Dorothy Bridges, right, talked with Rose Tuiyott-Lewis, a local community advocate who worked in a Kenyan bank for 10 years.
Marisa Wojcik, Star Tribune
Former Franklin chief back in town, ready to serve
- Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY
- Star Tribune
- January 28, 2012 - 9:23 PM
Dorothy Bridges, a veteran Twin Cities banker and civic leader, has returned from a three-year stint as CEO of Washington, D.C.-based City First Bank. She ran Minneapolis-based Franklin National Bank for nearly a decade until departing for Washington in 2008. At Franklin, she was known for neighborhood-improving projects and growth.
She also was a senior consultant in the 1990s at a bank regulatory-compliance firm and at Community Reinvestment Fund, a nonprofit financier that securitizes economic development loans for sale to institutions. She spent about 15 years rising from teller to officer at U.S. Bank.
In 2009, the Washington Business Journal reported her as one of 10 People to Watch and the American Banker placed her in its 25 Women to Watch. Bridges also is chairwoman of the board of directors of the Northwest Area Foundation.
QWhat was the opportunity in 2008 at City First Bank in Washington, D.C.?
ACity First Bank started as a community development financial institution in the early 1990s, born of the needs of the [Washington area]. Unlike Franklin, it was a quasi-publicly owned bank, with lots of institutional ownership, including Bank of America and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It had issues. It was under a formal [compliance] agreement with bank regulators. The board felt it needed somebody with the right background and experience in the area of business and community development.
QWhat were you able to accomplish at City First Bank?
AWe grew total assets, raised additional capital ... and improved the bank's reputation. It had its best-three profitable years while I was there. We went from a loss the year before I got there to a $1.7 million pretax profit.
QDid you bump into President Obama?
AI did have the honor of meeting him on more than one occasion. The most memorable time was [in 2009] when he requested a meeting of the CEOs of a number community bankers and several members of his Cabinet, including the Treasury secretary and head of the Small Business Administration. We were able to talk to the president, at the height of the economic crisis, about what we could do to finance and promote small businesses. He wanted to know what barriers we were facing and our concerns about regulatory reform and how the Dodd-Frank Act would help or hinder the work we did.
QWhy did you and your husband return to Minneapolis late last year?
AWe missed our family, especially our grandchildren. We're from large families. And we always had more than our four children at our home whenever we served dinner when they were growing up. In Washington, I was doing work that I love. But the banking world was changing in critical ways and it affected my energy . . . there was a lot of fighting [over policy and rules and regulations], and I thought more and more about my next move.
QYou report to Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota. I believe you are the highest-ranking community-development executive in the history of the Minneapolis Fed. How did this job come about?
AI sat on the board of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank before I left for Washington. When I made my announcement to leave [Washington] in 2011, I was contacted by the Minneapolis Fed. This president, Narayana Kocherlakota, was interested in enhancing the activities of the Minneapolis Fed and communicating in a way that the public has an enhanced understanding of what we're doing. It's my role to listen to key stakeholders, particularly low- and moderate-income communities.
QThe Fed is best known as regulator of bank holding companies and for its economic research. What do you hope to accomplish?
AThe Minneapolis Fed has a national reputation for doing stellar work in economic research and warehousing data. Unfortunately, it doesn't get used enough by people and communities who need it the most. They need to have conversations with policymakers and stakeholders that would allow these citizens access to tools that would help alleviate issues around job creation and housing. Two years from now, I would hope that every time there is a key policy decision made ... that it is a well-informed decision and based somewhat on information and research the Fed has provided. Our mission is to promote economic growth by fostering access to financial products and services [throughout the six-state region]. We bring knowledge to the table. We will serve as a liaison and a convener.
QYou were involved in a lot of interesting commercial-banking deals at Franklin, which often involved inner-city communities and local government. Will we find you in the middle of development deals?
ACertainly as a conversation starter among communities and nonprofit organizations. We'll help get bankers to the table. We won't cajole bankers to make decisions one way or another. But we'll provide the platform and information. I know a lot of these bankers. They are very good citizens. Having these conversations about the needs in their communities is something they look forward to having. Both sides see the Fed as being a credible party that brings a lot to the table.
Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144, firstname.lastname@example.org
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