Amir Kirkwood’s Monthly Update – June 2023

June 14, 2023 | Other

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Partners and friends,

It’s been another busy month at VCCSE! Read on to learn what we’ve been up to.

Rise and Shine with VCC Social Enterprises

On May 17, VCCSE held its first in-person investor event since 2019! The event was held at the beautiful Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA, and was attended by an energized group of our key partners and investors. The event was designed to share how our organization has thrived — increasing its impact through the pandemic period — and to share more information about our strategic direction.

The convening started with a presentation by Clyde Cornett, our CFO and most tenured employee, that reflected on the financial and operational resilience of our organization. Clyde highlighted our increased partnerships, social impact, and financial stability in recent years and since our inception in 2006. He also provided our guests with a sense of how current market factors, such as inflation and increasing interest rates, are influencing our business decisions. Following Clyde, Tammy Jackson, our Chief Human Capital Officer, provided an update on our DEI journey and how we developed a framework for ensuring the values of our DEI plan are fully embedded in all that we do.

Finally, I provided an overview of our strategic direction. Specifically, I discussed our Place Based Investment Strategy (PBIS) and how it will influence where we work, the products and services we provide, and, for the benefit of our partners, how we will seek support in the future. We were also fortunate to hear our partners share their experiences in working with VCCSE and why we play an important role in their community development ecosystems.

As with any successful event we host at VCCSE, it reflects the hard work and passion of our team. Thanks to our External Affairs department for their leadership! See photos from the day here.

Chief Growth and Strategy Officer

I am so pleased to welcome Angela Zenon to VCCSE as our first Chief Growth and Strategy Officer (CGSO). As CGSO, Angela is the primary bank officer responsible for directing enterprise growth. In partnership with myself and other members of the Executive Team, Angela will support and accelerate key elements of our strategic plan by helping to integrate elements of our work that cut across our different business lines and operating groups.

Angela brings an extensive background in banking, community development finance, and entrepreneurship. Her career has included CDFI leadership roles at National Development Council and Carver Federal Savings Bank. In both roles, Angela provided leadership through critical moments of transition and organizational restructuring.

Angela, welcome to VCCSE!

Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond Convening on Rural Investment

On May 31, I joined Deb Markley of our Local Investment Strategy team for a day of engaging discussions with foundations, CDFIs, and other impact investors to explore collaborative strategies for rural investment. The event was sponsored by the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank and included representatives from their Community Development and Research divisions. We were even joined by Tom Barkin, President of the Richmond FRB. Deb’s presentation provided insights regarding collaborative investment strategies. Andrew Crosson, CEO of our partner organization, Invest Appalachia, also shared how the Center for Community Investment capital absorption framework has been applied to collaborative investment efforts in central Appalachia.

For VCCSE, attending this event validated our renewed focus on place-based investment that seeks partnership-driven approaches to community development. There was a shared perspective that creating new economic development opportunities in rural communities involves community input, philanthropy, financial service providers like CDFIs, anchor institutions, thought partners, and government.

On the Conference Circuit

June is an important month for conferences in our field, and VCCSE staff will offer our thought leadership by participating in multiple panels and events. From June 7 -9, the Credit Builders Alliance hosted its 10th Annual Credit Building Symposium in Washington D.C. The focus of the symposium was peer engagement to explore how investors and their partners work to close the credit gap that contributes to wealth inequality. Our own Rachel Aoanan, Senior Investment Analyst, and Will Groves, Chief Investment Officer, participated in a panel entitled, No Credit Score, No Problem: Building Financial Equity through Alternative Credit Data. It’s so exciting to see our team contributing to a more equitable approach to credit.

On June 15, the Community Development Bankers Association will hold its 20th Annual Peer Forum. The Forum is an important opportunity to focus on the policy issues and practices that define CDFI banking and will include presentations by important policy makers, including Senator Mark Warner. VCCSE will also play an important role. Will Groves will participate in a high-powered panel entitled, Promoting Equity by Reaching New Target Markets. Will and the other participants will share insights related to the use of Special Purpose Credit Programs, which have increased in importance to banks seeking to go beyond CRA and finance strategies built around economic and racial equity. (Fun fact: Our founding CEO, Jane Henderson, was once Chair of the CDBA Board!)

Finally, several VCCSE staff will attend Opportunity Finance Network’s (OFN) Small Business Forum in Chicago the week of June 20. The Small Business Forum brings together over 400 attendees, including representatives from OFN member CDFIs, investors, and government officials, to explore ways to increase access to capital for small businesses, especially those servicing low-income, low-wealth, and Indigenous communities. It will also be the first OFN conference under their newly appointed CEO, Harold Pettigrew. We look forward to hearing Harold’s perspectives on critical policy issues that affect opportunities for small businesses and how OFN will lead the field.


We hope to cross paths with you in our communities this month!

Amir Kirkwood
President & CEO
VCC Social Enterprises