incomes and higher poverty rates. How do you feel about this as a bank?

We have a variety of products that serve this community purposefully.

What products would you offer here that you wouldn’t find anywhere else?

A credit score is usually not required at another financial institution. We’ve really got it down. We have certain loan products that you cannot get from other banks. For people buying land bank homes, we have a loan to help you renovate the entire home from top to bottom.

You want to be the starting point.

Right. I felt that this branch would add color to the neighborhood. You know, give these people a chance that they wouldn’t normally have.

For decades, many banks refused to give mortgages to blacks in certain areas. What does it mean to have this history and how can you overcome it?

I saw. I’ve seen people come in, get turned down, get frustrated, and generally not move forward in the home buying process. It’s sad to see so many people I went to school with have a paycheck and paycheck and pay that rent to someone else.

I want to start building community intergenerational wealth because that is lacking.

In America, the wealth of African-American families is much lower than that of whites.

Absolutely. We plan to change that here.

What would you consider successful for this branch in five years?

I want to see the South Side, the West Side again, like when I was a child. The grass was green and the children had beautiful parks. The houses were well maintained. The kids had after school activities and things to do. I hope Pathfinder can play a big role in bringing this community back to life.

You have been working in the banking industry for 18 years. What did you bring here from that experience?

I have made many wonderful relationships. I’ve helped people buy their first car, moved people into their first home. I just sit with people and listen to their stories and try to guide them in the right direction. I’ve built so many relationships that when I jump ship, people follow.

So people follow you?

They have already started (laughs).

So banking is about dollars and cents and credit scores, but it’s also about making connections between people.

Absolutely. This is number one. People need to trust you. Apart from your health, your money is necessary for survival. When people walk through that door, they need to know they can trust the people at the bank.

I can focus on things and say, “Time to get a new car!” I say. I am very honest. I am very straight. I think people love me.

So, if you see someone with a rusty car, you say…

I said, “We can help you! Let’s see what we can do.”

There are times when you have to say no, right? How does it feel?

It’s sad, but if you explain, they will understand. They understand it. Most people work for what they want. If we can’t do it right then and there, we’re going to lay it all out and say, “This has to be done.”

So it’s not “no”, it’s “not yet”.

Right.

How did you feel when you received this job offer?

I cried I definitely cried. It was like my life’s work. I know what these people need. I live it, I breathe it. I am with these people every day. It means the world to me to be able to bring people a new sense of freedom, financial freedom.

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Know an interesting and engaging community member whose work and life should be highlighted on SyraQs? If so, please let us know. You can email me gcoin@syracuse.com or include their name and contact information Google form.

We look forward to hearing from you and hope you’ll join SyraQs every Monday. Listen to our previous SyraQs interviews:

SyraQs: Our Q&A with the leader of Juneteenth and the guy who keeps Syracuse’s lights on

SyraQs: The manager of a new downtown bookstore born on Halloween loves scary books

SyraQs: Warren Hilton rose from first-generation college student to OCC president

SyraQs: Kazakh immigrant who won the Spelling Bee is learning her fifth language

SyraQs: Onondaga County’s wastewater chief likes to talk about wastewater



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