TRACY BURTON ERICSON
SVP/Director, Wells Fargo Community Lending & Investment
Tracy appears in the Top 100
People in Finance magazine.
Tracy Burton Ericson
Meet the financial leader with a heart of gold on a mission toward the betterment of all.
Over the course of her 21 years in commercial banking and real estate finance, Tracy Ericson has maintained that leaders can make an immense difference in the world when they are motivated to do good. “In my opinion, we rise and fall together, and our greatest success will come when all of our communities succeed,” she says. “If we can help improve the lives of all people, then it makes the world a better place for all of us.”
With this as her guiding mantra, Tracy has quietly worked to help orchestrate the meaningful transformations of communities across the country and the very lives of the people they touch. As a senior vice president/director in Wells Fargo’s Community Lending & Investment Team since 2005, she has led the closing of approximately 100 deals, clearing the $1 billion mark in total deals closed in 2021, and through them helped to create approximately 20,000 permanent jobs and 7,000 construction jobs. From the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Anita May Rosenstein Campus and the Union Rescue Mission’s Angeles House in Los Angeles, CA, to the Family Healthcare Center in Fargo, ND, Covenant House in Anchorage, AK to her work with Native American tribal communities, and beyond, the projects she has worked to finance provide thousands of people with critical jobs and services. In recognition of her impact as a financial leader and her commitment to the betterment of people, Tracy has received Wells Fargo’s prestigious honor, the Golden Spoke Award, an award given to the top performers in the bank. She has also received project awards for both the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s AMR Campus and her work with the Coquille Tribe’s Ko-Kwel Wellness Center, which received the Native American Finance Officer Association 2020 Deal of the Year. We sat down with Tracy to learn more about her role and how she’s using her investment approach to benefit everyone involved, from the bank to the customer to the community.
Tell us about your current role, Tracy.
I consider my focus area to be double (and sometimes triple) bottom line investment in that I originate and manage a portfolio of deals that not only have economic benefits for the bank and the customer, but also community impact returns and sometimes environmental benefits too. My work is specialized because the structure of each deal is complex involving a variety of sources involving both equity and debt features. I truly enjoy working in this field because it is fulfilling from financial, analytical, and credit analysis standpoints as well as positively impactful for the communities served.
Prior to your current role, you worked in Wells Fargo’s Capital Markets Real Estate Distribution Group. What inspired you to move to the community development side?
I truly believe in the concept of “doing well by doing good,” and I wanted to combine my experience and knowledge in banking, economics, finance, and real estate to give back from a community perspective. I wanted to find heart in my day-to-day and align my career with my values. Although I do enjoy the underwriting and analysis of traditional banking, the outcomes are what really make me tick. In my role now, I not only get to play a pivotal role in those outcomes, but I get such immense fulfillment from directly seeing the lives I’ve touched.
Does your experience in the capital markets and real estate side give you broader insight when analyzing or considering community development deals?
It does. The real estate underwriting and syndication experience I gained working in capital markets laid the foundation for analyzing and considering community development projects. It especially gave me knowledge and perspective on evaluating project readiness and ongoing impacts. Learning the fundamentals of real estate was key, and I was fortunate to work with several experienced relationship managers and customers who were willing to teach me the business.
Many people mistakenly believe that growing a business and investing in low-income areas is an either/or proposition. Can you explain the economic benefits to banks and investors of “doing good?”
This is a very interesting question I think is an important one to address, so thank you for raising it. The way I view it is that all people, businesses, and organizations could be prospective customers who might need services and/or products to run their businesses or lives. If you view it along those lines, then the communities who haven’t been called upon are being disregarded and overlooked, so even from a strictly business perspective, there are missed opportunities to serve customers and build business. Ignoring a portion of the population is by default limiting your ability to grow.
Can you give us an example of one of the deals you’ve executed and how it transformed a community?
One deal I’m particularly proud to have worked on was the construction of a 20,000-square-foot facility for Children’s Institute, a social impact organization dedicated to transforming the lives of children exposed to adversity and poverty in Los Angeles. The new facility provides clinical and enrichment services to children and families, including counseling, parenting workshops, and Project Fatherhood sessions. CII’s integrated services include mental health, early care and education, child welfare, family support, and youth development services. The organization provides these critical services to victims of child abuse, neglect, and violence. The project will be a landmark building in an area of dire need for revitalization, which is why it has been an endeavor of the community for 10 years, and world-renowned architect, Frank Gehry, graciously designed the building pro bono.
One particular for-profit deal that you’re proud of perfectly illustrates how banks and investors can benefit while also “doing good” in the community by creating jobs. Will you share this with us?
I’ll be happy to! I recently closed a deal with El Encanto, Inc. (dba Bueno Foods), a small, privately held company, owned and operated by the Bacas, a local Hispanic family. Now 70 years old, the company has grown from a small neighborhood grocery store into a manufacturer of New Mexican cuisine with 300 employees. The plant expansion will create about 50 new jobs in an economically depressed area of the city. Beyond our particular financing, it has been an inspiration to learn about the company’s corporate culture that emphasizes promoting diversity, hiring the disadvantaged and disenfranchised, providing educational and advancement opportunities for them and then guiding them toward success.
Let’s end with a personal question. What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy seeing the benefits of the deals I close for years to come. Although much of the heavy lifting of the financial package underwriting happens at originations, our investments have a seven-year term. It’s truly a pleasure and inspiration to receive updates on the people who received services, secured jobs, added to local tax revenue, graduated from school, and received critical dental services and health care. Also, even after all these years of closing deals, I am still not over the adrenaline rush of closing a deal after months in the making and continue to feel passionate about getting the deal team across the finish line.
Tracy Burton Ericson
Senior Vice President/Director, Wells Fargo Community Lending & Investment
Photo credit: @seedphotography