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Tech companies frequently talk about their desire to change the world. And many do.
Today, I’d like to draw your attention to a far more prosaic industry, banking, that is doing its level best to make a corner of the universe a little better by doing what it does best, lending money.
As part of Fortune’s annual Change the World list, this morning we are publishing a magnificent, majestic, and frankly monumental feature story about JPMorgan Chase’s efforts to rebuild Detroit. It’s a beautifully crafted yarn by Fortune features editor Matt Heimer that looks at how JPMorgan Chase has found a way to bank the seemingly “unbankable” in that crisis-torn city.
After a legacy of acquisitions JPMorgan Chase found itself with a dominant consumer-banking market share in Detroit, a potentially dubious distinction but one that nonetheless gave it a deep connection to the city. By funneling money through non-profit lenders who can take on riskier loans than the big bank itself, JPMorgan Chase has directed funds toward small businesses and homeowners in Detroit in a meaningful way. Importantly, JPMorgan Chase has profits in sight: A revitalized city would redound to a dominant bank’s bottom line.
There’s a tech angle here too. JPMorgan Chase used data scientists to build a database with neighborhood information like consumer spending, incomes, schools and other factors that would guide lenders and local nonprofits to the most promising jumping-off points for development projects. The theory is that by focusing on high-potential clusters the bank’s capital would have the most impact. JPMorgan Chase is so optimistic about its early results that it plans to roll out similar efforts soon in other cities, Heimer reports.
With so much to be frightened, depressed or downright angry about, isn’t it nice to start the day by hearing about so many trying to do so much good?