On March 5, 2021, the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve System announced that the system would be expanding its definition of minority depository institutions (MDIs) to include women-owned financial institutions. Although women actually make up a substantial portion of the global population, the extension of this definition is an important step toward recognizing that women have often been excluded from the financial industry. This underrepresentation is evident in the relatively small number of women-owned banks in the United States.

According to the World Bank, as of 2019, women accounted for roughly 49.6% of the global population. The figure was even higher in the U.S. that year, with women representing 50.8% of the total population, or more than 328 million people. Yet despite a 58.3% participation rate in the U.S. workforce, women are severely unrepresented across many sectors of the nation’s economy. 

Anyone familiar with other MDI categories are likely accustomed to learning that a particular group of MDIs is vastly outnumbered by the amount of non-MDIs in the U.S. Yet with just 13 banks listed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), women-owned financial institutions are themselves outnumbered by the total number of Black-owned banks, Asian American-owned banks, Native American-owned banks, and Hispanic American-owned banks. That said, women-owned banks represent the second largest OCC-regulated MDI group.

What all of these institutions have in common is that, while open to all, MDIs possess the perspective necessary to best secure the financial well-being of their respective groups, including understanding the special issues faced by these customers.

Key Takeaways

  • Per the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), there are 13 women-owned banks in the U.S. Collectively, these institutions have approximately $2.58 billion in assets.
  • In 2021, the Fed expanded its definition of minority depository institutions (MDIs) to include women-owned depository institutions. However, as of Q4 2020, the Fed hadn’t issued an official list of women-owned banks in the U.S.
  • Texas National Bank of Jacksonville is the largest women-owned bank in the U.S., with $632.10 million in total assets.
  • Two new women’s banks are in the startup phase in 2021.

What Is a Minority Depository Institution?

There are currently 5,001 commercial banks and savings institutions insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in the United States. A financial institution will only be considered an MDI by the the FDIC if it is “...a federal insured depository institution for which (1) 51 percent or more of the voting stock is owned by minority individuals; or (2) a majority of the board of directors is minority and the community that the institution serves is predominantly minority. Ownership must be by U.S. citizens or permanent legal U.S. residents to be counted in determining minority ownership.” As of Q4 2020, the Federal Reserve has yet to issue an official list of women-owned banks in the U.S.

As such, the financial institutions featured in this article represent the 13 women-owned banks that are regulated by the OCC. Additionally, as the OCC doesn’t specify ownership type, it’s impossible to know which of these are women-owned banks and which are banks with a majority female board. As explained in an email correspondence with the OCC’s Public Affairs department, this roster is up-to-date as of January 2021 and “does not include state-regulated institutions, or those regulated by the FDIC or Federal Reserve.” The OCC is responsible for the supervision of 1,145 national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches and agencies of foreign banks.

The FDIC’s quarterly list of MDIs includes the institutions it supervises and those that are regulated by the OCC and the Fed. As such, the OCC’s roster—and, by extension, this article—only covers a portion of the women-owned banks in the U.S. As explained in an email correspondence with the Federal Reserve, women-depository institutions (WDIs) will appear in a list on the Fed’s website as they are discovered. Once this roster becomes publicly available, we will be able to provide a more comprehensive listing in this article.

There is also currently no comprehensive listing of women-owned credit unions in the U.S. A 2018 brief published by the Credit Union National Association did find that 52% of credit union chief executive officers (CEOs) are women. Needless to say, a woman CEO doesn’t make a financial institution “women-owned.”

Early History of Women in Banking

Although banking in the U.S. can be traced back to the Bank of North America in 1781, it would take nearly a century for a woman to play a leading role in this type of financial institution. A highly successful businesswoman, Deborah Powers accomplished many “firsts” when she established the bank D. Powers & Sons in Troy, N,Y., with her two sons in 1877. In addition to being the only woman bank president born in the 18th century, at the age of 87, she was both the first and the oldest woman known to have founded a bank.

That said, Powers wasn’t the earliest woman bank president in the U.S. Just two years prior, Louise M. Weiser succeeded her husband as president of the bank he had founded in 1855, Winnesheik County Bank in Decorah, Iowa, after his passing. Weiser served as president until her son took over in 1892. The third woman who served as a bank president also happens to be the youngest. Leila Comstock began her financial career at the age of 16 as an assistant cashier and bookkeeper with the Comstock Banking Company in Green City, Mo. When a new Comstock Banking branch was opened in 1892, Comstock took over as both president of the original building and cashier of the new establishment.

Particularly noteworthy in the history of women-owned banking is Maggie L. Walker, an African American woman and daughter of a formerly enslaved mother. In 1903, Walker founded and served as president of the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in Richmond, Va., which she ran until her death in 1934. Walker, a civic leader and founder of a newspaper, established a prosperous bank from scratch in the former capital of the Confederacy during the height of the Jim Crow era.

Several other women from the late 19th century to the early 20th century also achieved significant milestones in banking, including Evelyn Tome, the first woman to serve as the president of more than one bank simultaneously (Maryland’s Cecil County Bank and Elkton National Bank, both in 1898); Mary E. Miller, who in 1900 established and served as president of the Lafayette Bank and Trust Company in the town she also founded (Lafayette, Colo.); and German immigrant Anna Martin, founder and president of Commercial Bank of Mason (Texas) in 1901, who was the first woman bank president originally from outside the U.S.

Social Progress and Women-Owned Banks

Women have a complicated history with banking, and history has shaped women’s progress and setbacks. Although a few women made great strides in bank leadership in the 19th century, legal constrictions prevented many women from even being able to manage their own bank accounts. Until the passage of Married Women’s Property Acts in various states (1839–95), women lost all control of their property to their husband upon marriage. And lest you think that all this is ancient history, it wasn’t until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act passed in 1974 that married women could get credit cards separate from their husbands, even if they had their own income and had possessed credit cards before they married.

The ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, in 1920, seemed to open up the world to women’s wider participation. A year later, Bank of Italy, the heritage bank of Bank of America, opened the first depository institution in the U.S. that was both for—as well as directed and staffed exclusively by—women. While not women-owned, the Women’s Banking Department provided women with access to financial accounts that they could manage directly, without the involvement of their husbands, for the first time in U.S. history. Two additional offices were opened from 1921 to 1923; four years later, the Women’s Banking Departments had more than 20,000 account holders.

Outside of affluent communities, significant numbers of women have always held jobs to support themselves and their families. As the 20th century progressed, more women moved into the workforce. During the Great Depression, when millions of men lost jobs, the number of jobs for women actually rose. In some families, as men lost jobs, women stepped in. Not that they were paid much: By 1940, two-thirds of working women were making less than $1,000 per year.

After the U.S. entered World War II in December 1941, record numbers of women who previously had stayed home entered the workforce to help the war effort, taking on jobs not able to be filled by men who had gone to war. Suddenly, even more women were earning paychecks. Many lost those jobs when the war ended and men returned.

The 1950s brought the the Civil Rights Movement, including the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. American society was beginning to undergo legislative and socioeconomic changes that would lead to substantial progress for both minority groups and women.

Starting in the 1960s, business executives and community activists in minority communities recognized that securing economic independence couldn’t be accomplished without more control of commercial banking institutions. This led to a 20-year spike in the number of minority- and women-owned banks. By 1985, the National Bankers Association, founded in 1927 as the National Negro Bankers Association (the name changed in 1948), had 45 members, “including 36 African American-owned banks, five Hispanic American-owned, three women-owned, and one East Indian-owned.”

This period of expansion coincided with second-wave feminism, which was itself influenced and inspired by the Civil Rights Movement; many activist women participated in both movements. Appropriately, the actions of these two campaigns led to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination in employment on the basis of multiple protected characteristics, including sex.

The Future of Women-Owned Banks

Despite the success of Deborah Powers and Maggie L. Walker, women-owned banks were slow to appear and grow. Note that only three of the 45 banks in the National Bankers Association were women-owned, and being women-owned wasn’t necessarily seen as a selling point. Consider First Women’s Bank, a women-owned depository institution established in New York City in 1975, at the height of second-wave feminism. Fourteen years later, the bank's name was changed to First New York Bank for Business.

The reason for this change, as explained by then-chair Martin A. Simon—who was appointed after the bank was sold to a group of investors in 1986—was the need to expand into middle-market commercial lending and a belief that there was no need for a bank that served women exclusively. This rebranding and management change didn’t bring sustained revenue improvement; by 1992, banking regulators permanently closed the bank.

Unlike most traditional minority-owned banks, it’s difficult to determine exactly what constitutes a women-owned bank. As is evident by both the early history of women bank leadership and the list below of contemporary banks, it’s not uncommon for a bank to become woman-owned because a woman inherits a previously established bank from its male founders. More often, other MDIs have Black, Asian American, Native American, or Hispanic American owners from the outset.  Women-owned banks aren’t inherently women-founded institutions.

Further complicating matters is the uncertainty surrounding how to accurately define a women-owned bank. Per the FDIC’s definition, it’s certainly possible for a depository institution to have 51% or more of its voting stock owned by women. But it’s difficult to determine what would constitute a "community that the institution serves [that] is predominantly minority" for banks with a majority of women on the board. Women aren't actually the minority in the U.S., and what exactly would be considered a "predominantly women community"?

But it pays to remember that women are still a minority in leading roles in financial services. In 2019, women made up 54.3% of employees in the financial services industry, but less than 22% of senior leadership roles within financial services firms. Additionally—as discussed in a 2016 report from the Harvard Business Review—women are more likely than men to quit the financial sector or to reduce their aspirations in the face of limited promotional opportunities and extant sexism within the industry. The Fed will have to keep all of these uncertainties and issues in mind during its search for women-depository institutions.

Today’s business environment—with its new focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)—may be a more hospitable environment for a new wave of women’s banks. Two women-owned banks are currently in the startup phase: First Women’s Bank, and Agility Bank. The former, representing Chicago’s first new bank in a decade, is seeking to bridge the gender gap in lending by acting as a platform for small businesses to connect with the women’s economy. The latter is a community bank looking to offer a digital-only banking experience to local communities, particularly minorities and women, in Houston.

Why Women-Owned Banks Are Important

By now, most people are at least aware of the concept of pay inequality on the basis of gender. According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, women on average earned 82 cents for every dollar earned on average by men in 2019. That year, women workers earned $545.7 billion less than their male counterparts, to the tune of $9,613.13 per woman. What’s more, our research has also found that women may experience a larger pay gap than 18 cents based on the intersectionality of their race or gender identity, further compounding socioeconomic inequality. 

Women-owned banks that understand the financial hardships and discrimination that women face are more able to assess creditworthiness of potential borrowers and offer a solution to another kind of financial discrimination that women face: a lending or credit gap. The International Finance Corporation reported an estimated $300 billion financing gap between men- and women-owned small businesses; more than 70% of women-owned small and medium enterprises have inadequate or no access to financial services.

In 2019, the small-business mentoring organization SCORE found that women are founding new businesses much faster than the overall small business growth rate in the U.S. Additionally, women-owned businesses in the U.S. employ almost 9 million workers and produce over $1.6 trillion in total revenue. These numbers would likely be higher if women had the same access to financing as men, allowing them to further grow their businesses.

Additionally, lack of access to credit limits the ability to build generational wealth through acquiring real estate via access to mortgages. It can also mean paying higher rates for car loans and other loans. Ensuring equality in lending, in addition to just being the right thing to do, can have a substantial impact on a business level and a general economic level. The growth of women-owned banks is likely to benefit all banking customers who can use financing that casts a wider net in assessing who is creditworthy for receiving financing and both personal and business support.

Women-Owned Banks in the U.S.

Below is a current list of America’s women-owned banks in alphabetical order. Watch for changes when the Federal Reserve begins to list women-depository institutions (WDIs) on its website.

BancCentral National Association

Originally built in 1901—making it the first and longest-enduring financial institution in Alva, Okla.—Alva National Bank would experience several name changes over the years. After becoming Central State Bank in 1913, the bank was purchased by the Myers family, who remain the current owners, in 1919. By 2012, having acquired the Woodward branches of NationsBank 14 years prior, CNB adopted its current name: BancCentral National Association, or BCNA.

  • Branches: Anthony Office (Anthony, Kan.), Harper Office (Harper, Kan.), Alva Office (Alva, Okla.), Cherokee Office (Cherokee, Okla.), Enid Office (Enid, Okla.), and Woodward Office (Woodward, Okla.)
  • ATMs: Anthony Office (Anthony, Kan.), BCNA Harper Drive-Thru (Harper, Kan.), Alva Office (Alva, Okla.), College & Oklahoma (Alva, Okla.), Lite-n-Nite (Alva, Okla.), Shepard Oil (Alva, Okla.), Cherokee Office (Cherokee, Okla.), BCNA Enid Drive-Thru (Enid, Okla.), Westgate Shopping Center (Enid, Okla.), BCNA Woodward Drive-Thru (Woodward, Okla.), Honk N Holler (Woodward, Okla.), and Westgate Shopping Center (Woodward, Okla.)
  • States: Kansas and Oklahoma
  • Services: Accounts (checking, savings, and CDs), loans (personal, auto, etc.), trusts, safe deposit boxes, and credit cards
  • Assets: $554.28 million
  • Availability: Brick-and-mortar and online 

Beacon Business Bank

Beacon Business Bank was founded in 1984 as Trans Pacific National Bank. Over the years, this community bank has provided a wide range of financial services throughout Northern California. By 2018, the bank had changed its name to reflect its status as a small business bank with a customer-focused management team and staff.

  • Branches: East Bay Branch (Alameda, Calif.), SBA Loan Office (Los Angeles), San Francisco Branch (San Francisco), Peninsula Branch (San Mateo, Calif.), and Chicago Loan Production Office (Chicago)
  • ATMs: N/A
  • States: California and Illinois
  • Services: Personal (checking, savings, etc.) and business (checking, remote deposit capture) banking, as well as loans (commercial, SBA, etc.)
  • Assets: $155.38 million
  • Availability: Brick-and-mortar and online 

Commercial National Bank of Texarkana

Founded in 1964 with the goal of being “The People’s Bank,” Commercial National Bank’s primary mission for the past 50-plus years has been serving the banking and economic needs of its community. The oldest locally owned financial institution in the Texarkana area, ownership of the bank has remained within the Peck family since it first opened its doors.

  • Branches: Fouke Branch (Fouke, Ark.), Arkansas Boulevard (Texarkana, Ark.), Downtown Branch (Texarkana, Ark.), East 9th Street (Texarkana, Ark.), West 7th Street (Texarkana, Ark.), and Summerhill Branch (Texarkana, Texas)
  • ATMs: Fouke Branch (Fouke, Ark.), Arkansas Boulevard (Texarkana, Ark.), Downtown Branch (Texarkana, Ark.), East 9th Street (Texarkana, Ark.), West 7th Street (Texarkana, Ark.), and Summerhill Branch (Texarkana, Texas)
  • States: Arkansas and Texas
  • Services: Personal (checking, savings, etc.) and business (checking, CDs, etc.) banking, mortgage loans (conventional, home equity, etc.), and other services (credit and debit cards, customer training, etc.)
  • Assets: $254.57 million
  • Availability: Brick-and-mortar and online 

First National Bank in Fredonia

First National Bank in Fredonia was originally founded by Joseph P. Hill in 1871. With nearly 150 years of banking experience, this financial institution endeavors to provide its local community with high-quality financial services. 

  • Branches: Main Office (Fredonia, Kan.)
  • ATMs: Main Office (Fredonia, Kan.)
  • States: Kansas
  • Services: Personal (checking, savings, etc.) and business (checking, savings, and CDs) banking, loans (auto, mortgage, etc.), credit cards, and other services (telephone banking, eStatements, etc.) 
  • Assets: $105.46 million
  • Availability: Brick-and-mortar and online 

First National Bank in Tigerton

Originally chartered as a national bank in 1934, First National Bank in Tigerton has since become a prominent community bank in Shawano and surrounding counties. FNB-Tigerton has repeatedly earned the 5-Star Superior rating from Bauer Financial Reports Inc., indicating sound management, financial strength, and superior financial performance over time.

  • Branches: Bowler Office (Bowler, Wis.) and Tigerton Office (Tigerton, Wis.)
  • ATMs: Tigerton Office (Tigerton, Wis.)
  • States: Wisconsin
  • Services: Checking and savings accounts, investments (CDs, HSAs, and IRAs), loans (personal, business, etc.), and other services (safe deposit boxes and stop payment orders)  
  • Assets: $24.53 million
  • Availability: Brick-and-mortar and online 

First National Bank of Gordon

First National Bank of Gordon is a family-owned financial institution that was originally established in early 1889. It is controlled under a single bank holding company.

  • Branches: Main Office (Gordon, Neb.)
  • ATMs: Main Office (Gordon, Neb.)
  • States: Nebraska
  • Services: Consumer (checking, IRAs, etc.) and commercial (checking, savings, etc.) banking, loans (consumer, real estate, etc.), and other services (safe deposit boxes, wire transfers, etc.)   
  • Assets: $240.66 million
  • Availability: Brick-and-mortar and online 

First National Bank of Izard County

Originally established in 1914, First National Bank of Izard County’s primary mission is to serve the banking needs of its local community.

  • Branches: Calico Rock Branch (Calico Rock, Ark.), Horseshoe Bend Branch (Horseshoe Bend, Ark.), Melbourne Branch (Melbourne, Ark.), Mount Pleasant Branch (Mount Pleasant, Ark.), and Mountain View Branch (Mountain View, Ark.)
  • ATMs: N/A
  • States: Arkansas
  • Services: Accounts (checking, senior advantage) and other services (loans, safe deposit boxes, etc.)
  • Assets: $182.24 million
  • Availability: Brick-and-mortar and online 

First National Bank of Manning

First National Bank of Manning is a family-owned community bank that originally opened its doors in 1886 and has remained in the same family for five generations. This bank is the oldest business on Manning’s Main Street. It prides itself on providing the services of a contemporary financial institution while maintaining the values of a community bank.

  • Branches: Main Office (Manning, Iowa)
  • ATMs: Main Office (Manning, Iowa) “and wherever you see the Visa logo”
  • States: Iowa
  • Services: Accounts (checking and saving), CDs, and other services (safe deposit boxes and bill-pay services) 
  • Assets: $77.08 million
  • Availability: Brick-and-mortar and online 

First National Bank of Okeene

First National Bank in Okeene was originally organized in 1916. Nine years later, C.C. Wisdom purchased the then-current president’s stock and was elected as chair of the board and chief executive officer. Over the years, the Wisdom family has continued to lead First National Bank in Okeene; Dr. Peggy Wisdom is the current chair of the board.

  • Branches: Main Office (Okeene, Okla.)
  • ATMs: N/A
  • States: Oklahoma
  • Services: Personal (savings, checking, etc.) and business (checking, IRAs, etc.) banking, as well as loans (commercial, real estate, etc.).  
  • Assets: $79.43 million
  • Availability: Brick-and-mortar and online 

Southeast First National Bank

Southeast First National Bank is an independent bank that has been providing community leadership and financial services since its founding in 1968. As a community bank, its employees are frequently involved in church offices, booster clubs, and numerous other local activities.

  • Branches: Panama City Beach Branch (Panama City Beach, Fla.), Summerville Branch (Summerville, Ga.), and Trion Branch (Trion, Ga.)
  • ATMs: Panama City Beach Branch (Panama City Beach, Fla.) and Hurley Crossing Shopping Center, in addition to any ATMs in the Star Network
  • States: Florida and Georgia
  • Services: Personal (checking, savings, etc.) and commercial (checking and money market) accounts, as well as other services (safe deposit boxes, wire transfers, etc.) 
  • Assets: $50 million
  • Availability: Brick-and-mortar and online 

Texas National Bank of Jacksonville

Texas National Bank of Jacksonville, also known as “The Bank with the Blue Roof,” was originally established in 1985 and has since provided a wide variety of financial services to its local community. 

  • Branches: Bullard Branch (Bullard, Texas), Lindale Branch (Lindale, Texas), Longview Branch (Longview, Texas), Main Branch (Jacksonville, Texas), Marshall Branch (Marshall, Texas), Rusk Branch (Rusk, Texas), Grande Boulevard Branch (Tyler, Texas), and Troup Highway Branch (Tyler, Texas)
  • ATMs: Bullard Branch (Bullard, Texas), Lindale Branch (Lindale, Texas), Longview Branch (Longview, Texas), Main Branch (Jacksonville, Texas), Marshall Branch (Marshall, Texas), Rusk Branch (Rusk, Texas), Grande Boulevard Branch (Tyler, Texas), and Troup Highway Branch (Tyler, Texas)
  • States: Texas
  • Services: Personal (checking, savings, etc.) and commercial (checking, business credit card, etc.) banking, loans (commercial, real estate, etc.), and other services (notary services, cashier’s checks, etc.) 
  • Assets: $632.10 million
  • Availability: Brick-and-mortar and online 

The National Bank of Malvern

In 1883, “32 leading men of the community” came together to start The National Bank of Malvern, with the financial institution first opening its doors a year later. The initiative faced much doubt early on; builders of the original building designed it to function as an apartment house in the event of the bank’s failure. Today, over 135 years later, the bank is led by the Willits family, who are the direct descendants of the institution’s first cashier, Charles C. Highley.

  • Branches: East Whiteland Branch (Frazer, Penn.) and Main Office (Malvern, Penn.)
  • ATMs: East Whiteland Branch (Frazer, Penn.) and Main Office (Malvern, Penn.), in addition to any ATMs in the STAR or PLUS networks
  • States: Pennsylvania
  • Services: Personal (checking, savings, etc.) and business (checking and loans) banking, as well as other services (e-statements, etc.)
  • Assets: $174 million
  • Availability: Brick-and-mortar and online 

The Santa Anna National Bank

The Santa Anna National Bank was originally founded in 1933 with the goal of providing financial services to Coleman and Brown counties in Texas.

  • Branches: Main Office (Santa Anna, Texas)
  • ATMs: N/A
  • States: Texas
  • Services: Accounts (checking, savings, etc.), loans (personal, commercial, etc.), and debit cards 
  • Assets: $53.19 million
  • Availability: Brick-and-mortar and online