Institution’s CFO aims for the double bottom line
Clyde Cornett considers himself a natural problem solver. That characteristic has served him well since he became chief financial officer for Virginia Community Capital Inc./Community Capital Bank of Virginia in 2008. A nonprofit community development financial institution (CDFI) that owns a for-profit bank, VCC helps small businesses and communities by promoting housing development and revitalization efforts. The organization has offices in Richmond, Christiansburg and Springfield.
Coming from a background in public accounting, Cornett didn’t have a great deal of experience with nonprofit organizations or community development, but “being a problem solver has been a huge benefit for me,” he says.
As CFO, Cornett oversees the financial dealings of the parent organization and the bank. “The basic concept is similar,” he says of the two entities. “What was challenging for me was the nonprofit side, understanding industry-specific rules.”
VCC is one of only 10 or fewer organizations in the country with this type of structure. “Out of those, four or five are Indian tribe-related,” he says. “There was no guidance for us on how to marry up two organizations and report to investors or regulators.”
Since Cornett came aboard, VCC’s total assets have grown from approximately $23 million to more than $105 million. “To know that we have grown this organization so much in a short amount of time feels really good,” he says.
A native of Dante, a small town in Southwest Virginia, Cornett began working in community banking after graduating from the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. When he joined VCC, he began networking with people working in nonprofits and community development financial institutions. “They would share information,” he says. “I had a lot of help, and that’s one thing I like about this industry. People don’t see themselves as competitors as much as potential partners.”
Cornett takes a logical and methodical approach to work, says VCC’s CEO Jane Henderson. “He’s very supportive of new ideas and innovation, but he doesn’t let the organization get so out on the ledge that we get into trouble.”
During Cornett’s tenure, VCC has had six consecutive years of profitability and fund balance growth. It has financed over 4,600 units of affordable housing, financed six community health-care centers and created or saved more than 1,950 jobs. “Clyde clearly knows how to lead a team to a double bottom line, where both monetary and mission results are created and valued,” Henderson says.
Outside of work, Cornett is one of the founding directors of Appalachian Community Capital, the first of its kind in the community development financial institution world. “The goal is to raise national capital that individual CDFIs might not have access to,” he says. “We want to get capital flowing into the high-poverty regions of the Appalachian Mountains, from New York to Mississippi.”
Personable and innovative, Cornett consistently receives praise for his leadership as well as his financial expertise. “A large part of VCC’s success is attributable to Clyde’s blend of experience coupled with his dedication to the mission of the organization,” says board chairman Dixon Hanna.
Henderson agrees. “VCC is too small to have internal employee awards yet; however, if we did, Clyde would certainly win one,” she says. “He has great people and business skills.”