By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
Last week, JP Morgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon met with a few local media outlets in Seattle to discuss some community service-oriented plans that Chase has in store for communities across the country.
In an intimate setting, Dimon laid out a clear pathway for Chase to execute on its vision towards more inclusion, diversity and building financial literacy in communities, with particular emphasis on underrepresented communities and communities of color.
While many companies have placed emphasis on underserved communities during COVID and after recent events like the death of George Floyd, Dimon says that Chase has been strategic about being impactful in communities where economic and social disparities have disproportionately affected them prior to the pandemic and George Floyd becoming a household name.
“First of all, Chase has been a leader in diversity way before the murder of George Floyd, way before COVID and stuff like that,” says Dimon. “And I point out to people that COVID and the murder of George Floyd simply highlighted what we already knew. That the Black community had been left behind for a long time and have been suffering far more than most. Not as true for the Asian community, not as true for the Latinx community.”
“After COVID and George Floyd, we [Chase] double downed advancing Black leadership through Advance Black Pathways, which is an initiative that builds on Chase’s existing effort to help the Black communities chart stronger paths towards economic success and empowerment,” added Dimon.
As a leader in the financial services industry, Chase is committed to closing the gaps between the wealthy and the poor, the financial literate and the financial illiterate, and to help build up communities and business that have suffered through both COVID and the systemic inequalities that plague minority businesses and their communities.
As the world was put on notice on how fragile existence can be, Dimon’s manifesto, his letter to shareholders, gives them an optimistic view of the future and the plans Chase has already put into action.
“Our nation is clearly under a lot of stress and strain from various events,” writes Dimon. “The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, which has taken more American lives than the total lost in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined, resulting in acute economic distress for millions more; the brutal murder of George Floyd and the racial unrest that followed; the divisive 2020 presidential election, culminating in the storming of the Capitol and the attempt to disrupt our democracy; and the seemingly inevitable, but nonetheless alarming and unnerving, rise of China, threatening America’s global preeminence.”
“We need a coherent, consistent national strategy to match the severity of the existing structural challenges that are driving our country’s racial and economic crises,” the letter continued. “Just as careful planning and analysis would have prepared us for the current pandemic, careful planning and analysis can address many of the challenges we face.”
In an effort to address the economic disparities that exist in America across racial lines, JP Morgan Chase has committed $30 billion over the next five years to drive an inclusive recovery, break down barriers of systemic racism and to support employees.
“This [investment by Chase] is about not only financing small business and entrepreneurs of color but also education for Black and Latinx, mortgages for Black and Latinx,” explains Dimon. “[This commitment includes] $8 billion in mortgages, $12 billion in affordable housing, and $350 million in small business.”
“We are hiring veterans of diversity, we have financial education to address our diverse customer base, and it is not just Black and Latinx it [our plans] cuts across all walks of life,” he added.
In addition, Dimon says that Chase has initiated the idea of “community branches”. According to Dimon, these community branches are not just banks but branches that have taken on an even more people friendly and empathetic community approach to banking, which allows Chase to better serve the needs of the community. The locations, will not only be banking centers, but they also serve as public spaces where community branches invite and involve local venders and business to commune and collaborate together. They will be decorated with local histories and art to accentuate the legacies of community.
“We came up with a great idea in taking a branch and making it into what we call a “community branch” and the difference is it is not just a bank,” says Dimon. “It has got areas of public space, we use the public space to invite small businesses, provide financial education for single mothers, financial education for felons, we use local history, we have local venders, we use local people to feed the people and so far, they have been successful.”
“One [community branch] is right next to where George Floyd was murder, one is on Crenshaw in L.A., one is in Harlem, Southside of Chicago close to Obama’s new library location, Detroit, DC and here in Seattle and the Puget Sound area we are working on three Community Branches,” added Dimon.
According to the company website, Chase’s Advance Black Pathways, which was created in 2019 to address the systemic challenges and strengthen the economic foundation of Black communities, is uniquely positioned to marshal their resources to help address some of the challenges the Black community has faced.
By building on existing relationships and forming new ones with Black leaders and communities, underrepresented communities and communities of color, Chase is providing avenues in which to strengthen those bridges.
Dimon believes that the best way to tap into America’s potential is by creating an inclusive economy that benefits everyone. Internally, Chase has made great strides in diversity, equity and inclusion. They have established relationships with twenty HBCUs to tap into the talent arising from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and increased the number of Blacks in leadership roles within the company by 15 percent. But for Dimon, it is equally important for Chase to focus on external relationships as well. Solidifying and forming relationships with Black leaders and communities, underrepresented communities and communities of color.
“We must unleash the extraordinary vibrancy of the American economy,” says Dimon. “Economic growth will give us the wherewithal to deal with the issues stemming from inequality in ways that are sustainable. It is the engine that will drive and secure America’s global leadership.”
“This can be a moment when we all come together and recognize our shared responsibility – acting in a way that reflects the best of all of us,” said Dimon. “During this terrible COVID-19 crisis, we are, in some ways, being forced to count on each other. It is moving to see the respect and gratitude that most of us now show our essential workers – and that is something we should do for all of our workers, all of the time. This crisis also reminds us that we all live on one planet. Let’s hope that civility, humanity and empathy will drive us forward toward the goal of improving America. We have the resources, and the solutions are there – just waiting to be found.”