Closing The Gap

Why Thasunda Brown Duckett, TIAA's next CEO, accepted her lowest job offer after college

Thasunda Brown Duckett speaks onstage during the 2018 Essence Festival presented by Coca-Cola at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on July 7, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Paras Griffin | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Longtime corporate executive Thasunda Brown Duckett has accomplished a lot in her career. After serving as the CEO of Chase Consumer Banking for over four years, it was recently announced that Duckett will become the next CEO of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA). When she steps into this role on May 1, she will be the second Black woman currently leading a Fortune 500 firm, and just the fourth Black woman in history to serve as a Fortune 500 CEO.

Duckett credits much of her success to finding her career passion early on. As an undergraduate student at the University of Houston, she landed an internship with the mortgage loan company Fannie Mae. "I loved it," she told The New York Times in 2019, "and I started to realize that I was going to work in the mortgage business."

After graduating from college, Duckett says she received multiple job offers, but decided to go with Fannie Mae, even though it was the lowest.

"I said, 'I know this company and I like the people, and I'll have a better shot here,'" she told the Times. In addition to being familiar with the company's culture, Duckett explained she also knew Fannie Mae would provide her with opportunities that aligned with her career goals. "You find your passion, and for me, that was homeownership."

Thasunda Duckett, chief executive officer of consumer banking at JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The executive says her humble upbringing is what inspired her to pursue a career in the financial field.

"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," says Duckett. In her role at Fannie Mae, she helped lead affordable housing initiatives for people of color.

After leaving Fannie Mae in 2004, Duckett, who has an MBA from the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University, joined Chase. Before stepping into her current role in 2016, she worked as the CEO of Chase Auto Finance, SVP for emerging markets and affordable lending, and SVP of home lending.

As she reflects back on her career journey, the 47-year-old says she thinks a lot about her parents and how their relationship with money led her to where she is today.

"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 announcing her new role at TIAA. Duckett's dad worked at a Xerox warehouse in New Jersey before losing his job and moving the family to Texas, she says. Her mom worked as a school teacher. Her parents weren't able to buy a home until Duckett was able to help them with the purchase.

Now as TIAA's new CEO, the executive says, "I am extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity to lead a company that has helped millions of people retire with 'enough' to live in dignity and excited about the opportunity to help TIAA chart its next 100 years."

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