Opinion: A beneficial merger for Granite Staters

Capital One credit cards are shown in Mount Prospect, Ill., Tuesday, Feb. 20.

Capital One credit cards are shown in Mount Prospect, Ill., Tuesday, Feb. 20. Nam Y. Huh/ AP


Published: 06-03-2024 3:56 PM

George Bald is former state Commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development.

During my time in public service, first as mayor of Somersworth and going on to lead economic development for Rochester, to the Pease Development Authority and ultimately as state Commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development, I have always placed the highest premium on ensuring opportunity for Granite Staters.

Even though I have left state government, I remain focused on our shared goals of advancing New Hampshire’s economic growth to help working families throughout the state thrive.

As the Federal Reserve considers the merits of a proposed merger between Discover and Capital One, I believe regulators in Washington should embrace and approve this significant opportunity, which will, among other benefits, expand credit access to New Hampshire’s rural and underserved communities.

Access to credit is a cornerstone for families in New Hampshire and all over America to build wealth and achieve the goals of home ownership or investing in their education. However, many financial institutions have historically excluded rural communities from this opportunity, imposing additional barriers to wealth building on their path by rendering them “credit invisible.”

This proposed merger offers hope to these communities, as Capital One and Discover will be able to more effectively build on their shared mission of bringing people into America’s financial system. Both Capital One and Discover are known for opening the door for credit invisible people.

Capital One has demonstrated a strong commitment to the Community Reinvestment Act, which encourages banks to provide services in low- and middle-income (LMI) neighborhoods. Capital One ranks first among larger banks when it comes to serving LMI communities, with one third of their branches being located in these communities. Also, Capital One is the largest issuer of credit cards to first-time cardholders. They also offer a number of innovative products to empower people to build or repair their credit. Similarly, Discover is known to be people’s gateway into building credit and was one of the first banks to offer no-fee credit cards.

By teaming up, Capital One and Discover can expand credit accessibility even further. Capital One’s intention to incorporate Discover’s 305 million cardholders into its customer base will amplify the reach of its credit-building programs, empowering a larger number of individuals to join the financial system and pursue their economic goals.

I am not a shareholder in either company, but I am a customer of both. They provide excellent customer service and I believe the merger will allow them to continue to strive for excellence, and help communities that have been historically underserved.

By approving this merger, regulators can help expand credit access to communities that have been historically cast aside by other institutions. I want to live in an America where all Americans are included in the financial system and can build credit. This merger will bring us one step closer to that vision and help continue to bring underbanked communities into the 21st-century economy.

As we work together to continue to grow our state and maximize opportunities for Granite Staters, I am optimistic that Washington will advance this and support those living, working and building businesses right here in New Hampshire. This is a chance to economically empower people who are sometimes otherwise ignored by the usual big banks — let’s take it.