Although federal regulators never caught onto my father’s First Bank of Dad, they’re totally paying attention to a Pittsburgh man who’s set up his own community bank right at his ice cream and coffee shop. He even doles out interest in the form of gift cards to his business, which might go over well with his customers, but there are rules against that sort of thing.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the man is just trying to offer residents low-cost banking services after his bad experiences with big banks. He has a handful of depositors and has even made three loans, but his ice cream social might be ruined by state banking regulators before that ever happens.
“I’m just really clear that the retail banks in Pittsburgh are not out in the best interest of small businesses or individuals,” he said. His fliers advertise the bank’s services as “low cost and non-punitive.”
Unfortunately, any place that takes money or makes loans has to be on the up-and-up with regulators.
“We’re not OK with what he is doing. We’re [going to be] telling him to stop,” a Pennsylvania Department of Banking spokesman said, adding that the ice cream shop is now in a gray area. “We don’t have the authority to punish him, but the DA does. If he doesn’t stop, I think he will be hearing from the district attorney.”
The owner claims that he doesn’t have to follow the charter requirements because his bank is actually a gift card program. Customers who deposit at least $100 earn 5% interest in credits that can be used to shop at the store. However, he does admit that it’s actually pretty much a bank, when you get down to brass tacks.
“Quite frankly, it is a bank,” the owner said. “It really is a creative solution to banking in a new economy.”
I’d like sprinkles on my next cash withdrawal, please.
Shadyside ice cream bank wants to handle your cold, hard cash [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]