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Larry Di Rita, Greater Washington, DC Market President, Bank of America  

5 min read

Supporting Communities Holistically

Bank of America has a long history of financing and supporting affordable housing across the nation. It’s a commitment born out of a desire to support communities and enhance quality of life in neighborhoods large and small. In recent years, Bank of America has taken a more holistic approach to enhancing quality of life, supporting not just affordable housing, but using the bank’s investments as catalysts for change to bolster community relationships, strengthen parks, nonprofits and other services and amenities in communities.  

In 2019, following a career in public service, Lawrence “Larry” Di Rita succeeded Jeff Wood as president of the Greater Washington, DC market. Di Rita is responsible for connecting the banking and investment resources offered through the company’s eight lines of business to companies, families and individuals throughout Greater DC. He also leads the effort in deploying Bank of America’s resources to address local social and economic concerns and build strong communities.

Tax Credit Advisor spoke with Di Rita about the bank’s effort to empower local communities to improve quality of life and address economic, social and racial inequality.

Tax Credit Advisor: What does the comprehensive approach to “community improvement” encompass?

Larry Di Rita: Our approach to community engagement and improvement is embedded in how we run the company. At Bank of America, we focus on what we call Responsible Growth, which has four tenets: 1) We have to grow and win in the market, no excuses; 2) We must grow with a customer focus; 3) We must grow within our risk framework; and 4) We must grow in a sustainable manner. To grow in a sustainable manner means driving operational excellence, making our company a great place to work and sharing our success with communities. By delivering Responsible Growth, we can deliver great returns for our shareholders and help address the most important needs of the communities we serve. In my role as president for Greater Washington, DC, our leadership and our team of 2,400 employees serve our clients through each of our eight lines of business, and we also provide significant philanthropic support to nonprofit partners helping address the most important needs of the community. Our priorities include workforce development and education, affordable housing, support to small business and neighborhood revitalization. We also look at each of these areas through the lens of advancing racial equality and economic opportunity.

TCA: How did the bank leaders come to the conclusion that it should take this broader approach to deploying resources? What was the process? What parts of the bank were involved?

LD: We deliver Responsible Growth through our eight lines of business. We do that by asking the question, of clients, of our partners in the community, of our own team: What would you like the power to do? Our clients want to live their best financial lives. Our teammates want to build long-term careers and provide for their families. Our shareholders want strong financial return for their investment in us. By following that straightforward approach to engaging all of our stakeholders, we bring our whole balance sheet, our whole expense base…all of our capabilities to addressing important priorities.

TCA: Has this resulted in investments or loans to new types of facilities or entities that the bank did not previously fund? New types of partners?

LD: One fruitful example of a new approach that is based on our existing support to small businesses is the work we have done to take equity stakes in two minority depository institutions in Greater Washington, DC. We also have made investments in six venture capital/private equity firms that are minority-owned/operated, which themselves are investing in countless minority-owned small businesses.  

TCA: If the intent is to replicate what has been done in DC in other locations, how does that get started?

LD: Our market leadership model in Greater Washington, DC is replicated in more than 90 markets of every size around the United States. While the needs of Greater Washington, DC are unique to our community, the way our company delivers Responsible Growth and serves all of our stakeholders—clients, employees, stakeholders and the community itself—is consistent in each market. There is a local Bank of America president with a leadership team consisting of local leaders from the lines of businesses and staff functions. They are local in their perspective and orientation to the market but draw on the strengths of a national and global financial services company. 

TCA: What are the specifics of the bank’s DC effort? What’s included? Housing, small business assistance, the Bridge Park, other components?

LD: We recently announced a nearly $43 million investment in Southeast and Southwest DC to help drive all of our core priorities in this market: economic mobility, including support for affordable housing, economic development and health initiatives. Specifically, we invested $39 million in the mixed-use affordable housing development, MDL Flats Apartments and granted $1.25 million to Building Bridges Across the River to build the DC’s first elevated public park, $1 million to the Washington Area Community Investment Fund to help promote small business, and $1 million to Bread for the City to support mental and preventive healthcare.

Another affordable housing example is the recent opening of The Spring Flats development in Petworth earlier this spring. This project provides 87 units of affordable housing for seniors and families.

TCA: How will success be measured? Any formal evaluation process anticipated?

LD: The tenets of Responsible Growth are embedded in the management scorecard for senior leaders of our company.  Our business strategy is to deliver across all four dimensions, and leaders at every level understand those dimensions and we manage to them. 

Pamela Martineau is a freelance writer based in Portland, ME. She writes primarily about housing, local government, technology and education.