By Kenneth Miller, Publisher
A little more than a month ago, Nicole Williams made a leap of faith to accept the position as Executive Director at the Los Angeles office for LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation).
The Chicago native with an extensive background in finance, government and community-focused nonprofits is one of 38 individuals to lead LISC regional offices nationally.
She spearheads the LISC LA office, which has invested nearly $1.6 billion in affordable housing, small businesses, economic development, health, education, community safety and jobs throughout Los Angeles over the last 36 years—all designed to close race, class and opportunity gaps that keep people from reaching their full potential.
“I joined on February 27, but I knew LISC previously because I spent about decade at JP Morgan where I had many roles but my last role was in a group called Intermediaries Lending where I was lending to CDFI’s (community development financial institutions) and their job was to lend responsibly to their end borrowers,” Williams explained.
LISC National was Williams client during that assignment and it was an outlier in her portfolio but it turned out to be a great thing because of the wonderful work they achieved together which included building the $100 million Entrepreneurs of Color Loan Fund and also produced $20 to $30 million general credit to LISC LA which they could offer in their lending activity.
“I did a ton of work with LISC before I actually got into this role,” she added. A role that she never expected to be in.
Williams eventually left JP Morgan for Bank of California where she served as senior vice president and head of nonprofit banking, responsible for all of their non-profit banking and built a team from the ground up before she actually got a call about the position at LISC.
“I thought. No no, no! Way too soon let me find someone else for you. So, I went calling around in my network and thought this was a great role so who do we know that we could suggest to this recruiter,” she added.
That exercise lasted for about a month before someone encouraged Williams to apply for the position and so she did and was hired.
She accepted what she feels is a unique opportunity for her to follow her goals to do well by doing good.
“My goal is to really take everything that I gathered in my career and apply it to having impact in the Los Angeles,” Williams stated.
It turns out to be a homecoming of sorts because Williams went to work for former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as senior director of economic development.
“He was an amazing mayor, amazing administration and we did a ton of work in LA when the city was really in a bad space this in 2010, trying to pull the city out of a down turn, people were being furloughed and it was a tough time but a time for creativity because we were doing all of these deals to bring new jobs and more business to the city so I learned a lot about negotiating and about tax incentives and about how the city works and I was able to build a really solid network earlier in my career.”
Williams hails from a family that is well versed in the political sphere. He mother has been employed by an Alderman which is a legislative branch of the government of the City of Chicago.
Thus, the perfect stream of civic work, political work and banking experience are all of the ingredients that she feels is the right time to put it all together for the benefit of LISC LA.
During her tenure, Williams also helped lead the development and closing of the, an impact investment fund launched in collaboration with LISC to help CDFIs accelerate the flow of capital to minority-led businesses. Earlier, she served in the Government Banking group, providing treasury and credit solutions to municipal clients in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area.
In addition to her professional work, Williams has long volunteered her time in a number of capacities, including as the board treasurer for the New Village Academy for Girls and as an executive council board member for the Northern California chapter of Women in Public Finance, as well as other taskforces and committees.
Williams has an MBA from the Graziadio Business School at Pepperdine University and a Bachelor of Arts in economics from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She is an alumna of the Los Angeles African-American Women in Public Policy Leadership Institute.