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Agent of Impact: Beth Bafford, Calvert Impact Capital

ImpactAlpha, Sept. 4Months before the COVID crisis, Bafford told an interviewer that what she most liked about structuring deals and syndicating loans: “It’s both thought provoking at a global level, or a macro level, and very tangible in terms of getting things done and seeing money moving into communities that otherwise wouldn’t have access.”

In the shutdown, she has worked both levels, helping design “community recovery vehicles” that already are capitalizing small business loans in New York and California and are under development by a coalition of 13 southeastern states. The macro idea: a $20 billion small business recovery vehicle backed by the Federal Reserve to buy loans and thereby replenish the balance sheets of community development financial institutions, or CDFIs, nationwide (see, “New York’s $100 million loan fund for small businesses is a model for a national fund).

“From the beginning, the goal was to create this kind of infrastructure for CDFIs so they can more proactively lend in this moment,” she says.

Bafford has been structuring deals and syndicating loans for more than six years at Calvert, after working on the Affordable Care Act in the Obama administration and a stint at McKinsey & Co. At Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, she says, Cathy Clark helped set her on the path to impact investing (Clark returns the respect, tweeting, “More and more of our students say they are on the @bethbaff career plan”).

Bafford kicked off ImpactAlpha’s “Walking the Talk” series, breaking the taboo about talking about personal finances. “If you don’t think or talk about your investments, it is not likely that you’re doing anything to change them,” she writes. “You need to know what you own to own what you own.” In her own active Twitter feed (here’s a concise thread about the New York model), Bafford champions working mothers along with CDFIs. Her lived shutdown experience: infant triplets and their (slightly) older sibling.

Bafford’s superpower is laser focus. “If those businesses do not have access to credit, they will not be able to retool, they will not be able to be able to reopen and they will not be able to recover,” she said on ImpactAlpha’s Agents of Impact Call. “How do you think much differently about scale? Because we know the demand is there. The need is there. The pipes are there. But we have to provide the tools to leverage those pipes.”

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