Customers Bancorp (CUBI) in Wyomissing, Pa., has opened a loan production office in north Philadelphia with the goal of providing affordable loans to lower-income minority communities.

Customers said Thursday that it plans to offer $300 million in mortgage and small-business loans to underserved populations over the next three years. The office will open within the next two weeks, the bank said.

"We believe that certain lower-income African-American and Hispanic areas in Philadelphia are extremely underserved," Jay Sidhu, Customers' chairman and chief executive, told American Banker. "Our company is very much oriented toward becoming a strong community bank in all our markets."

Residential mortgages are a recent addition at Customers. Before the third quarter of 2012, Sidhu says, Customers was primarily a business bank and multifamily lender. "To really serve the underserved, you also have to be a mortgage lender," Sidhu said. "And as well as being profitable, in this kind of regulatory environment it's a prudent thing to do for a growth-oriented bank."

The affordable lending programs are part of Customers' broader community outreach efforts. It has already provided low- and moderate-income students in the Philadelphia area with $25,000 in scholarships, the company said. It is also seeking a $500,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh to support the Walnut Park Plaza project in Philadelphia.

Customers is the holding company for Pennsylvania's 12th-largest bank, with assets of $3.5 billion.

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