When you think about banks, many people don’t realize the connections banks like Berkshire have to their local communities. Established 175 years ago in Pittsfield, MA, Berkshire has maintained its presence as a community bank for people of all backgrounds. While communities may have changed over the years, the purpose-driven mission of Berkshire has grown stronger.
“At Berkshire, we want everyone to have access to a bank, including those who have been traditionally underserved and underbanked,” said Paul Kelly, Regional President of Berkshire Bank. “Community banks, like Berkshire, have important roles in addressing disparities in the community and fueling economic activity.”
“Consumers and businesses from underrepresented and under-resourced communities have been hit particularly hard by the COVID 19 health crisis and because many lack a primary banking relationship, they frequently must resort to expensive payday lenders and check cashing services for assistance,” stated Kelly.
That’s where a bank like Berkshire has been able to step in and assist the community. Recently, Berkshire Bank launched a product called My Freedom Checking. This product, according to a press release, has no charges for overdrafts or monthly maintenance fees. In addition, it offers free Mobile Banking with Mobile Deposit and access to Berkshire Bank’s Greenpath Financial Wellness programs along with several other benefits that make banking easier and more accessible. The account recently received national certification from the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund through its BankOn program recognizing the account for its transparency, accessibility and affordability.
While demographics vary across communities, underbanked individuals face many barriers to a traditional banking relationship. Many feel they don’t have enough money to keep an account with a traditional financial institution, while some don’t trust banks. Others find it inconvenient to use a bank because of their location or hours.
“Because of these barriers, many underbanked individuals and small businesses turn to money order, check cashing, and payday loan companies – expensive options that aren’t an ideal substitute for real banking services,” said Kelly.
Berkshire’s MyFreedom checking account is just one of the products offered to residents in the North Central Chamber community. They also have a new socially responsible check cashing service to help customers, non-customers, and the underbanked, called MyCheck. This service offers anyone the ability to cash checks for a fraction of local check-cashing costs at any one of its branches or at a Berkshire Bank MyTeller location, an ATM with person-to-person interaction.
Berkshire Bank’s My Banker is another unique service for greater Worcester residents that can offer personalized banking services without maintaining a high balance at the bank. In addition, local My Bankers like Erin Thomason and Linda Petrarca can provide free financial counseling services to help customers navigate their financial lives. Recently the bank collaborated with the Worcester Public Library to develop and offer a financial literacy program to community residents who may not have access to this type of resource.
“With services like these and our MyBanker staff, we are working to bring more equitable banking services to all communities in the Worcester region, close the wealth gap, and get individuals into mainstream banking,” said Kelly.
Berkshire Bank plans to continue to support the local North Central Chamber community and the Greater Worcester communities through various means, including the above-enhanced banking solutions and financial literacy programs. For more on the services in this story or to learn about Berkshire Bank’s philanthropic programs, visit berkshirebank.com.