NEW YORK, N.Y. – Thasunda Duckett became the CEO of JPMorgan Chase’s consumer banking division in late September, becoming the first African-American to hold that job at the nation’s largest bank by assets.
Duckett, a mother of four, spoke to The Associated Press about how she started her career and what role she tries to fill as a mentor and how she tries to balance work and personal life in her new job.
Q: How’d you get your start in banking?
I got into banking through a program called Inroads. It’s a program that prepares minorities for corporate and community leadership. Honestly, when I think about where I am today, I would say that being a part of Inroads was and still is one of the most impactful professional moments in my life. If you talk to successful minorities, specifically African-Americans, you’ll be surprised how many are Inroads alums. It really is a special program.
My career started at Fannie Mae, which Inroads helped me get. I grew up in the company and really believed in the mission of making home ownership affordable and accessible but I wanted to be closer to the customer. I joined JPMorgan in 2004 doing a lot of work around affordable lending and minority home ownership programs.
Q: As an African-American woman, what advice would you give to young women, particularly young African-American women, who are just starting their careers?
For me, I understand that I am on the shoulders of giants. To whom much is given, much is required. It is humbling to be in the position I’m in. But I go back to things that my parents instilled in me when I was younger: I knew there is no challenge I can’t overcome.
I want everyone to be proud of themselves. I think it’s beautiful to be me, to be a woman, to be black, to be born in New York and raised in Texas because that is who I am. I tell women or other minorities to be confident in who you are and know that you do belong. I also tell a lot of the people I speak to: don’t own someone else’s bias and negativity. Don’t subscribe to that. That’s not who you are.
Q: What does your typical day look like?
There is no typical day, but I would say one of my constants is I work hard to make sure I see my kids before I leave in the morning. One of my special mommy moments, if you will, is my daughter Madison will make my coffee and she will write me a little note on my coffee for me to read on my way to work on the train. That is really special to me.
At work, my days are like any other executive. But I try to talk to as many employees as possible to know the business from all levels. When I was made CEO of Auto, one of the first things I did was meet with the guys in the mailroom. I don’t think they’ve ever had a CEO in the mailroom. The reason why I did that is, one, to say thank you and help them understand the role that they play in delivering customer experience. If a customer puts the wrong address on an envelope and it doesn’t post on time that creates a bad customer experience. I wanted them to know how important their job was.
I do also spend a lot of time mentoring people. People that want to see how great of a company this is and what type of career mobility there is here.
Q: You recently created a charity. Can you tell us about it?
It’s called the Otis and Rosie Brown Foundation, named after my parents. What we do is we give scholarships based on character and often seed local organizations or individuals that are making an impact. Think about those unsung heroes in our community and to be able to shine that light on them and say “thank you.” The website is extraordinaryis.org .