Netflix $100M lending plan to Black-owned businesses has Atlanta link

Ebbie Parsons is managing partner of Atlanta-based Yardstick Management. (photo contributed)

Ebbie Parsons is managing partner of Atlanta-based Yardstick Management. (photo contributed)

An Atlanta business consultant played matchmaker in Netflix’s decision to distribute more cash to lenders who help Black-owned businesses.

Yardstick Management, founded by Ebbie Parsons in 2012, has been consulting with Netflix for months on how it can add more minorities to its executive ranks. He also introduced the video-streaming giant to Black business leaders.

During one recent consulting session, Netflix executives realized another way they could promote diversity. The company held $5 billion in cash on March 31, mostly at large banks. By spreading out some of that cash to institutions that prioritize lending money to minority business owners, Netflix could lead by example, Parsons said.

“There are so many phenomenal things that can result from having significant resources allocated to Black-owned businesses,” he said.

It comes at a crucial time for Black-owned business owners, many of whom have closed or scaled back operations due to COVID-19, and who historically have had less access to capital.

Netflix said Tuesday it will allocate $100 million to financial institutions “that directly support Black communities in the U.S.” The first step includes creating a $25 million investment fund to serve Black financial institutions, and depositing $10 million in a Mississippi credit union.

Netflix confirmed Parsons’ role in the decision.

Netflix isn't a newbie to promoting diversity, Parsons said. Netflix has produced several documentaries, including the recent "13th," that document civil-rights struggles. It reached a deal in 2018 with Barack and Michelle Obama to produce documentaries. And its CEO, Reed Hastings, in June donated $120 million to the United Negro College Fund, Spelman College and Morehouse College.

As other big corporations follow the lead of Netflix, some local Black-owned banks could see more deposits. Metro Atlanta has four regulated depository institutions with a majority of Black shareholders or board members—Citizens Trust Bank in Atlanta, Credit Union of Atlanta, 1st Choice Credit Union and Big Bethel A.M.E. Church Federal Credit Union.

Atlanta-based Operation Hope has partnered with numerous large banks on lending to minority-owned small businesses. Regions Bank, which has 66 branches in metro Atlanta, on Tuesday promised $12 million to programs that promote racial equity, including $2 million of deposits to minority-owned banks and community development financial institutions.

Parsons has another personal connection to minority business development. His wife, Ayana Parsons, is a general partner of the Fearless Fund, an Atlanta venture capital fund that invests in businesses established by Black women.