Woodforest National Bank® (Woodforest) recently won the 2020 BAI Global Innovation Award in the Societal & Community Impact Innovation category for its Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund, which invests in high-impact commercial real estate projects in Opportunity Zones with the goal of benefitting economically distressed communities across the bank's 17-state footprint.
Pierce Atwood partner Kris Eimicke represented CEI-Boulos Capital Management and Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund, providing advice and counsel on the formation and capital raise for the fund, and on the fund’s ability to make real estate investments in opportunity zones, largely in the southeast United States.
The Opportunity Zone program is a community investment tool established by Congress to encourage long-term investments in low income urban and rural communities nationwide. In addition to this recent BAI award, the Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund was also recognized by Forbes as part of the Forbes OZ 20: Top Opportunity Zone Catalysts.
BAI's prestigious awards program recognizes financial services organizations that go beyond the conventional to bring creative ideas to life, especially during a time of unprecedented change. Award winners, like Woodforest, represent the most distinctive, impactful solutions in the global financial services industry, and the bank's fund entry was selected from hundreds of nominations submitted.
"Woodforest Bank has had a longstanding commitment to innovation and community investment, and the bank's efforts and results this year are worthy of recognition including as winner in this category," said Debbie Bianucci, President and CEO, BAI. "The judging panel was very impressed with the impact they are having, especially in communities that could benefit most by this kind of investment, but don't often receive it. There is a passion for collaboration and a pride in truly making communities stronger, which we felt deserved this high recognition."
"It's an honor to receive this global award and for Woodforest to be recognized for this innovation. With the Opportunity Zone incentive, we discovered a way to help create 1,800 good jobs and revitalize neighborhoods spanning the 17 states where we do business. I truly appreciate our CRA Team's innovative leadership as a part of the Woodforest family. As servant leaders, we wake up every day committed to supporting our customers and communities including the underserved," said Jay Dreibelbis, President and CEO, Woodforest National Bank.
CEI-Boulos Capital Management, the fund's manager, is a real estate investment fund management company focused on delivering both competitive financial returns and social impact. It is a joint venture of Coastal Enterprises, Inc., a nationally renowned Community Development Financial Institution, and The Boulos Company, an integrated commercial real estate firm.
"We're thrilled to be working with Woodforest National Bank on this innovative fund investing in high-impact real estate projects across the bank's service territory," said Sam Spencer, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of CEI-Boulos Capital Management. "Thank you to BAI and the Innovation Circle judges for this recognition and for highlighting how the Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund is producing positive outcomes for underinvested communities."
Some of the innovative aspects of the Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund are its Social Impact Advisory Board that provides input on social and environmental impacts of proposed investments using metrics that align with both the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), and the "OZ Reporting Framework" developed by the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance, the Beeck Center at Georgetown University, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The fund ensures all investments foster community engagement and promote social equity.
Since its inception in 2011, the BAI Global Innovation Awards recognizes industry leaders from all regions of the world. It showcases what these innovators are doing to deliver new value to customers and employees, as well as to improve efficiencies and profitability for their organizations. Click here to learn more about the BAI Global Innovation Awards and all of the winners.
About Woodforest National Bank
Woodforest National Bank has successfully stood among the strongest community banks in the nation, proudly offering outstanding customer service since 1980. Woodforest currently operates over 750 branches in 17 states across the United States and is an Outstanding CRA-rated institution.
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