(Bloomberg) -- In the two years since the murder of George Floyd, banking giants have touted intern classes and promotions with more Black people than in the past and unveiled a slew of programs aimed at making their workforces look more like the countries they serve.

Still, management at the biggest Wall Street firms remains mostly White, with Black senior bankers representing less than 10% of overall leadership, according to the latest figures. And high-profile departures in firms’ top ranks mean that employees lower on the ladder have fewer examples of what a Black banker’s career trajectory looks like.

Black bankers do point to signs of improvement. Because most of the latest available demographic breakdowns are from 2020, it’s hard to say exactly how much things have changed. Across US and European financial firms, educational and resource groups have been formed to foster inclusion, but such measures don’t guarantee the successful recruitment or retention of Black employees. And some worry that the work-from-home era, along with the rising cost of keeping workers amid a tight labor market, are going to make improving diversity less of a priority.

Timicka Anderson, a Citigroup Inc. managing director, said that the industry—“the big we”—needs to keep working to make sure that moving the needle on representation doesn’t get lost in the mix of all the other issues that have arisen over the past couple years.

“Are we continuing to really work on dismantling the infrastructure, the hurdles and the barriers?” she said. “It’s hard to turn things around overnight.”

Anderson is among Black bankers endorsed by their peers for being leaders who stand out in an industry that’s working on—and often struggling with—making itself more diverse:

Jolen AndersonGlobal head of human resources at Bank of New York Mellon Corp.

BNY Mellon hired Anderson from Visa Inc. in 2019 to support its global workforce and oversee philanthropy and environmental, social and governance issues. She's steering changes in company culture in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, from flexible work arrangements to ensuring better support for new parents and mental health. Like many firms, New York-based BNY Mellon held internal conversations about race following the death of George Floyd—discussions that broke down barriers as employees for the first time shared with colleagues experiences they’ve lived with for decades.

“I talked about being a mother, and how I need to prepare my kids,” Anderson, 44, said. “It's everything from how to manage interactions with others, to how to feel if you were the only person who looks like you in the room.”

Anderson is pushing to ensure the bank’s competitiveness in attracting and retaining diverse talent. She's building collaborations with organizations such as the Grace Hopper Celebration, focused on women in technology, as well as the National Society of Black Engineers and the Association of Latino Professionals for America. BNY Mellon assesses managers on their work promoting diversity and surveys employees on whether they feel free to express their views.

“You have to be in an organization where your difference is valued and you can be authentic and belong, allowing you to do your best work,” Anderson said.

Jason BondManaging director in Bank of America Corp.’s global banking and markets group

In his role as head of Americas high-yield credit sales at Bank of America, Bond manages a team of salespeople that generates about $500 million in revenue annually through distribution of primary products and secondary trading.

A native New Yorker, Bond recalls growing up going to Yankees games with his dad, sitting in the mezzanine and watching young professionals in the front row below. “You kind of knew that was the Wall Street crowd,” he said. Though he knew little about business, he set his eyes on investment banking.

Bond, 44, took a job at Bank of America in 1999 after undergrad at Stanford. He was especially captivated by the speed and chaos of a trading floor. Given how much there was to learn at the beginning, it was like “drinking out of a fire hose.” There weren’t many Black people in senior roles at the bank, but Bond still had mentors to guide him.

“Back then you could find certain people that were willing to help you, but now there is a more organized effort from firms to make young people, particularly people of diverse backgrounds, get acclimated in their role,” he said. 

Today, Bond is heavily involved in the firm’s diversity and leadership initiatives. He is on the senior advisory board of a group called DEAL, Developing & Engaging African-American Leaders, and is the executive sponsor of the Texas A&M recruiting team. He often hosts informal social gatherings at the bank, and takes junior employees out for dinner.

“When you get in the seat, you need to make sure you return the favor,” he said. He advises Black people entering the finance industry to focus on firms with employees who “look like them” in prominent roles. “At some point we all need people in our career to help give us a push. That doesn’t necessarily have to come from people that look like you or have a common background with you, but it doesn’t hurt.” 

Timicka AndersonHead of consumer products and retail industry at Citigroup Inc.’s commercial bank

Anderson oversees the team that manages Citigroup’s relationships with everything from early-stage firms to large companies operating in consumer products and retail, along with bringing in new clients. She also serves on the steering committee for the bank’s global women’s affinity group and helps out with recruiting. And that’s on top of raising three children.

The 47-year-old Anderson, who grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, and is a graduate of Florida A&M University, calls herself a “Citi lifer” after more than 20 years with the New York-based bank. “I’m Southern, but I’m built for New York,” she said. Among the highlights from her time at the firm, Anderson said, are being promoted to managing director, in 2019, and bringing in Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, a large minority-owned business, as a client.

She also co-founded an initiative to support Black women within Citigroup, which Anderson calls one of her biggest accomplishments. The group focuses on the intersectionality of being both a minority and female in an industry dominated by White men.

“It's sort of a double whammy—you're not only Black but you're also a woman. What aspect of diversity am I addressing today?” Anderson said. “Having grown up here, pretty much, and being in an environment where you didn't see a lot of people who look like me, to have the opportunity to showcase and bring that visibility to the Black women here at the firm has certainly been a proud moment.”

Deji DaviesManaging director at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Davies is head of par and stressed loan trading for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at JPMorgan, where his trading team has doubled in size and added sales staff in recent years. He started his career in the UK government, working at the Department for International Development and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, before joining Rothschild & Co. in 2003 and moving on to JPMorgan in 2007. He’s also a non-executive director at the Premier League’s Brentford Football Club.

“Sport is very results-orientated, and if you’re playing in a team, you’re playing to win,” Davies, 42, said. “People with sporting backgrounds often thrive in finance.”

Davies founded a mentoring program in north London targeting disadvantaged students predominantly from ethnic minorities. He’s been working with a young man who boxes and whose tutors had encouraged him to think about going professional. Davies pushed him to set his sights higher, and he’s now applying for university. “I opened his eyes to other things he could do academically,” he said. “It’s a small intervention that can he really helpful—to sit next to and meet an older Black male dispelled that myth.”

He’s also pushing for the finance industry to do better. JPMorgan recently held its first EMEA Black Advocacy program, with about 200 people from institutions across London gathered to discuss shared experiences and how progress can be made. The bank has increased its Black UK staff by 45%, but Davies wants to see more representation at the managing director level and in other senior positions.

“There are more Black MDs than years past, but more needs to be done without question, and we’re working on it,” he said. “One of the big problems for young Black people is not seeing people in the roles they might want to do.”

Grace ChionumaManaging director in Morgan Stanley’s public-finance banking group

As co-head of affordable housing and community development at Morgan Stanley, Chionuma helps structure and finance deals for infrastructure projects in large cities and for nonprofits. In 2017, Chionuma arranged $100 million in capital through a social-bond offering, the first of its kind, for a community-development finance institution. Since then, the team has arranged roughly $1 billion of capital for CDFIs and nonprofit affordable-housing developers, and other Wall Street firms have followed Morgan Stanley’s lead in working with CDFIs on fundraising.

The daughter of a Nigerian immigrant, Chionuma grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. Education was the “access to opportunity,” said Chionuma, who attended Phillips Academy Andover, followed by undergrad at Dartmouth and business school at Yale. She started her her career in banking as a Morgan Stanley summer associate in 2006. The challenge of finding solutions for complex problems attracted her to the work and has kept her at the bank, Chionuma said.

Wall Street’s views on diversity have changed since her early days as an associate, going from “nice to have” to “a must,” Chionuma said.

“In order to be competitive, in order to have the best ideas and teams that win, diversity is essential,” she said, adding that much work remains. “Given there is a business imperative around diversity, greater levels of representation should be quite sticky. That’s what’s to come.”

Derek EllingtonHead of small-business banking at Wells Fargo & Co.

Ellington knows the value of mentorship. Throughout his career, including in his role as head of small-business banking at Wells Fargo, he’s put younger team members through what he calls “Derek’s program.” That involves pushing them to develop transferable skills, take additional courses and expand their networks. 

“There have been quite a few people that have told me I’ve inspired them through mentorship and coaching,” he said. “And sometimes I was the kick in the pants that helped them move to getting to their full potential.”

Ellington, 51, credits much of his career success to his own mentor, Milton Jones, a prominent banker in Atlanta and now a founding member at investment firm Peachtree Providence Partners, who is also Black. The two men met when Ellington was about to join the firm that’s now Bank of America.

“When I joined NationsBank, he was my last interview,” Ellington said. “Seeing Milton inspired me in a huge way, that I had a chance to reach my full potential, because he had already accomplished that. And he took me under his wing.”

Working with Wells Fargo’s small-business clients—those with annual revenue of $10 million or less—has been particularly gratifying during the pandemic, given how hard many were hammered by Covid-19, Ellington said. “The decisions that we make and the solutions that we create have immediate impact every day, and can decide whether a business stays open or closes,” he said.

Dan FreckletonManaging director at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Freckleton, who has been with Goldman for 14 years, oversees European shorter-term-interest-rate sales and co-runs UK rates sales. But, for the past 18 months, much of his time has gone into spearheading Goldman’s global-markets apprenticeship program in London, aimed at increasing diversity among recruits by bypassing the traditional university-graduate route.

After more than 1,000 people applied, Freckleton met the first batch of high-potential 18-year-olds in recent days. Those that make the cut will split their time between learning on the job on the London trading floor and studying practical modules at Queen Mary University of London.

“It’s incredible how switched on and driven and hungry this group is,” Freckleton, 38, said. “We’re looking for genuine interest and desire to learn. The bar is still very high and we’re looking for the elite, but we’re making a conscious effort not to over-test current knowledge and are hiring on potential.”

The program is focused on improving social mobility, with an emphasis on attracting diverse applicants.

“If you’re Black and young and already looking to go into finance, brilliant—go for it, be confident,” he said. “Just because you don’t necessarily see people that look like you and come from the same background, none of those things are a precursor to success.”


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