Benaisha Poole-Watson is making her inner child proud. She’s the first Afro-Latina to own an FDIC Bank, Essence reports.
Growing up, Poole-Watson recalls having no financial guidance. Her mother came to the United States with $20 working rigorously as a nurse in South Central, Los Angeles, per Revolt. But, the challenges she faced within her household did not deter her from striving for greater things.
“I’m no different than anybody else, you know, growing up in an urban community, except I just always had a desire to want more,” Poole-Watson explained to Revolt. “I believe it’s because I saw my mother work so hard to achieve the things that she wanted to achieve. I had a dad. My dad was in the house, they got a divorce. And you go through that, but at the end of the day, you have to want more for yourself.”
Today, she has achieved what she set out to do in her adolescent years. By the age of 19, she had purchased her first home, after saving up money she earned modeling for Gap.
She then served nine years in the military before becoming a corporate executive, per Essence. Ultimately, Poole-Watson landed on her dream career path in real estate, selling 200 homes in her first year of being licensed and over 350 homes by her second.
Following her success, she then partnered with her friend Lori Bailey to launch Bailey Watson Real Estate Group in 2018, which employs over 250 realtors.
During a conference hosted by the real estate group, where Poole-Watson spoke about access to capital, she was approached by a male attendee who proposed an opportunity to open a bank.
“The rest was history. That’s how I ended up starting a bank,” she told Revolt.
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Created in 2021, Poole-Watson opened Prime One Lending Group/Prime One Home Loans, a federally chartered direct lending non-depository bank in Arlington, TX, near Dallas. Prime One Home Loans serves as a direct lender, according to a press release.
The company website states that it works with “seasoned loan officers” who will offer financial solutions to individuals looking to close on their dream homes.
“I don’t accept deposits. I’m here to give the funding,” Poole-Watson told Revolt. “So, I fund nationwide, and I’m just here to empower our community and inspire our people to let them know that there is a safe place that you can do business, where we can loan you money in an equal and equitable manner and get you to your next step into generational wealth.”
The bank is a milestone, especially within Black communities. According to FDIC data, just 23 out of 5,400 insured financial institutions in the United States were Black-owned and operated. This statistic contributes to Black communities having the lowest homeownership rate in the country.
For Poole-Watson, she is working against the grain to create better outcomes. With Prime One Lending Group/Prime One Home Loans, it is possible for a home to be closed in three days, she says. The bank also sets a 580 credit score limit.
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“I didn’t want any restrictions,” she told Essence. “I was able to create all of this on my own. When you’re creating your bank, if you get to that point where you’re able to do this, you have the ability to pick and choose how you want to run your programs. And I think that people choose to go higher on their overlays, which means that they increase the credit scores because a lot of times that decreases their involvement with certain communities. I chose to set a 580 credit score as my limit because I knew this is where minorities sat.”
Currently, Poole-Watson’s bank does not offer checking or savings accounts. However, the bank plans on expanding its services later in 2023.
“In 2023, I will be launching full service banking as an FDIC Insured Bank offering checking, savings, and merchant services,” Poole-Watson told Southern Dallas County Business & Living Magazine. “Also, products such as auto loans, personal loans and business loans and value-add tools such as credit building services that will support bettering the customer financially. When the brick-and-mortar is launched this will make me the 43rd Black-Owned Bank in the United States.”