My family has always been involved in community and economic development. My life’s work has also taken that path. My father was a city planner. He went to architectural school and was involved in urban renewal.
As a child, I can remember sitting at his drafting table and looking at his large drawings of planned, urban, work-live, mixed-use communities that he was working on to help revitalize the community.
As a family, we would sit around the table with a topic every dinner. Everyone had the chance to express opinions about community issues. There was always a lot of discussion about the condition of man, the civil rights movement and solving some of the problems of our society.
In college, I decided to study finance and marketing and then go to business school. All I knew was that I wanted to be involved in transactions and deals.
I knew that I would go to law school because back when my mother was attending Harvard Law School, I would go to classes with her as a child and sit in the back of the room listening and trying to follow along.
After law school, I soon found myself as an attorney working on the deal side of real estate, all on the transactional side.
One of the most fascinating projects I worked on was for the Los Angeles Housing Authority where I was one of the outside counsels. The organization was looking to do a complex redevelopment of a deteriorating public housing project into a more livable mixed-income community.
The creative use of financing being explored for a piece of the property was intellectually challenging as well as personally fulfilling.
Then I had a turning point.
The fourth day of the  Los Angeles riots, I saw firsthand the frustration built on the economic situations that the communities were facing, such as lack of jobs and lack of improvement. As an African American, I could identify a lot about what the community was feeling.
The unrest was pivotal in refocusing me on the community. I started thinking about what I could do to help. A year later, I went into private equity because I felt like I could make a difference by creating opportunity.
At the private equity firm, we were financing entrepreneurs to help them grow their business, particularly in underserved communities. Our focus was always with a double bottom line.
I remember we financed a Hispanic food company to grow it. We also helped the company add health insurance for the first time and hired really talented Hispanic managers.
For me, those kinds of things mean something, and I know it dramatically affected those families.
My passion became using private equity as a tool for economic development but also very focused on achieving a broader result.
So when the City First Bank opportunity came up, I was interested in continuing the work of economic development.
The bank is dedicated to alleviating poverty and enhancing neighborhoods through the availability of capital and credit.
I’m excited to join the team, grow the bank and expand its impact in the District and surrounding neighborhoods.
— Interview with Vanessa Small
Position: President and chief executive of City First Bank of DC.
Career highlights: Founder and managing partner, Fulcrum Capital Group; attorney, Pircher, Nichols & Meeks.
Education: BS in finance, University of Virginia; JD and MBA, University of California, Berkeley.
Personal: Relocating to the District area with wife Cheryl and son Jordan.