Meet Mindy Christensen, Our New Senior Vice President of Community Development Real Estate
Mindy Christensen recently joined Capital Impact as the new Senior VP of Community Development Real Estate. She leads her team to support Capital Impact’s mission to transform how capital and investments flow into communities by facilitating loan transactions for health care centers, charter schools, affordable housing, healthy food projects, and more. Mindy’s passion for finance and community development has spanned almost 20 years, from working with borrowers taking out a $20 loan from a local non-profit lender to borrowers taking out a $1 billion loan from a traditional bank.
In this blog, we take some time to get to know more about Mindy, her history, and what keeps her committed to building communities of opportunity.
Q: Tell me about your background
Mindy: I’m very proud to have grown up in Iowa. My grandfather was a local farmer who also happened to be my babysitter. My earliest memories are hanging out at the local barbershop with all the farmers, discussing how the price of corn would impact them. My other grandfather and Dad were the local bankers so community lending and borrowing has always been part of my life.
I then moved to Chicago after finishing school at the University of Iowa, and lived there for 10 years working at a regional bank and enjoying everything the Great Lakes has to offer.
In 2012, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area specifically because I appreciated the sense of community present in the Bay Area.
I have been in finance in one way or another for almost 20 years!
Q: How did you get into lending?
Mindy: When I graduated from college, I was part of a program called “Hawkinson Institute” that helped kids who were interested in finding jobs in finance all across the country. It gave me access to a network I didn’t have growing up in small town Iowa. That was how I got into a banking program in Chicago.
My mother never had the opportunity to go to college so it was important to me that I get a college education and take on every opportunity that I could. For that reason, I think it is so important to me to differentiate between opportunity and capability. Someone saw capability in me and then gave me the opportunity. It changed the course of my career.
Q: How do you perceive the role of CDFIs within the financial sector?
Mindy: I have worked in very traditional banking as well as with a nonprofit lender, but I have never worked at a CDFI.
What I am very excited about is that both the organization and the industry as a whole have the unique position of offering grants programs, business advice, sizable balance sheets to grow with organizations on the ground, business advising, and infrastructure around innovation and the policy work required to make industry change. It is a really powerful offering and these coordinated and collaborative resources are needed to truly serve borrowers and offer underestimated communities the continuum of capital they deserve.
Q: Why is it important to offer flexible financing options?
Mindy: Capital Impact subscribes to the idea of a whole person: behind every borrower are the people. Flexible financing is where the magic happens because it recognize that people are whole and it is the systems that need fixing: That person is coming to us whole, with everything they need, and it is our role to build a complete model of offerings around those people and their communities – be it capital, advice, introductions, or more. Flexible financing is also known as “integrated capital” or “blended capital.” This sort of mindset or approach requires folks traditionally trained in finance to focus on the client and the community first versus focusing on the product or the organization solely. If done correctly, it ensures we do not repeat the extractive patterns of traditional financing.
Q: How do you think our Community Development Real Estate (CDRE) products enable equitable access to capital and are tools for economic impact amongst underestimated communities?
I am so excited about the work we’ve already done with the Equitable Development Initiative and the Diversity in Development Fund to provide flexible capital and other non-financial tools in Detroit and Washington metropolitan region. Speed to market and time is a tool of economic justice is something we can lean into when looking at our processes.
The CDRE process lab just rolled out a new approval matrix, has a new prescreen tool, and changed a few of our requirements around equity requirements among other things. Our work in CDRE is focused on continuing to hone our flexible offerings to serve the unique needs of our core geographic areas and perhaps other sectors, and it is also focused on doing so in a time frame that is meaningful to our borrowers and their communities.
Q: What do you foresee will be the impact of our new enterprise Momentus Capital (joining with sister organization CDC Small Business Finance) in underestimated communities?
Mindy: I believe the coming together of Capital Impact Partners, CDC Small Business Finance, and Ventures Lending Technologies will help us become a geographic powerhouse across the country, enabling us to transform how capital and investments flow into underestimated communities to provide people access to the capital and opportunities they deserve.
I am thrilled at the prospect of helping entrepreneurs and community-based organizations deliver locally-led solutions that support vibrant local economies with good jobs and high-quality social services.
The continuum of financial, knowledge, and social capital that Momentus Capital will create will support economic mobility, build generational wealth, and build for inclusive and equitable communities.
Q: How do you anticipate your role as SVP of CDRE will contribute to building healthy, inclusive, and equitable communities for borrowers of color?
Mindy: I subscribe to a model of leadership where the first underlying assumption is that this is not about me, that my role exists because of the borrower’s needs (and in turn the community that borrower serves). So when I do my work, when I advocate or take action, I am doing it because I care an incredible amount about the outcome for the borrower and their community.
This is a great opportunity to do what I am most passionate about, to be of service to all of our borrowers and in particular our borrowers who identify as racial or ethnic minorities.
I’ll know we’ve succeeded when our borrowers and the communities we serve continue to talk about the role Momentus Capital has played in the quality of their life or in their communities’ self determination.
Q: One of the things we say is “where others see risk, we see opportunity.” What does that mean for your team’s work?
Mindy: To me, there are two different kinds of risks: real risk and perceived risk. When you have been trained in the traditional world of finance, you tend to view everything as risky. I want to guide my team to unlearn and un-train ourselves to actually be able to view opportunities instead.
It will be a conscious practice to be exercised on a daily basis. Every time we work on behalf of a borrower, we need to ask ourselves questions such as “Why did we make this decision? and “How will it support this borrower and their community to achieve their goals?”
Q: What motivates you to do what you do?
Mindy: I am so excited to work in mission-based lending, to be able to support our community with capital and to see the potential to see projects actually taking shape. It is incredibly rewarding.
My main motivations are supporting my team and in turn supporting our borrowers. I admire our borrowers because they give everything they have to make sure their community is better.
It is very inspiring to see how creative, passionate, talented and smart our communities and borrowers are and to see what happens when you can be a small part of supporting their vision.
Q: What are you most grateful for in your life?
Mindy: I am super grateful for the opportunity to build and strengthen relationships everyday through work, family & friends. I am so grateful for my partner Marshall, our dog Red, and for being able to live in the beautiful Bay Area and have access to music, culture, mountains and beaches.
Q: What was the last thing that made you smile?
Mindy: Picturing my colleague working on a borrower’s approval listening to Beyonce on full volume. Now that is joy….please reach out to Monica Magalhaes if you need a deep work playlist or other inspiration for making numbers joyful.