Thursday, October 23, 2014
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Bank of America Executive Felix Whittaker Specializes in 501c3 lending

Growing up, Felix Whittaker was part of a tight knit family.  The child of two hard working parents Whittaker learned the value of a dollar at an early age. 

“The type of family I grew up in, everybody had to work,” explained Whittaker, whose mother was an executive at Xerox, his father, owner of what was then the largest Black owned grocery store in Western New York State.

“I grew up working [in my dad’s grocery store], so business was always a part of me.  At 13 [years old] I was a butcher’s apprentice, at 15 I was on the register,” said Whittaker who is now a senior vice president for Bank of America specializing in commercial banking.  “I still know how to cut a hindquarter,” laughed the executive from his 24th floor downtown LA office.  “Those are things that stuck with me.”

Set with a solid foundation, it’s been a steady road of hard work and his genuine care for people that has propelled Whittaker to the business-lending specialist he’s now known to be. 

Whittaker has a knack for helping non-profit 501c3 organizations, which can often be difficult to lend to.

“You have to be able to understand how their cash flow works,” says Whittaker of not-for-profit organizations whose revenues often fluctuate.  “Once you do that, then you can see that, yes, they can repay this loan, and, yes, they can qualify for other products within the bank.  You just have to maybe structure a little differently, you have to think outside the box, that’s the bottom line.”

It’s that “out of the box” style thinking that’s helped brand Whittaker as the 501c3 expert, and why he’s called in to assist on projects such as the Downtown Los Angeles YWCA.

Helping non-profit organizations succeed is something Whittaker has always enjoyed.  Problem solving for organizations designed to help the community has become a passion.   

“Their vision is spectacular,” says Whittaker of the Downtown LA YWCA just blocks from his own office.  “They help battered women with self esteem and training, and they help them get jobs.  Those are principles I believe in and it makes me proud to be able to help,” continued Whittaker.

As a result of Whittaker’s expertise and his interest in helping, he’s frequently sought out by non-profit groups in need of banking relationships.  After the banking is done, those same organizations often ask Whittaker to help their cause, by serving on their board, or lending his time as an advisor; and when it’s possible, Whittaker helps.

“It comes from my mother,” he said.  “[As treasurer of the Rochester Women’s League] she was always lending her time.”

Whittaker himself serves on the board of various organizations including the Carson Boys and Girls Club, Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment (PACE), GLAAACC (Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce), and the Catholic Education Foundation among others. 

“Felix not only brings his energy and experience, he brings his heart and soul,” explained Namoch Sokhom, Director of PACE’s Community Development Financial Institution.  “He is never too busy to help out…He really cares about serving the needs of low income entrepreneurs,” Sokhom told the Sentinel. 

Facilitating lending that’s made a difference from East LA, to Downtown, to South LA, all the way to Carson and back, Whittaker has tangible impact, helping to change the landscape of the greater Los Angeles area for the better.  When asked how it’s happened that so much of his work has been in urban areas,

“Seems that’s where the most help is needed,” he responds, a proud resident of an urban community himself.

Whittaker has lived in the Baldwin Hills area for close to a decade, not including the time he spent living in Leimert Park in the ‘70s when he first migrated to California from the East Coast.

“This is my cultural home,” he says of a district he’s been helping since before he moved in.  “This is the first community I found when I moved to LA in 1972.”  And it’s one of the first communities he served.  Early in Whittaker’s banking career he helped Marla Gibbs get financing for the Vision Theatre in Leimert Park. 

“There’s so much going on,” expressed Whittaker of the Crenshaw district he is so proud to be a part of.  “That’s the value of the Crenshaw corridor.”

 A lover of life and helping others Whittaker’s success in business is undoubtedly due in large part to his desire to help people.

“I try to be a problem solver, because if you solve somebody’s problem, you’ve basically got a friend. And in business, that’s important.”

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