Just a Kidd: U.S. Bank Financial Advisor comes back home to make a difference
By Wesley Brown -- Cassandra Kidd has come full circle in her banking career. And that path led her back to where she started – southwest Little Rock.
Having been in the banking and financial sector for more than three decades, Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank selected Kidd last year as one of nine bankers to lead a new national initiative to assist minority business owners facing hurdles with capital access, connections and information.
The Bank Access Commitment program, which started as a pilot program following the George Floyd murder and protests in the Twin Cities area, has been expanded to Little Rock and eight other U.S. cities. According to U.S. Bank officials, the initiative is a collaborative approach between the bank’s business banking teams and partners in communities across the country to work alongside minority-owned businesses to address gaps that limit business growth and employment opportunities. It began with hiring Kidd and eight other “bank access advisors,” or BAAs, strategically located across the country.
The responsibilities of BAAs are to serve Black business owners as trusted advisors to expand networking and business development opportunities for Black business owners and provide business and consumer products that strengthen the financial profile of the business and its owner.
The BAAs reside in the following geographic areas: Charlotte, Chicago, Colorado Springs, Denver, Little Rock, Los Angeles, Omaha, Oakland and the Twin Cities.
After spending most of her banking career in the Memphis area, Kidd told Arkansas Black Vitality that she was ecstatic to return to her hometown as one of nine BAAs working with the Black community.
“My role is supporting this initiative and giving (Black businesses) the resources to address those gaps as it relates to access to capital,” said Kidd. “I have been in banking and the financial retail space from everything up from teller to working with small businesses. And the biggest issue is not access to capital. It is access to (financial) education.”
And so, Kidd is doing the legwork in central Arkansas and across the state to educate and build trust with Black business owners. She knows one of the most significant barriers to building wealth for Black small business owners is equal access to financial services, credit and education.
Since she’s landed in Little Rock and transitioned to her BAA role, it seems like Kidd is everywhere, all the time. She is a member of the Urban League of Arkansas and the Southwest Little Rock Business Alliance.
In early March, Kidd was the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony for Remix Idea’s Rock It Lab Business Incubator Program for minority entrepreneurs in central Arkansas. A few weeks later, Kidd hopped on the second Black Ownership Bus Tour that visited five northwest Arkansas cities– Fayetteville, Springdale, Bentonville, Rogers, and Fort Smith–to connect and engage with Black-owned businesses, city leaders, entrepreneurial support organizations and key stakeholders.
The five-day tour concluded on March 31 at the downtown Little Rock Technology Park, where Black business owners discussed ways to break through the barriers to achieve a new level of success. Remix Ideas CEO Benito Lubazibwa, founder of Rock It Lab, the Black Ownership Bus Tour and numerous other ventures that level the playing field for Blackowned businesses calls Kidd a great asset to the central Arkansas business community.
“The relationships and partnerships that I am developing with organizations in the community have afforded me the opportunity to bridge the connection between Black small business entrepreneurs in the community and ‘traditional’ banks,” noted Kidd.
Some of the services she offers include free, one-on-one personalized guidance to deliver a wealth of resources, including community partners, advisors, credit repair, funding sources, tools and services that directly impact growth and sustainability.
“We want to create lasting, sustainable businesses, not one-hit wonders,” she said.
As one of nine cities selected by U.S. Bank to jumpstart the BAA program, Kidd noted that central Arkansas is keen for growth with the nation’s largest banking entering the market during the height of the pandemic. J.P. Morgan Chase, the nation’s largest financial group with nearly $4 trillion assets, announced plans to build four central Arkansas bank branches in September 2021.
“The entrance of Chase shows central Arkansas as a major player for wealth building,” said Kidd. “The Little Rock market is definitely getting the right opportunities to reach these minority business owners.”
Kidd doesn’t take it lightly that she has returned home at the same time that Little Rock voters twice elected the first Black mayor in its history. Like Kidd, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. is a proud native of southwest Little Rock and often boasts of his affinity for the neighborhood.
“When this (BAA) role came up, it was a cliché thing - like ‘purpose meeting passion.’ I intentionally went back to southwest Little Rock because that is the neighborhood I grew up in,” said Kidd. “I wanted to give that type of intentionality to my (career). I tell people banking chose me; I didn’t choose banking.”