Deborah Wright likes to go out for lunch, because, she says, it's the best way to keep in touch with people. "Folks are more likely to tell you how they really feel about the service and the industry when they see you having lunch at a local restaurant," says Wright, who joined New York's minority-focused Carver Bancorp in 1999.

Wright first learned such tactics for building relationships in the late 1980s when scouting for development sites with her then-boss and mentor Kathryn Wylde, the president and chief executive of The Partnership for New York. Wylde lauds Wright as an ideal leader for a community-development bank like Carver, given her Harvard education, investment banking background and personal values.

Wright grew up in South Carolina in a family that she says was "100 percent focused on community and nonprofit organizations." She arrived at Carver when it was in crisis and spent four years returning it to profitability. Now her focus is on expanding its church -lending program and reaching the underbanked. "I think everything that happened since graduate school was all leading to Carver," says Wright, who frequently gets hugs on those lunch outings. "Sometimes you just don't know that until you're there."

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