Beneficial State Foundation Perspectives

Our thoughts on changing the banking system for good and building the new economy

5 ways banks can support AAPI communities

This Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, as we recognize the significant contributions of AAPI communities, we are also reflecting on how financial institutions can help confront pervasive challenges.

Our Equitable Bank Standards (EBS) provide banks with guidelines on how to create positive social impact and foster dialogue between bankers and their communities in order to better meet their needs. 

Here are five ways banks can help AAPI communities to thrive, along with a few related recommended actions from our Equitable Bank Standards:

  1. Champion Diverse Talent: The banking sector has much to learn from the perspectives that professionals from diverse AAPI communities bring to the table. It’s crucial that we support the career trajectories of AAPI talent within our institutions by encouraging their representation, especially in leadership, where their insights can drive innovation and growth.

Recommended Actions from our Equitable Bank Standards:

    • Develop diversity goals at all levels of responsibility. Annually create and publish racial and ethnic representation goals for hiring, promotions, and turnover for all levels of staff and board.
    • Create a formal human resources program dedicated to DEI education.
  1. Commit to Community Engagement: True inclusion means listening to and working alongside AAPI communities to build services and products that foster generational wealth. This engagement goes beyond mere transactional relationships—it’s about understanding and acting on the unique financial needs identified by the community members themselves.

Recommended Actions from our Equitable Bank Standards:

    • Banks should commit to serving the needs of their communities, and should proactively partner and design with community organizations to accomplish this goal.
    • Offer products and services designed by the community. Engage individuals from systematically excluded groups, in a formal, proactive process to design bank strategy, products, and services that meet their needs.
  1. Advocate and Act: Elevate the discourse around diversity within the AAPI label. Financial institutions should lead in using disaggregated data to reveal and address the distinct needs of specific AAPI groups. While solidarity among AAPI groups is powerful, precise data helps tailor services more effectively, tackling rising wealth inequality which is reportedly increasing faster among Asian Americans than other groups.

Recommended Actions from our Equitable Bank Standards:

    • Support regulations (like Section 1071) requiring demographic and racial data collection.
    • Advocate for laws, public policies, and actions outside of banking that promote social equity. 
  1. Stand Against Discrimination: Combat the rise in anti-Asian discrimination by implementing strict policies against racism and supporting initiatives that promote racial justice. A firm stance with an openness to learning will reflect your commitment to an inclusive, equitable society.

Recommended Actions from our Equitable Bank Standards:

    • Make an official, written corporate commitment to people and the planet. Ensure your mission statement or governing document includes a commitment to social justice.
    • Conduct banking-specific anti-bias training for all employees. Train all staff to know every legally permissible form of proof of identification (e.g. driver’s license, passport, matricular consular, municipal IDs, Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers) to access banking products and services.
  1. Foster Inclusive Networks: Forge stronger connections with AAPI organizations and community leaders. Such partnerships can enhance our understanding of unique financial needs, leading to better-tailored financial products and deeper community integration.

Recommended Actions from our Equitable Bank Standards:

    • Have executive leadership or your community relations department enact policy guidance specifying goals, engagement processes, complaint processes, and results documentation.
    • Continuously survey customers on their financial needs, and how well the bank is serving them.

By engaging deeply this AAPI Heritage Month and always, we not only honor a rich history but also strengthen the movement to create a more inclusive banking industry. Let’s commit to initiatives that recognize the nuanced realities of the diverse groups that make up AAPI communities, fostering a financial environment where everyone has the opportunity to prosper.