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How Asian Bank Is Providing Personalized Support To Philadelphia’s Small Business Owners

Community Partners

In a word, Tina Miao-Granatt would describe her life as “blessed.” Her family moved from Taiwan to Philadelphia when she was 12 years old. There, her parents owned and operated a successful Chinese restaurant. As the small business grew and grew, so too did Tina’s list of responsibilities, from dishwasher, to busser, to waitress. Although she spent most of her weekends working in her parent’s restaurant as a teenager, it turned out to be a formative experience for Tina. “I understand the struggle for small business owners,” she said, “especially in minority communities. I know it’s really, really hard for them to succeed.”

Tina’s ability to empathize and connect with small business owners is ultimately what led her to getting a job at Asian Bank, a CDFI and Asian-owned Minority Depository Institution headquartered in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. Asian Bank was founded in 1999 to serve low- to moderate-income, BIPOC, and immigrant communities. Since its inception, Asian Bank has grown to two, soon-to-be three, branch locations and $515 million in total assets while working to increase banking access to those that are un- or underbanked. Additionally, the bank provides lending on small business, real estate, and affordable housing.

Tina Miao-Granatt, Community Outreach Liaison at Asian Bank

A cornerstone to Asian Bank’s lending approach is to be flexible in underwriting small business and real estate loans, which requires not just knowing community members’ stories, but understanding those stories and knowing where and how to provide assistance. That’s where Tina comes in. In 2023, Tina moved from California to Philadelphia without a job. Because she lived close to one of Asian Bank’s branches, she applied for a teller position; however, her interviewers looked at her past small business experience and decided to create a position for her: community outreach liaison.

In her role at Asian Bank, Tina works one-on-one with clients to open accounts, apply for residential mortgages, get a secure safety deposit box, and purchase CDs; however, an equally important part of her job is to provide individual support to small business owners to help them through the lending process, regardless of what language they speak. For example, recently, Tina has primarily been working with bodega owners. Despite not speaking Spanish, Tina has forged a close relationship with the Dominican Grocery Association, and she relies on Google Translate to text with Spanish-speaking small business owners in her community who are looking for business loans but who’re too intimidated to approach large, national banks. Additionally, Tina has made a point to have all of Asian Bank’s loan document requirements to be translated into Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, and other languages that reflect the surrounding community’s linguistic diversity.

All the photos for this interview were captured at a financial literacy seminar hosted by Asian Bank for the Dominican Grocery Association

When Tina first connects with a small business owner who wants to apply for a loan at Asian Bank, she has to get a sense of their financial well-being. That includes going through their tax returns and, oftentimes, discussing their low credit scores. According to Tina, many small business owners in Asian Bank’s footprint are exactly like her parents; that is, they primarily use cash and do not have credit cards, open lines of credit, or debt. Therefore, many individuals that Tina works with have low credit scores that hinder their ability to be approved for loans, especially from traditional banks, which often require a credit score of at least 700. However, by investing time to get to know small business owners in her community, Tina can get a more complete picture of someone’s financial and personal histories. That allows her to get the documentation and narrative she needs to work with Asian Bank’s loan officers and underwriters to in turn get those loans approved.

Even after a loan closes, Tina continues to touch base with Asian Bank’s loan recipients to see how they’re doing. “I let them know they can text me anytime they want,” she said, “and it doesn’t have anything to do with their loan. I help them answer their questions about reporting taxes, credit card rates, building credit. That’s really important, especially with minority communities that don’t have anybody to turn to when it comes to their finances.”

Individualized Support for Community Impact

In addition to coaching small business owners through Asian Bank’s loan application process, Tina similarly assists entrepreneurs in her community in applying for local grants. For example, there’s a grant program through the Philadelphia Business Lending Network that’s available to local small business owners with five or fewer employees and less than $250,000 in revenue. Selected recipients qualify for either up to 50% of their loan amounts or $35,000, whichever is less. What Tina will do is help small business owners get approved for a loan through Asian Bank, and then she’ll work with them to apply for the citywide grant. For a small business owner looking to purchase new equipment and expand their business, the loan-grant combination can be transformative.

Tina shared one story about a local small business owner named Kim, a single mother, who wanted to expand her beauty salon, Four Season Nail and Spa LLC. Tina helped Kim to get a $70,000 loan through Asian Bank and then $35,000 through the Philadelphia Business Lending Network grant program. The key to making that happen, Tina said, was working with Kim to itemize exactly how the money would be spent. In other words, Tina and Kim spent hours researching how much it would cost to purchase everything from styling chairs and massage tables to nail polish and face towels. “We want to help the people that really appreciate and need this grant,” Tina said. “That means really getting to know our clients and really understanding where they’re going with their vision so that we can be a part of it.”

Unsurprisingly, an important aspect of Tina’s job at Asian Bank also happens to be one of her passions: financial literacy. According to Tina, she wants to help people “break the cycle” of low credit scores and all-cash retirement savings. To do that, this year, Tina will begin hosting a free financial literacy seminar series in different communities around Philadelphia. Individual seminar topics will include tax reporting, successful small business ownership, and credit building. Additionally, Tina and Asian Bank are partnering with the Small Business Development Center to also present the seminars in Spanish.

Very much like her years spent working weekends at her family’s restaurant in Philadelphia, today, Tina represents Asian Bank at various events, workshops, and community gatherings outside of traditional business hours. Alongside her colleagues at Asian Bank, she also serves as a pitch coach for Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses and she volunteers with Black Squirrel Collective, a Philly-based organization committed to investing in Black-owned suppliers and creating sustainable neighborhood investment. In other words, as Asian Bank’s community outreach liaison, Tina is busy. “I really like what I do,” she said. “I like being in this position to connect people to the right products we offer, and I enjoy how I can help out my community.”

Learn More:

  • Asian Bank, a CDFI and Asian-owned Minority Depository Institution headquartered in Philadelphia’s Chinatown.
  • CNote is a women-led investment platform that empowers individuals and institutions to invest locally to further economic equality, racial justice, gender equity, and address climate change.

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