“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
What good is a pipeline if it is not used, promoted, strengthened? Going to an HBCU or graduating from is not the beginning or ending of the African American ecosystem, but it is a key part of it. Unfortunately, the data shows that African American intellect and labor (even HBCU graduates) are primarily being used to build up firms owned by other communities. Recent data from the US Census shows that it is likely that less than one percent of African Americans work for an African American owned firm. It stands to reason that the subdata for HBCU graduates working for an African American firm is likely to parallel.
If HBCU business schools are not being trained to run African American firms and the unique path that they face, then what is the point of having them? Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup all have CEOs that attended PWIs (shocker) and even more to the point, attended Ivy League colleges. It would be fair to say that of the almost 7,000 banking institutions in the United States, if you were to subtract out the African American owned banks, that 75 percent of those banks would not be being run by those who went to HBCUs. However, that is exactly what is happening in the African American banking and private sector in general. The vast majority of our institutions operating in isolation, not in conjunction with each other. HBCUs are not banking with, training for, or encouraging their graduates in choir with African American banks and private sector so therefore the institutional leadership at most of our financial institutions and private firms is using a playbook not tailored to our needs.
However, there does appear to some change on the horizon. OneUnited Bank, headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, and headed by one of the most powerful women in banking Teri Williams, although not an HBCU alum herself is showing herself to be a strong HBCU advocate, and the bank has two HBCUs banking with them in Roxbury Community College (MA) and Florida Memorial University (FL). Something that should lead to many future opportunities for graduates of the two institutions in the future both through internships and employment creating a future pipeline for more HBCU graduates to head up African American owned firms. So who are the HBCU graduates sitting in African American owned banks c-suites helping lead the current #BankBlack revival that has seen millions of dollars in deposits over the past year?
Dr. Deborah A. Cole; Tennessee State University
As the president of Citizens Bank, headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee and noted as the oldest African American bank still in operation, Dr. Cole has led an impressive increase in the bank’s balance sheet with assets increasing 5.6 percent over 2016, third among the 20 AAOBs.
Ms. Jacquitta Powell Green; Alabama A&M University
A dual role, Ms. Green as she heads up Mobile, Alabama’s Commonwealth National Bank as CEO and Chairwoman of CNB Bancorp, the bank’s holding company. “Mrs. Green is the Vice President of Northside Exchange, which has offered financial services to the unbanked and underserved of the Mobile area for more than 30 years. In 2001, a national tax preparation franchise extended her an offer, and she established Envision Enterprises to offer unbiased and honest tax preparation services.”
Mr. James A. Sills, III; Morehouse College
Mr. Sills heads up one of the most prominent and well known brands among African American owned banks, Mechanics & Farmers’ Bank in North Carolina. The bank has changed its name to M&F Bank a few years ago in an effort to rebrand and attract a young demographic. “Prior to starting his own company in 2007, Mr. Sills was an Executive Vice President of MBNA America Bank (now Bank of America), the largest credit card institution in the world. In this capacity, he served as the Director of Corporate Technology Solutions for the $80 billion US Card Division.”
Ms. Evelyn F. Smalls; North Carolina Central University
Lastly, Ms. Smalls is the President and CEO of United Bank of Philadelphia. The only HBCU graduate heading up a bank outside of the South. “With over 30 years experience in banking and community development, Mrs. Smalls is responsible for the leadership and management of the Bank including setting the direction of the organization, communicating its vision and adapting the culture and operations to achieve success. Her leadership helped transform the Bank’s strategic focus into a “Business Bank” to ensure small businesses have access to affordable loans through the SBA 7A program.”