Chris Rockey has worked for PNC for two decades and leads the PNC Community Development Banking team, which works to improve the quality of life for individuals, families, and businesses in low and moderate-income neighborhoods.
The team accomplishes its mission through affordable housing, community development lending, economic development, financial education, and customized business solutions.
They also assist groups working with governmental agencies and help locate other sources for technical, financial, or investment support.
When Rockey transferred to the Baltimore area, unrest had taken hold of the city in the aftermath of the tragic incident involving city police officers and Freddie Gray.
“That was a very profound moment for all of us. Being relatively new to the market, it hit hard,” said Rockey, PNC’s senior vice president, Territory Executive, National Expension Markets, Community Development Banking. “The day after the unrest, we contacted the Baltimore Development Corporation and provided them with seed capital for a small business recovery grant pool.
“You had to get the businesses opened back up so that people could access their services. So, we initiated a program that would provide capital and one where others could follow up.”
Following the unrest, Rockey says the PNC team spent a year listening to community members and leaders to understand better what was going on.
“What we heard was the [financial] cancer is the lack of access to capital, so we began as a team working with Baltimore to be the landing port for these financial needs,” Rockey said. “We’ve been intentional in trying to find partnerships and organizations that share the same values and vision that we do. That is bringing opportunities to marginalized communities.”
For example, in 2015, PNC partnered with T. Rowe Price to launch KIVA, which is the crowdsource social capital. This program doesn’t underwrite credit scores.
“These are underwritten by people who are supporting your business and business plans,” Rockey said. “The next challenge to address was creditworthiness of borrowers.
“When it comes down to applying for a loan there’s the denial issue, where people can’t get a loan to start a business or to run a business.
“So that led us to that whole concept of how do we create partnerships. Banks are limited and are governed based on regulations. You can’t make risky loans based on certain criteria from underwriting. We have community development financial institution partners and other organizations that we can provide investments and capital, that can in turn make the loans to borrowers who don’t qualify for bank loans.”
Another program PNC launched, “Mind Your Business,” has been a big success. It aligns the PNC with several organizations to provide financial education to creative business owners and entrepreneurs. The businesses are a part of what PNC identifies as the new economy that will produce jobs, goods, and services in the community.
Mind Your Business workshops are designed to help local business owners to navigate cash flow, income, expenses, profit and savings. Additionally, the workshops help businesses apply copyright law and consider insurance plans.
The next Mind Your Business workshop will be held on Saturday, October 5, 2019 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Coppin State University.
“We developed this format and provided access to capital in a very intentional way,” Rockey said.
The workshops quickly spun off into other programs.
PNC and Community Development Banking projects with direct ties to the Mind Your Business program include KIVA Zip Baltimore; Coppin State School of Business/Openworks; Baltimore Business Lending; Small Business Technical Assistance Fund; and PNC Women Business Advocates.
“PNC Women Business Advocates program also shows the bank’s huge commitment for women in business,” Rockey said. “We have a formal certification program for our bankers that they can be certified as women business advocates.
“We have an initiative in a department that focuses on helping women entrepreneurs and women in business to either start or grow their business.
“Through great partnerships and collaboration we see first-hand how the bank has become more than a service, but a trusted community partner.”