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Clifford Rosenthal

Introduced to credit unions in the late 1970s, Clifford Rosenthal has spent his career promoting financial equity and inclusion in the nation’s most overlooked and underserved communities. Growing up amidst transformative campaigns for social justice in the 1960s, Cliff began his cooperative journey by organizing and managing food cooperatives in New York City and Connecticut. This eventually led him to Washington, DC and the National Association of Farmworker Organizations where he was tasked to organize a credit union to serve its members.


Upon his return to New York, Cliff joined the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (the Federation), first as a volunteer until he was hired as staff. By early 1983, the Federation was preparing to close for good after federal funding was eliminated. Sustained by his conviction that community development credit unions (CDCUs) were important and must be preserved, he once again took on a volunteer role as the Federation’s Executive Director. In partnership with Annie Vamper, the pair rebuilt the Federation into a catalyst for transformative change.


Understanding the critical role capital plays in low-income communities and CDCUs, Cliff pursued a two-pronged strategy to capitalize CDCUs by creating new channels to mobilize private investments and by expanding sources of public financing. This eventually led to the birth of the CDFI Fund in 1994 after President Clinton signed the Riegle Community Development and Regulatory Improvement Act. As well, he worked to secure NCUA’s issuance of a rule allowing low-income credit unions the exclusive privilege of raising secondary capital.


Cliff retired from the Federation in 2012, renamed Inclusiv in 2019, to join the federal government as the first head of the Office of Financial Empowerment within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He subsequently published Democratizing Finance: Origins of the Community Development Financial Institutions Movement. In 2019, he was inducted into the African American Credit Union Hall of Fame.

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