June 06, 2017
by Yanki Tshering
The New York State CDFI Coalition's annual conference is something we look forward to each year and this year's conference, which was held May 8-9 in Albany, did not disappoint. Over 70 attendees, including representatives from NYSCDFI Coalition member organizations, funders, experts in the field and representatives from local government offices attended for one of the best conferences to date.
Board Member Melanie Stern, CRA Officer at Spring Bank, introduced Keynote Speakers Ann Sullivan, President of Madison Services Group and Senior Vice President of Government Relations at AEO, and Donna Gambrell, Interim CEO of Appalachian Community Capital and Former Director of the CDFI Fund, both of whom spoke about important policies at the federal level that could affect the work done by CDFIs.
While acknowledging the excellent work done by CDFIS, Donna Gambrell noted that "CDFIs are powerful and impactful but need to tell their story." Ann Sullivan, who has been voted one of Washington's "perfect bipartisan lobbyists" by the Sunlight Foundation, concurred, suggesting that CDFIs need to "arm themselves with the best impact numbers when speaking to legislators and know where to put their efforts when looking at appropriations."
Jeanique Riche-Druses, Vice President of Global Philanthropy at JP Morgan Chase, moderated the next session, which focused on the importance of collaboration among CDFIs. Steven Cohen, President of Excelsior Fund; James H. Bason, CEO of Tru Fund; and Donna Gambrell provided examples of collaboration that their organizations had successfully managed.
Kelli Arnold of Key Bank moderated a session focusing on innovation with Patrick Davis of Development Community Reinvestment Fund; Marnie LaVigne, CEO of Launch NY; and Eddie Wong, Deputy Managing Director of AAFE Community Development Fund, who provided examples of financial products that they developed to enable clients to access credit for housing or small business.
Dan Delehanty, CRA Officer at BNB Bank, moderated a session on diversifying funding, particularly important given that funding at the federal level is being threatened. Attendees gave their undivided attention to panelists çof the Community Foundation of the Hudson Valley; Sarah Gallagher of Capitalize Albany; and Li Sessler of ImpactUS.
BCNA's Director of Lending, Leonid Ostrovsky, Portfolio Manager Jessica Martin, and I enjoyed the coffee breaks, as well, which gave NYSCDFI Coalition members a chance to network and discuss opportunities for collaboration as well as meet one-on-one with funders, including Empire State Development, JP Morgan Chase, M&T, and BNB Banks.
The last session focused on a discussion with New York State leaders in the field of community development and how New York State CDFIs can work with them to create healthy and vibrant communities. The panelists, Linda Manley, General Counsel for New York State Homes and Community Renewal; Maria Vullo, who is the Superintendent of New York State Department of Financial Services; and Howard Zemsky, President and CEO of Empire State Development and Commissioner of the New York State Department of Economic Development, spoke about initiatives and support for access to credit and credit-building.
It was a great note to end on, as they confirmed their commitment to support and work closely with CDFIs to fulfill our common mission: creating healthy and financially vibrant communities in New York State.