A Bronzeville Thrift, Despite Losses, is Still Lending

February 11, 2011  |  

(Medill Reports) — Illinois Service Federal Savings and Loan Association, a South Side mutual owned by its depositors, has stayed true to its mission of serving its customers by providing loans and services hard to find elsewhere, even in the face of losses.  Last year, continuing its practice through the recession, the Bronzeville thrift again added to its loan portfolio, lifting the total outstanding by 8 percent to $59.3 million. Deposits also rose, by 5 percent to $102.8 million, and total assets climbed to $149.2 million from $147.5 million. Despite the steady growth, rising expenses and loan losses forced ISF’s bottom line steadily downward during the recession. But after a loss of $214,000 in 2009, it swung back into the black last year with a modest profit of $77,000. “We’re serving a community that’s really under just an incredible economic stress,” said Norman J. Williams, chief executive officer of ISF. He said the spread between income and costs was shrinking during the recession, but ISF strove to operate more efficiently by reducing overhead, and it kept the loan window open, to neighborhood home buyers in particular. “It is not highly profitable, but it does good,” Williams declared. “It gives them access to banking and a chance to improve their community.” “The culture and mission of the bank always appears to be in the best interest of the community and of the African Americans,” said Mell Monroe, owner of Welcome Inn Manor bed and breakfast in Chicago, who has banked with ISF for two years. “We were in a bit of a jam because I had one glitch on my credit rating,” he said, explaining the trouble he had with his old bank in getting a mortgage loan. He said he then turned to ISF, which is in his neighborhood, and from the time he walked in there to when the deal was closed, it took just three weeks.

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