Commerce lives out its values by helping refugees resettle in the Midwest

In late 2021, when news broke about the U.S.-led evacuation of Afghanistan, people at Commerce Bank took notice. “We thought it was likely that some of the refugees being evacuated would end up in the markets we serve,” says Molly Hyland, senior vice president and director of community relations at Commerce.

“We immediately asked ourselves how we as a company could support those people as they arrived. We’re always focused on our communities, so to us, it felt like the right thing to do.”

In time, the bank created a series of new initiatives focused on four critical areas where Commerce’s capabilities intersected with newly arrived refugees’ needs: employment, financial education, banking services and volunteerism.

As Commerce community development officer Crystal Avery-Morris explains, this type of support aligns with the bank’s values. “We viewed it as critical that we play a role in working with the Afghan refugees who were coming to our markets,” she says. “These refugees were seeking a hand up, not a handout, and we wanted to respond with solutions to fit that need. We recognized there was a lot we could do, with everything from financial education sessions taught by Commerce team members who are fluent in Pashto, to interviewing qualified candidates for employment opportunities at the bank.”

Additionally, Commerce worked to tailor their banking services to the needs of refugees as much as possible — for example, by introducing them to types of accounts that do not require a photo ID to open. The bank also identified opportunities for team members to volunteer their time in ways that would help refugees settle in their new country, such as helping with youth soccer clinics, welcoming events and household item drives.

In St. Louis, the bank has collaborated for many years with the International Institute and the St. Louis Mosaic Project, two organizations that help immigrants who relocate to the region. “One of our goals is to identify the credentials and skills immigrants have that would be of interest to employers,” says Betsy Cohen, St. Louis Mosaic Project’s executive director. Read the full article here.