Putting Money Where it Matters
Director of Community Reinvestment Program, Greenlining (Berkeley, CA)
Preeti Vissa is the Director of Community Reinvestment Program at Greenlining and focuses on building wealth and economic sustainability in communities of color. She works on a holistic set of wealth building issues including homeownership, small business development, supplier diversity, financial services, and job creation. She also leads Greenlining’s efforts to ensure that the country’s largest financial institutions serve the needs of diverse communities.
In this capacity, she meets regularly with CEOs from major Fortune 100 companies. In addition, she works closely with over 40 grassroots leaders to ensure that economic needs and solutions for communities of color are amplified to powerful stakeholders. In this capacity she regularly leads delegations of community leaders in meetings with the nation’s leading financial regulators including Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke, FDIC Chair Bair, and Financial Services Chairman Frank.
This dynamic professional has published reports on issues of home-ownership, small business entrepreneurship, supplier diversity and regulatory reform and has presented and testified in numerous panels and hearings.
"My job is to ensure that communities of color and low income communities are at the table - and not on the menu - at some of the highest-level policy discussions. I am proud to speak not just for my own community, but for all communities of color, pushing for an economic policy that allows everyone to achieve the American Dream, not just a select few. It is incredibly exciting to see the impact of our advocacy when policy makes people’s lives better through strengthened small businesses, more jobs created, or a better chance at affordable and sustainable homeownership for all Americans,” said Vissa.
“Take the foreclosure crisis: We sounded the alarm years before any officials would admit that there was big trouble coming. Our job is to speak for the ordinary families whose voices are rarely heard in the halls of power, so we bring real people and stories from the community face to face with policymakers. We push them to face the real-world consequences of their actions. And sometimes, it works. Just recently, the California Housing Finance Agency got the message and announced it would offer a lifeline to struggling borrowers who owe more than their home is worth: up to $100,000 in principal reduction. Banks are also continually making small adjustments to their policies that result in thousands of people staying in their homes that otherwise might literally be out on the streets. It’s never enough, but I leave work every day knowing that my work makes a real difference for families in desperate straits,” she added.
Although this woman probably influences many others, she also has influential people in her own life who taught her how to stand up for what she believes in, to achieve any goal she sets her mind to, and to put family ahead of everything else. She notes, “Being a young, Indian American woman who must speak up to powerful corporate, legislative and regulatory leaders can be intimidating, but my mother and grandmothers taught me to have confidence in who I am and where I come from and to know that I am always representing them. “
Vissa feels lucky to be Indian American and having access to the best of both worlds. But there is one pet peeve her community practices, which is changing the pronunciation of their often-complex names so it is easier for others to say. Vissa is probably hoping that by keeping the original pronunciation it will help open a door for some cross-cultural learning.
Preeti Vissa might feel lucky to be Indian American, but it is clear the Indian American community probably feels pretty lucky to call her their own too!