BMO expands minority small business lending to 22 states with Zero Barriers to Business program
BMO announced the expansion of its Zero Barriers to Business program for Black, Latino, Native, and Women-owned businesses across the bank’s expanded footprint. The program aims to break down barriers for historically underserved and marginalized groups through inclusive banking products, services, and resources as part of BMO EMpower 2.0 – the bank’s more than $40 billion community benefits plan.
BMO’s Zero Barriers to Business now helps business owners in 14 new states – California, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming – in addition to our existing program operations in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin. As part of the expansion, BMO has committed $200 million in lending to support the progress of minority-owned businesses.
“Helping our clients, colleagues and communities make real financial progress is at the core of our Purpose, to Boldly Grow the Good in business and life. The launch of BMO’s Zero Barriers to Business to our expanded footprint brings us one step closer to a more inclusive society – especially for groups facing systemic barriers – by ensuring our clients have access to capital and financial tools and education.”
– Niamh Kristufek
Head of U.S. Business Banking at BMO
According to BMO’s Real Financial Progress Index, more minority business owners report they have started a business this year or plan to compared to non-minorities, with 16 percent of Black respondents starting a business, 9 percent of Latinx, and 7 percent of Asian-Americans. Nearly 20 percent of U.S. small business owners are minority-owned, according to Forbes’ Small Business Statistics of 2023 – but according to Fed Small Business’ 2022 Report on Firms Owned by People of Color, borrowers of color were about half as likely as white-owned applicant firms to receive all of the financing they sought.
BMO’s Zero Barriers to Business program aims to break down barriers for minority business owners through:
- Better access to capital: Business owners receive access to working capital with expanded credit criteria and competitive interest rates. Small businesses can get a revolving line of credit and/or business credit card that will allow them to pay interest on what they borrow. They can also qualify for rate discounts when setting up automatic payments from a BMO Business Checking account and get improved access to funding with specialized credit criteria.
- Access to education: Free access to practical tools such as business plan templates, profit improvement calculators, podcasts, webinars, and coaching to help business owners make real financial progress.
- Access to partnerships: BMO is continually forming new partnerships with organizations that give business owners access to meaningful networks, additional coaching, educational resources, and alternative funding sources.
Since launching the program in late 2020, the bank has helped minority small businesses make real financial progress by:
- Approving $80 million small business loans
- Funding more than 3,400 small businesses
- Providing more than 800 hours of educational webinars and business literacy workshops supporting 5,000 business owners in collaboration with organizations such as Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Chicago Urban League, Sunshine Enterprises, and Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation
- Graduating 45 clients from Zero Barriers to Business to qualify for traditional lending programs under standard lending criteria
- Securing 40 non-profit Community Development Financial Institutions Funds (CDFI) partnerships to support access to capital, education, and networking opportunities for diverse small business owners
The expansion also comes during Hispanic Heritage Month along with a $500,000 commitment by BMO to support the creation of a Latino Business Loan Program with Colorado Enterprise Fund. The fund aims to eliminate barriers and support inclusive economic opportunity for small businesses across Colorado.
“Colorado Enterprise Fund’s mission has always been to provide access to capital to underserved communities including minority-owned small businesses. With the funding from BMO, CEF will focus even more economic and educational resources toward Latino small business entrepreneurs throughout Colorado.”
– Ceyl Prinster
CEO, Colorado Enterprise Fund
To learn more about BMO’s Zero Barriers to Business specialty lending programs, please visit the Specialty Lending site.