Wells Fargo’s top exec admits his ‘unconcious bias’
Wells Fargo CEO Charles Scharf apologized Wednesday for comments he made suggesting it is difficult to find qualified Black executives in the financial industry.
Scharf said in a memo to employees “there is a very limited pool of Black talent to recruit from” in corporate America. The memo was written in June, but became public only this week.
The comments and similar statements made in a Zoom meeting, reported by Reuters, led to an intense backlash in Washington and on social media.
“Perhaps it is the CEO of Wells Fargo who lacks the talent to recruit Black workers,” Rep. Alexandra Ocasiocortez, DN.Y., tweeted.
Scharf said in a statement Wednesday that his comments reflected “my own unconscious bias.”
“There is no question Wells Fargo has to make meaningful progress to increase diverse representation,” he wrote.
The San Francisco bank has pledged to increase hiring of minority candidates, particularly through Black colleges and universities, as well as new antiracism training programs at the bank.
Like much of the political and corporate world, the banking industry has had to face a reckoning for its role in the racial and economic inequality that Black and other minorities face. Banks have announced changes to how they lend, and created new programs to spur economic development in communities of color.
Citigroup said Wednesday that it would direct $1 billion of its capital toward closing the “racial wealth gap” in the U.S. It would include $550 million in homeownership programs for communities of color, and hundreds of millions for Blackowned businesses and suppliers.
American banking is dominated by leadership that is largely white and male. None of the six big Wall Street banks have ever had a Black or female CEO. Two weeks ago, Citigroup said it would promote a woman to CEO next year, the first on Wall Street to do so. Banks large and small are still regularly cited for discriminatory practices, including allegations of “redlining” Black home buyers. Redlining is a practice in which banks deny or avoid providing credit services to people because of racial demographics or the neighborhood where they live.
About 13% of named executives at financial services companies are a racial or ethnic minority, according to Institutional Shareholder Services.
The last prominent African American to lead a large financial services company was Kenneth Chenault, former CEO of American Express. He retired in 2018. He had called the lack of a pipeline to recruit and retain diverse talent “embarrassing” to the financial services industry.
Stanley O’neal, CEO of Merrill Lynch while it was still an independent company, is also Black. He resigned in 2007 during the firm’s collapse.
Wells Fargo CEO Charles Scharf said it was hard to find qualified Black execs.