Closing The Gap

Thasunda Brown Duckett on new CEO role at TIAA: 'I have so much gratitude for the shoulders I stand on'

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CEO, Consumer Banking, JP Morgan Chase Thasunda Duckett speaks onstage at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit - Day 2 on October 10, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Paul Morigi | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

On Thursday, the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, TIAA, announced longtime executive Thasunda Brown Duckett as its next CEO. When Duckett steps into her new role on May 1, she will become the second Black woman to currently lead a Fortune 500 firm, accompanying Walgreens new CEO Rosalind Brewer on the list.

"I have so much gratitude for all the shoulders I stand on," Duckett, who currently serves as the CEO of Chase Consumer Banking, said in an Instagram post. In addition to thanking her Chase colleagues for support, Duckett also thanked her family and friends, saying "you create the space for me to live in my purpose."

Born in Rochester, New York and raised in Texas, Duckett has been open about how her humble upbringing led her to a career in finance.

"When you know what it's like to look in the refrigerator and just see baking soda, or know what it's like to have your lights turned off, personal finance is important," she told The New York Times in 2019.

As the CEO of Chase Consumer Banking, a role she's held since 2016, Duckett has worked tirelessly to not only educate others about the importance of financial literacy, but to also diversify the pipeline of talent entering the field. In her role, she served as executive sponsor of JPMorgan Chase's Advancing Black Pathways program, an initiative focused on helping Black Americans close historical achievement gaps in wealth, education and career opportunities. She also served as a committee leader for the bank's Women on the Move initiative that works to provide financial education to women, as well as career and business opportunities.

Prior to her current role, Duckett, who has a bachelor's degree from the University of Houston and an MBA from the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University, was the CEO of Chase Auto Finance, SVP for emerging markets and affordable lending, and SVP in home lending. Before joining Chase in 2004, she started her career at Fannie Mae in 1996, helping to lead affordable housing initiatives for people of color.

As TIAA's new CEO, Duckett will not only be the second Black woman currently leading a Fortune 500 firm, but she will also be just the fourth Black woman in history to serve as a Fortune 500 CEO. Ursula Burns was the first when she served as the CEO of Xerox from 2009 to 2016. And Mary Winston was the second when she served as interim CEO at Bed Bath & Beyond in 2019 before being replaced by permanent CEO Mark Tritton.

Duckett will succeed current TIAA CEO Roger W. Ferguson Jr., who was just one of five Black CEOs in the Fortune 500 prior to Brewer's announcement earlier this year. TIAA is the first company in Fortune 500 history to have two Black CEOs back-to-back.

Reflecting on her journey and the personal experiences she's faced along the way, Duckett says she immediately thought of her father when she first accepted her new role.

"I often think about the day my father asked me to help him plan his retirement, and I had to tell him, 'Dad, your pension is not enough,'" she said in a statement. Duckett's dad, she says, worked at a Xerox warehouse in New Jersey before losing his job and moving the family to Texas. Her mom, she says, worked as a school teacher. "Now, thanks to his work and sacrifices and the support of many others who have guided me throughout my life and career, I am blessed to join TIAA, which has paid out over $500 billion of lifetime income and other benefits since its founding in 1918."

Check out: Walgreens’ new CEO Roz Brewer on bias in the C-suite: ‘When you’re a Black woman, you get mistaken a lot’

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