Agility Bank opened its doors on May 23 at 2401 N. Shepherd Drive., Ste. 140, Houston, as the first Minority Depository Institution in the U.S. to be primarily owned and led by women.

Lauren Sparks, founder, president and CEO of Agility, was joined by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, District C Council Member Abbie Kamin and acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu for the grand opening.

Sparks said it has been a journey to get to where the bank is today. She said they filed their application during the coronavirus pandemic and started their capital campaign during the beginning of the big freeze.

“This whole team has persevered,” Sparks said. “Here we are today. I couldn't be prouder. All of those obstacles and challenges have made this so sweet.”

To be considered an MDI, a bank must have 51% minority ownership and board membership, according to a May 18 news release from Agility. A total of 54% of Agility’s ownership is minority, 75% of their board is minority, and 85% of Agility’s shareholders are Houstonians, the release said. In the U.S., there are about 4,400 banks, but only 156 of those are MDI banks that target underserved communities, the release said.

According to Sparks, the bank’s goal from the beginning has been to promote financial parity for women.

“It’s time for women to be at the table, to pull up a chair, be a part of what happens, part of the decisions that are made,” Sparks said.

Turner told Community Impact Newspaper that Houston is known for being a city full of firsts, so to have a women-led MDI in the city speaks volumes.

“It’s no longer about women being on the menu,” Turner said. “Women are in fact at the table, setting the table and setting the direction of financial planning and funding in the city of Houston.”

The bank also wants to support small and mid-size companies in Houston, Sparks said. The city has more than 200,000 small businesses, and 97% of those in the city have less than 500 employees, according to the May 18 release.

Sparks said those who use the bank can have a traditional community relationship or use the bank through only digital media. One of the services for small businesses, A2B Express, pulls documentation and information needed for a loan application, which allows for an accelerated response time, the release said.

“We really have built the bank of the future, and we are really excited about that,” Sparks said.