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A Message from Laurie Stewart & Rob Nichols: Call for Change

ABA CEO Update for June 10, 2020

To ABA Member CEOs —

We write to you from two Washingtons, as different from each other as they likely are from the town or city where you live and work. But we are united in a shared concern and deep empathy for the anguish Americans are feeling right now over the tragic killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and too many others.

Protests over these and other examples of racial injustice and inequity may not have affected your community as much as it has ours, but the calls for change are everywhere. And all of us, as leaders of one of the nation’s most consequential industries, must respond.

America’s banks—and the people who work for them—play a pivotal role in this nation’s communities. You are the source of so much civic leadership, you are facilitators of economic growth, and together we can be agents of change. In fact, banks across the country have taken steps over the years to enhance economic inclusion, promote greater diversity within their workforces and open doors of opportunity for all. While those efforts are laudable, they are not sufficient.

There are no easy answers, and our industry certainly doesn’t possess all the tools needed to eradicate systemic racism and racial injustice. Nor do we presume to know the experiences of your employees, customers or communities. But we do know that, as an industry, we can do more to help create prosperity for all.

ABA has taken steps recently that provide a solid foundation on which to build. Last year, we hired our first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion executive to help member banks expand their DEI efforts. This new position is an acknowledgment that we need to focus more attention on DEI issues. Since then, we have formed a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advisory Group, a cross-section of bankers who are helping us nurture bank DE&I efforts aimed at employees and customers. Another peer group of bankers with robust DE&I programs at their institutions is helping to identify leading practices, which we will be sharing with members. We were also pleased to announce a strategic partnership this year with the National Bankers Association, the leading trade association for Minority Depository Institutions, to promote the health and well-being of underrepresented communities.

In the coming days, ABA’s board of directors will launch a review of short and long-term steps we can take to help address systemic inequities and further promote economic inclusion. We expect different views on the best way to achieve our shared goals, and we want to hear them. In fact, we need your help in identifying solutions that banks of varying sizes and locations can pursue that could produce meaningful change. Please share your comments and perspectives with us by emailing [email protected].

This is the time for our industry to reassess what we are doing to support and lift up all communities in this country. America’s banks demonstrated how capable, caring and committed they are when they prioritized the wellbeing of their employees and customers during the pandemic. We must similarly step up and prioritize the needs of those harmed by systemic inequities.

Unacceptable racial disparities in health, wealth, income, education and other measures of opportunity continue to grow. Proportionately, two and half times more Black Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19 than White Americans. And while last week’s unemployment numbers declined overall, they rose to a 10-year high (16.8%) for Black workers and an all-time high for Hispanic workers (17.6%).

We cannot look away from these facts, we cannot declare them someone else’s problem, we cannot fail to engage. We must be part of the solution.

Banks step up in times of challenge, and this moment is no different.

Laurie Stewart
Chair, American Bankers Association
President and CEO
Sound Community Bank

Rob Nichols
President and CEO
American Bankers Association

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