Operation HOPE was born 20 years ago, May 5th, 1992.  And while no one cared much about "our story" back then, many, many more are increasingly interested today.  As our profile increases over the years, and around the world, so understandably will the curiosity. Accordingly, over the next few weeks and months, and during our 2012 anniversary year, I and others will seek to properly layout the true and accurate Operation HOPE story.  And thanks to the Internet and its incredible time-dated memory, this job will be made much easier (smile).  Here are but two of the time dated articles which chronicle the alliance at the time. 

One of the important and proud pivot points in HOPE's history was its historic engagement with Nix Check Cashing and Union Bank (then Union Bank of California) in 2000.  HOPE was born in 1992, immediately following the Rodney King Riots.  8 years later and with credibility and $42 million in local community development work in hand  (more than $1.4 billion today) and thousands served, I was approached with an interesting question by a banker I trusted — "John, should we purchase what seems to be an ethical check cashing company serving underserved Los Angeles?"  My answer was then as it would be now — no.  

That no matter what he and the bank did, and no matter how honorable the bank was, the banker or the deal, that this story would simply not end well. Fortunately, and even stunningly when you think about this turn of events today, the banker actually agreed with my counsel, choosing not to proceed. I had suggested that they not purchase the check casher — thereafter entering that business space, with even an ethical provider such as Nix Check Cashing — and a pure-play capitalist listened.  Stunning, but this says a lot about the potential for collaboration and partnership between corporate and community.

My alternative suggestion to the banker was bold, and by some standards even unreasonable. I suggested that the bank enter into a first-ever partnership with Nix Check Cashing and its parent company, Navicert Financial; rejecting the pure-play check cashing business and to enter the conversion business instead.

Converting check cashing customers into banking customers, cross training and providing incentives to Union Bank and Navicert Financial staff alike. 

The banker and the bank decided to move on our idea, with one addition — they wanted Operation HOPE involved.  Humbled and honored that the banker and the bank was making this bold move for our community, we said yes, but not as a mere grant recipient; as an equity partner in the deal. As a principal in the deal. An equal in the deal structure with both parties.  And then, in a flash, the other parties said yes and we were all in business.  

HOPE's role — serving as credible center, providing financial literacy, credit counseling, mortgage counseling and helping to walk check cashing customers through the sometimes intimidating process of doing business with a bank.

With a three-way hand shake we were a partner in a transformational alliance benefiting our community; one focused on creating new banking customers from traditional check cashing customers.  And on top of everything else, the plan worked.  Today the records show that countless check cashing customers walked into Nix Check Cashing in one door, as a traditional check cashing customers, and soon thereafter they walked out the other door as a new dignity rich traditional banking customer for Union Bank. And when the customers did this, Nix agreed to cash their checks for free.  Everyone won this time around.  

In almost a decade of operation of this alliance, there was not one lodged customer complaint.  The plan worked beautifully for more than 8 years. 

This partnership, like so many others, simply proved one thing — progress in our community is possible, honorably. Doing well and doing good. Doing well, by doing good.


John Hope Bryant is a thought leader, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass) the only African-American bestselling business author in America, and is chairman of the Subcommittee for the Under-Served and Community Empowerment for the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, for President Barack Obama.  Mr. Bryant is the co-founder of the Gallup-HOPE Index, the only national research poll on youth financial dignity and youth economic energy in the U.S. He is also a co-founder of Global Dignity with HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Professor Pekka Himanen of Finland. Global Dignity is affiliated with the Forum of Young Global Leaders and the World Economic Forum. 


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