A Poem that Guides OneUnited Bank

Woman with laptop

The poetry of Rudyard Kipling is very inspiring. His work can be a good friend when reflecting on the challenges of the day. His poem “If,” reflects the experiences inside OneUnited Bank.

If, by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when
all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

In this tough economy, our community continues to lose jobs, homes and businesses. It is important for our board of directors and our senior management team to “keep our heads.” During challenging times, it’s important to think clearly.

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

At OneUnited Bank, leadership and collaboration go hand in hand. Our team – which has worked together an average of 12 years – believes it’s important to listen when someone has doubts or disagrees with a point of view or course of action. We have found that a team decision is usually a better decision; it is also important to trust our instincts, even in the face of doubt.

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

For some, doubt can lead to lies and even hate. Giving way to negativity is unproductive. We focus on the positive steps we can take to improve the Bank and fulfill our mission. We’re honest about our accomplishments and challenges. We know we can improve.

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with triumph and disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same;

Our dreams and our mission are to be the premier bank for urban communities. The ways in which we fulfill our mission have evolved in tandem with the economy. During the recent economic downturn, we fell short of meeting our projections for home loan volume in our community. And in particular, our lending efforts in Miami have been met with loan losses. However, we see success in our online banking programs. Currently, we are seeing success on our dual focus of fostering financial literacy and financing multifamily home loans that provide affordable housing. We strongly believe that today’s challenges can become tomorrow’s triumphs. This lesson has taught us the importance of pushing our business to evolve.

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breath a word about your loss;

Over 15 years, the OneUnited Bank team built –almost from scratch – a $750 million financial institution with branches in Boston, Miami and Los Angeles. We have been profitable except for one year, 2008, when we experienced a $50 million plus investment loss. Following the loss, we raised nearly $20 million from our existing shareholders prior to applying for and receiving Federal TARP funding. For the past two and a half years we have been rebuilding the Bank – strengthening our board of directors and improving risk management (i.e. the poem’s reference to taking risk has no place in banking!). We have learned from our loss while at the same time continuing to focus on our future.

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

The OneUnited Bank team continues to persevere and remains strong in the face of adversity as it carries out the Bank’s mission. The Bank is profitable, has maintained jobs for our employees, has increased lending and is currently seeking to raise capital to repay TARP and support future programs.

We have worked with many customers to help them transition through these difficult times. We are proud of our efforts to keep foreclosures to a minimum, thereby keeping families in their homes.

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

If all men count with you, but none too much;

At OneUnited Bank, we treat customers with respect, regardless of their account balance. Each and every member of OneUnited Bank’s board of directors and management team feels equally comfortable within the boardroom and in the neighborhoods of Roxbury, Compton, Liberty City and all the other communities we serve. We truly value our customers and appreciate their support.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –

We strive to make every second count, especially given the speed at which the world is changing. Our board of directors appreciates how hard our team works to be the best, while making it look easy.

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

At OneUnited Bank, our customers come first; we continue to design our products and services to meet their needs, and to go the distance. We know that by remaining true to our mission, we will build a financial institution that our community can be proud of – for generations to come.

Teri Williams

Teri Williams is President and serves on the Board of Directors of OneUnited Bank. She is responsible for implementation of the Bank’s strategic initiatives, as well as the day to day operations of the bank. These operational areas include all retail branches, marketing, compliance, lending, information technology, customer support, legal, and human resources.

3 Comments
  • Beatrice Petrocchi
    That poem meant a lot to me when I was a kid. It was wonderful to read it again. Too bad life isn't that simple, but THINGS happen when your guard is down or your morale is down, and living up to ideals becomes too difficult. Thanks for sharing that poem. Beatrice
    April 26, 2011 Reply
  • kevin marshall
    Love it, but it was more than just a poem, lol
    April 26, 2011 Reply
  • Vivian Campbell
    Thanks for the memories. This was one of the poems we were required to memorize in elementary school. The ideals are still meaningful in these times.
    May 10, 2011 Reply

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