RALEIGH — Back in July, investor William “Bill” Spruill threw down the gauntlet.

Fresh off a $3.5 million raise, the co-founder and CEO of Global Data Consortium, a global identity verification platform, decided to move his earnings to M&F Bank (the second oldest minority bank in the country) — and challenged others to do the same.

Fast-forward to today, he says it’s paying off in a recent article he wrote on Medium. Fellow CEOs at Adzerk, Pendo and K4Connect all stepped up, he said. To date, he estimates that effort has netted roughly $6–9 million in activity for the bank.

“I’ve also had co-workers and friends who made efforts to move their personal banking there as well. Unfortunately, many more people in the community ignored the challenge to play a role in the change that is needed. I’m not going to guilt you but I see you. ‘nough said there.'”

Founded in 1907 as Mechanics and Farmers Bank, M&F Bank is the second-oldest minority-owned bank in the U.S. and has long been a symbol of the Durham’s African-American community. It’s also the only Black-owned bank based in North Carolina, with branches in Durham, Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro and Winston-Salem.

“We wanted to make a direct impact to the community,” Spruill explained in WRAL TechWire in July. “Knowing that our funds can help the bank underwrite more loans to businesses in the local community was something that resonated and made sense for us.”

“Our funds will remain as accessible there as they would in any other location,” he added. “I hope it sends the message to my peers in the tech community that while talking is good, actions real action is much better.”

Bill Spruill and Charles Gaddy

The bank, along with NC Mutual, made up what was known as Durham’s Black Wall Street. It included a group of black businesses in downtown that became an economic engine for the city’s African-American community during the Jim Crow era of racial discrimination.

But in recent years, it has struggled. Spiraling socioeconomics and the attraction of the more generic big bank options is hurting its bottom line.

In the wake of global racial protests and the Black Lives Movement,  Spruill has a sobering view on the ground.

“Over the past two months I’ve encountered multiple business leaders in the local community that see the social justice movement as the actions of radicals and fringe elements,” he wrote. “While this was disappointing (especially dealing with finding another dentist to go to in downtown), what was encouraging was the number of people who came out and rejected that thinking and did so not just with their words but also with their actions. Disillusionment with the mindset of some but enthused by the mindset of others.

Recently, he said he noticed the formation of special councils and corporate roles to address the needs for diversity and inclusion. While these are well meaning and positive actions, he said , the better steps would be to include diverse hires and board members within the normal fabric of corporate life.

“While being on a board of other minority entrepreneurs would be a good experience for me, being sought after by regular boards and decision making bodies would be better,” he said. “And let’s be clear, being sought after because we have something to contribute other than our skin tone and money is what we should be striving for here. Separate does not make equal no matter how good the intentions.”

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