Walden Mutual Bank opens on Main Street

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Published: 08/10/2022 19:12:30

Modified: 08/10/2022 19:12:19

The nation’s first new mutual bank in half a century has received final approval and will soon open its Concord office, with full service to the general public coming later this fall.

Walden Mutual Bank, which markets itself as a sustainable digital bank focused on agriculture and food, announced this week that it has received full approval from the FDIC and the New Hampshire State Banking Department, a process that has took longer than expected.

“It exceeded our expectations for how long it would take from start to finish,” said founder Charley Cummings, who noted that the novelty of dealing with a new mutual bank was slowing down regulators. “From a business perspective, the regulatory delays have actually helped us. We could continue to develop the loan pipeline and build the market for the bank. »

The bank is recruiting what it calls “founding partners” as the first 500 depositors, offering certain benefits including $100 to spend at local farms or farm stands, as well as an invitation to use and test the system. app in beta. In a few weeks, it will open its doors to all depositors.

The office at 66 Main Street will perform many functions of a traditional bank branch, but not all. Notably, there will be no cash changing hands. There will be no ATMs, at least not initially.

“We are above all a digital bank with a mobile application. … We thought it was important to have a physical retail presence in the age of short-lived e-commerce brands,” Cummings said. “There will be a receptionist. You will be able to get a cashier’s check, make a deposit, open an account, but you can also do all of these things on the mobile app.

Mutual banks are similar to credit unions in that they are member-owned rather than investor-owned, with the biggest difference being that banks can offer FDIC-insured accounts. Getting that FDIC insurance was the last step before opening.

Cummings is best known for founding Walden Local in Massachusetts in 2013 to deliver beef and other local farm products to homes, a venture that made him realize that loans and financial assistance from banks weren’t going to help. small farms. This led to the creation of Walden Bank, which will focus on lending to the “local food ecosystem” in New York and New England.

Cummings said the founders decided to create a mutual bank because member control of the agricultural industry makes things like adjusting loan payments easier to fit harvesting patterns.

The bank said it exceeded its initial funding goal of $20 million, raising $24 million from “more than 230 community investors”, helping it meet the capital needs of new banks.

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