The ABA Foundation has named Lola Pol, branch manager for Capital Bank NA in Rockville, Md., the winner of its 2022 George Bailey Distinguished Service Award for her commitment to community lending and helping first-time, low-to-moderate income homebuyers achieve homeownership throughout the Washington, D.C. area. Pol will be recognized on Oct. 4 at ABA’s Annual Convention in Austin, Texas.
Now in its eighth year, the George Bailey Distinguished Service Award recognizes a non-CEO bank employee who demonstrates outstanding initiative, commitment to their customers and community, and the ability to inspire others. The ABA Foundation selects the winner after reviewing nominations submitted by banks of all sizes across the country.
“Navigating the home buying process, particularly in a market as expensive and competitive as Washington, D.C., is often a challenging experience with significant barriers to entry for first-time, low-to-moderate income buyers,” said Rob Nichols, ABA president and CEO. “Lola has made it her mission to help these buyers through the mortgage lending process and has dedicated her career to helping others achieve the American dream. Her efforts are truly inspiring.”
Pol works closely with her clients to understand their financial circumstances and offers in-depth counseling on what a sensible home purchase would look like for them. This includes an overview of comparable and alternative homes in the neighborhood, overlooked post-sale costs like ongoing maintenance, and the home’s value as a long-term investment. She helps buyers access and layer down payment assistance programs, which can often have many complex requirements. In 2021, 50% of the loans closed by Pol’s team involved public down payment assistance.
Pol recognizes that many of her clients cannot take time away from their work for face-to-face meetings, so she staffs her office until 9 p.m. to accommodate their schedules. She is also bilingual and offers her in-person counseling in both English and Spanish, which is essential to helping her clients understand the mortgage application process. Pol has established close relationships with community-based organizations like Manna Inc. and the Urban League, and regularly provides training sessions on homebuyer education and down payment assistance programs for these groups.
From time to time, her efforts continue well beyond closing. Pol has been known to marshal her various industry relationships and resources to help clients furnish their new homes after learning they lacked basic furniture.
“Lola has demonstrated that when you put care and community first, great things are achievable,” said Ed Barry, CEO of Capital Bank. “Her excitement for community development is contagious and encourages our bank to think about how to tie various activities together across residential mortgages, construction finance and credit cards. She has opened our eyes to many new possibilities in this area.”
When Pol joined Capital Bank in 2017, the bank had no community lending office. Her Washington, D.C. branch was established because of her focus on affordable housing. Since then, the branch has been transformative for the bank, expanding its community lending portfolio to hundreds of loans per year for a total value of $185,179,000 from 2017 to 2021.
Pol has served as a mortgage lender for more than two decades. Her interest in the industry began while working for D.C.-area nonprofit Mary’s Center, which provides healthcare, education and social services to the region’s neediest families. It was there that Pol saw the need for affordable housing for low-income residents.
In addition to the George Bailey Distinguished Service Awards that goes to an individual bank employee, the ABA Foundation also recognizes banks annually for their commitment to their communities in seven different categories. For a full list of the 2022 Community Commitment Award winners, as well as honorable mentions, visit aba.com/awards.