Back in 1982, New York National Bank was founded in the Bronx. But regulators say it’s been 25 long years since another de novo has dared the same feat in this New York City borough of 1.3 million residents. But CheckSpring Community Bank is willing to take that risk, even though its headquarters is smack dab in the middle of a borough the U.S. Census Bureau says has a median household income of $30,000. That’s because the bank's founders see opportunity: The borough includes 119,000 underbanked households—or a whopping 26 percent of the adult population, according to the federal agency, Office of Financial Empowerment.

When Charles Wilcox moved to the Bronx from Upper Manhattan in 2000, it was easy to see how underbanked the area was: There were few branches and lots of check-cashing offices. After leaving Citibank in Manhattan in 2001, where he was vp of strategic business development, he teamed up with Kelly Dillon, another Citi alumnus who was a project consultant for Morgan Stanley, and Charles’s cousin, Mac Wilcox. The trio, who founded CheckSpring Community Corp. in 2001, saw a promising challenge: banking the unbanked.

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