Nichols, Stewart: Banks Must Be ‘Part of the Solution’ to Addressing Racial Inequities

In a joint message to American Bankers Association member bank CEOs today, ABA Chair Laurie Stewart and President and CEO Rob Nichols addressed the killing of George Floyd and other recent instances of racial injustice and inequity that have taken place across the nation and shared how the association intends to respond.

Stewart and Nichols acknowledged that “unacceptable racial disparities in health, wealth, income, education and other measures of opportunity continue to grow,” noting that black and Hispanic Americans have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic downturn. “We cannot look away from these facts, we cannot declare them someone else’s problem, we cannot fail to engage,” they said. “We must be part of the solution.”

To that end, they announced that ABA will identify short- and long-term steps the association can take to help member banks address these challenges at their institutions and in the communities they serve, and urged bankers to share feedback on solutions that could create meaningful change. They also highlighted recent ABA actions to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the financial services industry, including hiring a DE&I executive last year to help banks expand their DE&I efforts; forming banker-led advisory groups to develop DE&I leading practices that can be shared among banks; and launching a strategic partnership earlier this year with the National Bankers Association, the leading trade association for minority depository institutions.

“This is the time for our industry to reassess what we are doing to support and lift up all communities in this country,” they added. “America’s banks demonstrated how capable, caring and committed they are when they prioritized the wellbeing of their employees and customers during the pandemic. We must similarly step up and prioritize the needs of those harmed by systemic inequities.”