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In-house counsel: Peggy Delinois, City First Bank of Washington Title: General counsel and deposit manager Age: 32 The bank: City First Bank is a Washington, D.C.-based commercial bank that opened on Nov. 24, 1998, to spark the comeback of D.C.’s low- and moderate-income communities. As a community development bank — the first of its kind in Washington, D.C. — City First’s mission is to provide credit, financial and information services for individuals and businesses in underserved communities in the form of mortgages, home-improvement loans, housing and commercial rehabilitation loans and a full range of small-business and community-organization loans. Origins: Delinois was directly responsible for launching the bank. As a traditional corporate and banking lawyer at Washington, D.C.’s Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering for six years, she used her expertise on a pro bono basis to establish and advise an ad hoc group led by local lawyer John M. Hamilton, who wanted to start a bank focused on the district. “Right around that time, the Washington Post ran an article about how President Clinton was pushing development in 100 communities,” Delinois says. “John Hamilton’s group needed a law firm to support the project. Michael Helfer, the partner in charge at Wilmer, told me that we could do it pro bono, and he made me the lead associate. I had use of firm’s resources. If I needed more people, I could get them. When I needed partners to advise me, they would. My first task was to organize this unassociated group of individuals into a nonprofit; it was called Community First Inc. I drew up the business plan that created City First in late 1994 and early 1995, wrote the charter application, bought insurance, and did all the organizing work — articles and bylaws.” The nonprofit raised $9.5 million. Delinois got approvals for the bank to open in 1998 from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. She went in-house at City First in 1998. Department: Delinois heads a one-lawyer legal department. She is responsible for the day-to-day management of corporate, regulatory, compliance and transactional matters. “I also do some loan closings, primarily on the non-real estate side,” she says. “On the deposit side, I try [to] raise institutional deposits — find people interested in placing large deposits based on our mission. The business of banking is simple: You attract deposits to make loans.” She also develops and manages new alliances with institutional clients and new investments from socially responsible and mission-driven investors. “One reason I wanted this job is that I wanted to get closer to business,” Delinois says. “At the law firm, we were lawyers’ lawyers, always answering questions for in-house counsel. There was a push toward specialization; though the legal issues were cutting-edge, I often didn’t get a feel for the day-to-day business issues of clients. With City First, I got to do many different things. The notion was you were smart, you can do everything. I really like that it’s a smattering.” Route to the top: Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Delinois is first-generation American. Her parents came from Haiti. The oldest of five, she has a sister and three brothers. She received her undergraduate degree from Brandeis University and her law degree in 1992 from Harvard Law School. Her sister recently graduated from Howard Law School. Delinois was an associate at Wilmer Cutler from 1992 to 1998, where she specialized in advising banks and thrifts in preventing lending discrimination and also advised entities focused on community economic development. “When I look back, I never thought I’d be here,” Delinois says. “I had an interest in community development. Forging that interest early on afforded me the opportunity to do this. I really wanted to use legal tools to strengthen communities. I wanted to use my skills to enhance corporate structures in a way that benefits low- and moderate-income sectors. The skills you need to represent Fortune 500 companies are the same as those you need to represent low-income businesses.” Renovation project: In July, City First committed a line of credit of up to $500,000 to a local nonprofit, The Neighborhood Development Co., to revitalize and renovate three existing houses in the Columbia Heights section of Washington, where the bank is also located. The idea behind the project is to increase home ownership and offer flexible financing to improve housing and commercial strips. “Community-development loans represent an important step in fulfilling City First’s mission to benefit the economic health of District neighborhoods,” Delinois says. “We plan to expand these efforts.” As for her role in the project, Delinois says she facilitated the closing of loans. Although she’s not a real estate lawyer by training, she has learned on the job. In addition to reviewing loan documents and titles, Delinois wore her deposit-manager hat, too, and facilitated the development company’s opening of a checking account. Converting a Woolworths: City First gave a $400,000 building-acquisition and construction loan to finance a new location for a local nonprofit, Action to Rehabilitate Community Housing, which works for affordable housing, quality education and health and social services. The 1999 loan was used to convert an old Woolworths into a state-of-the-art community center. “Today, the ARCH Training Center is bringing new jobs, training and opportunities to the community,” Delinois says, explaining that her role was primarily facilitating the project’s loan closing and the opening of its checking account. Supporting other lenders: Delinois obtained certification for City First from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions’ Fund, which allows City First to provide support to noncertified lending institutions, banks, thrifts and venture capital funds interested in community development. Seeking $1M grant: In August, Delinois spent half of her 10-hour day, five-day-a-week schedule applying for a $1 million grant from the Banks Enterprise Award Program. The grant is based on the amount of service that a bank provides to a distressed community. City First is one of only a handful of banks in the United States that serves the poorest census tracts, so it likely will receive the award, says Delinois. Primary outside counsel: Holland & Knight for advice on dealing with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and compliance issues involving community development block grant funds; D.C.’s MacDonald & Athay on real estate matters; and Wilmer Cutler for an assortment of corporate, banking, tax and employment questions. As for litigation: “Thankfully, we don’t have any.” Hobbies: Delinois is a member of the Kiber Creek Rowing Club. Home life: She’s single. Last book read: Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

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